Speech of the Century?

A recent AP article has identified an issue that many of us have been pondering: Barack Obama's inaugural speech better be a whopper.  With so much hype, history, and hysteria surrounding the new President, what can he possibly say on January 20 that will live up to the soaring rhetoric to which we've all become accustomed?

Clearly, Barack Obama faces a nation that only a handful of other Presidents could even remotely understand.  And we all know Obama has an almost obsessive fascination with Abraham Lincoln, so maybe he could borrow some of the lines from 1861.  Unfortunately, however, much of Lincoln's inaugural address highlighted the relationships between the Constitution, slavery, and secession, in light of seven states having already left the union by the time Lincoln took the oath of office.  Without a doubt, a more dismal situation than Obama inherits.  But, since Obama's pre-candidacy comments about the Constitution do not exactly coincide with the beliefs of Republicans like Lincoln, that might be risky.  Obama also noticeably avoided discussions about the Constitution during his candidacy, and history may even prove that Lincoln's manipulation of laws during wartime are actually quite similar to-gasp!-President Bush.  Not sure if a Lincoln-Bush legacy is something Obama wants hovering over his special day.

Another tumultuous time period Obama could reference may be from John F. Kennedy's speech from the Capitol in 1961.  Obama already often employs Kennedy's passionate style and sometimes vague rhetoric about peace and prosperity, so this could be an easy opportunity to borrow from an American treasure.  However, as many remember, in the shadow of Communist Russia and the escalation of the Vietnam War, Kennedy's inaugural address was inspiringly aggressive in its protection of peace at home and promotion of freedom throughout the world.  Additionally, it is in this famous speech that we learned the value of what we can do for our country, and not the other way around.  Barack Obama has yet to stand so firmly on the principles of military action and its defense of liberty anywhere it is needed, and we all have learned how he feels about the government's role in taking care of our every need.  So perhaps, Kennedy's message would not correlate very effectively Obama's ideologies.

A final speech he may want to consider comes from a time in recent history that, despite what liberals want us to believe, was much worse than our current economic condition.  Ronald Reagan's address in 1981 came on the heels of Jimmy Carter's disastrous reign over oil shortages, a prime rate of 21.5%, a 70% income tax rate, and the highest "misery index" (unemployment plus inflation) in history.  Reagan's speech righted the country by speaking of not spending outside our means, reducing taxes to maximize productivity, and not acquiescing to special interest lobbies.  Do these sound like ideas that would easily flow from the mouth of the new President?  Unfortunately for Obama, once again, none of these nation-saving ideas are part of his previously demonstrated ideology.

So what will he say?  What can he do to begin to heal our divided land on January 20?

He could keep it short and sweet and, for one day at least, instantly win over the other half of America that doesn't swoon at the mention of his name.  I have a few brief ideas. 

He could first apologize for spending nearly two million taxpayer dollars on his election night victory.  He then could address the fact that his inauguration is by far the most expensive in history, despite his stated comparisons to the Great Depression. 

"I'm sorry for spending $50 million of your money for today's festivities.  To the housewife who scraped together a $100 donation, I'm sending it back.  I don't need your money -- your family does.  To the celebrities who wrote a $50,000 check, I'm sending it back.  I don't need your money-charities and churches do.  And to everyone else who sent in funds for this inaugural celebration, your generosity is appreciated.  But I'm sending it back.  I don't need your money-I need your prayers.  And prayers are free."

Obama could then continue by commenting on the record number of inaugural balls he will be hosting, as well as more than a dozen balls where people will party on his behalf.

"Out of respect for the teachers who go to school in the dark and grade papers until midnight, for the farmers and ranchers who thanklessly keep our nation fed, for the business owners responsible for employing our nation and producing our goods and services, for the young people that study into the dawn to educate themselves for a brighter future, I am canceling tonight's celebration balls.  I understand you did not elect me to mingle with wealthy politicians and celebrities while other Americans struggle to survive.  You did not elect me to party, but to protect; not to dance, but to defend; and not to socialize, but to serve."

He could finally wrap up by thanking everyone for their support and for the progress of a nation that once demeaned certain demographics and now elects out of equality.

"I appreciate all of you that have braved the cold to come here today and those watching the transition on television across America.  Our nation has come so far in cleansing its troubled past, and today is proof there is no another nation in the world I would want to call home.  We all have jobs to do, and mine starts right now.  I'm on the clock, and I'd better get to my office.  Thank you and God bless America."

And he strides off the stage and heads to the Oval without another word.  That's someone I could learn to get behind.  That would be a change I could believe in.