By Jack Engelhard
We can all agree (for once) that President Barack Obama’s inauguration speech was no thriller. If anything, it was a downer.
It had to be. One minute he was president-elect; next minute, My Gawd! he was President! The real deal. The gloves had to come off. The truth had to be told. What an awakening this must have been, to realize that the party is over, the work begins. That is sobering! It’s doubtful that any time soon he’ll be showing up on TV with Oprah Winfrey, or sharing dance steps with Ellen DeGeneres.
From now on those photo-ops will show him in the company of world leaders, some who wish us well, many who wish us harm.
There’s a new sheriff in town and he won’t be smiling.
In other words, that inauguration speech was perfection. It proved that he gets it.
From my vantage point – well, I saw him age right before my eyes. During the swearing in itself, followed by the parades, I saw this only at a glimpse of him now and then, but there was no mistaking that a new man had arisen. I saw hints of worry, flashes of concern. His eyes grew distant even as he forced a grin.
I remember John F. Kennedy and how he aged when the campaigning had been done and after the business of being president began.
JFK was tested. Obama will be tested.
Like JFK, Obama is cool and hip. That’s rare in our presidents, but this time around, as before, it’s a character trait to be valued.
Save the worries about politics for tomorrow. (By the way, enough heckling on George W. Bush. That means you, Jay Leno. Not funny. In fact, quite ugly.)
I still find myself doing a double-take and it’s got nothing to do with his being African-American. It’s all about his youthfulness, that bounce to his step, the smartness of his articulation. This kid is my president, and glory to us, as Americans, that we DID OVERCOME – so partly it is about his being African-American.
Martin Luther King had a dream, and here he is – Barack Obama.
Not all of us favored this man, but now that he’s in, he’s ours, and we have no choice but to render him our blessings. His successes will be our successes, and let’s not even talk about failures, not at this moment when we’re still in thrall. We reflect ourselves in our presidents. If he is young, attractive and youthful, we as a nation suddenly become young, attractive and youthful.
Let’s hope this endures.
We had it going pretty much the same with John F. Kennedy. I do not see Obama as Lincoln fulfilled. I do see him as JFK fulfilled. I see him as finishing what JFK had started and after all, JFK did promise us the moon, and we got there all right. I’m not sure exactly where we’re going with Obama. We’ll find out as we move along. So far, so good.
True, we’re only talking about the first 100 Hours. But this much is certain: Barack and Michelle are very much in love, and that’s a good omen. That honeymoon is still going strong and it sure would be nice if the honeymoon between us and our president lasts just as long. That would be sweet – and I say this into the teeth of my friends on the right and my own right-wing tendencies. I say it because me too – I also like to dream.
In my novel on JFK and his generation (“The Days of the Bitter End”) I open with the wisdom of Solomon, as follows:
“So remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come.”
So, yes, let’s remember these days of our youth, as mirrored in our spanking new president.
About the author: Jack Engelhard’s novel “The Days of the Bitter End” traces the rise and fall of JFK and his generation. Engelhard’s latest novel, “The Bathsheba Deadline,” places journalism at the center of our war on terror. Engelhard wrote the international bestselling novel “Indecent Proposal” that was translated into more than 22 languages and turned into a Paramount motion picture starring Robert Redford and Demi Moore. He can be reached at his website www.jackengelhard.com.