Tonawanda News


January 23, 2013

DUVALL: Becoming 'We The People' again

Tonawanda News — There is a special tradition in presidents’ second inaugural addresses. Abraham Lincoln’s was just 701 words long — probably shorter than this column will turn out to be (and a pertinent reminder that brevity stands next to poignancy).

In that regard, I thought President Obama’s remarks were well received. He was plainspoken and relatively brief. He eschewed lofty rhetoric for the most part and didn’t shy away from talking in specifics rather than metaphor. 

I thought it was a reflection of our new age, where talk is endless and meaning in words is more and more difficult to find.

I don’t disagree with the general reaction in the punditry that this was a simple defense of progressivism and a call to civility in an increasingly myopic, me-first society.

But it also marked a change in Obama’s overall direction. He called us to action invoking the Declaration of Independence’s first three words, “We The People.” But he did so in a way that set aside the “hope and change” mantra of his first term. This seems to be a new president, bound to bring Americans together in common cause in spite of a political environment that seems bent on gridlock and the resulting mutual destruction.

Obama has realized something many of us had hoped he would see far sooner, that bipartisanship in Washington is, in itself, not a worthwhile pursuit without a resolution to the aching and growing chasms in American society. 

Yes, our politicians are divided and seemingly inept. But in many respects our lawmakers are a reflection of average Americans who disagree disagreeably over a wide range of issues. We watch the news that tells us what we want to hear about the world. We huddle with friends in houses of worship and in corners of the Internet, shielded from the other side, telling each other how right we are about everything.

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