In common with millions of others, I’ve just been watching President Obama’s inauguration speech. It’s impressive just how credible a world leader he already looks, standing next to Bush it was obvious which one you’d pick as the one with the presidential X-factor, even if you knew nothing about them.
Even though his speech was clearly always going to be more inspirational than laying out specific policies, he’s already managed to mark some pretty clear changes of direction from his predecessor.
We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.
It’s good to see that scientific study is being given a central role in his view for the future. He also painted a much more inclusive role than Bush managed:
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers.
Compare that with Bush:
I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.
It’s ok atheists, you can come back in now.
He also seems willing to take America into a more active international role, and one which doesn’t just involve invading other countries:
What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility – a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West – know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.
It was also good to hear him affirming that security should not be obtained at the expense of freedom and the rule of law
As for our common defence, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.
Hopefully that will mean an end to torture and more generally a re-assertion of human rights over oppressive legislation (something that we could do with more of here in the UK too).
He’s taken over the most powerful country in the world the day after the most depressing day in history apparently, so expectations are high. I hope that he can carry the level of authority that he manages to create and the sense of optimism that he’s able to create in others into providing solutions to the plethora of issues that await him.
Oh, and “Ex-President Bush” How good does that sound?