Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Immediate Thoughts on the INAUGURATION


The size of the crowds on the Mall was impressively overwhelming! It made the speech in Berlin seem like a small town gathering. Watching the multitudes brought back memories of being on the Mall the autumn of 1969 during anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, and being trapped on the middle of the span for the 50th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1987.

San Francisco was well represented by Senator Dianne Feinstein and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who looked great in her blue coat (and Michelle Obama looked terrific in her yellow outfit.)

I was somewhat disappointed that my friend David Conte's piece sung by the San Francisco Girls' Chorus and San Francisco Boys' Chorus was used merely as background for talking heads on CNN the hour before the official opening. I should have looked at C-Span. I'll be sure to catch re-runs on PBS.

Senator Feinstein did a commendable job as MC. Her words were strong and well delivered (though was she really supposed to give a speech?)

Pastor Rick Warren's invocation was on the surface gracious and inclusive. Though his ending with the Lord's Prayer appeared sectarian to me.

Soon-to-be former Vice-President Dick Cheney in a wheelchair, somehow seemed an appropriate image for the departing administration.

The bow on Aretha Franklin's gray hat looked like a St. Andrew's cross, and --with it's silver spangles-- had an uncanny and unintended resemblance to the Confederate battle flag!

John Williams' arrangement of "Simple Gifts" was lovely and poignant. Though I think it will work better inside a concert hall.

The schedule was off by a few minutes, so Vice President Biden was acting President for about seven or eight minutes -- until Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President. (45th, if you count Grover Cleveland twice, since his two terms were non-successive. Or is it the other way? Perhaps Barack Obama is the 43rd person to be President.) [I checked: yes, he is the 43rd.]

The only really awkward moment was when Chief Justice John Roberts flubbed his prompting of the Presidential Oath of Office.

Memorable words from the Inaugural Address:

"As for the common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals."

"We know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness."

"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."

"We have chosen hope over fear."
Added observation: The Bible used for the Presidential Oath yesterday was not Lincoln's personal Bible. Instead, it was provided by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, author of the Dred Scott Decision! That provides even greater poignancy and a bit of irony. Taney was also responsible for changing the headdress of the statue on top of the Capitol dome. The sculptor had originally wanted a Liberty Cap, worn by freed slaves in ancient Rome. Taney --in charge of the Capitol building project-- said he would never allow a statue of a freed slave. Would he be shocked and surprised today! How we have progressed as a nation!!

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Titian in the Frari (Venezia)