Monday was a fine, cold day, perfect for making blueberry bran muffins to go with soup—Campbell’s Tomato, one of my weaknesses and the only canned soup I really like. After having made the muffins and heated the soup, I settled in the living room with my husband, Clif, so that we could watch the presidential inauguration while we ate our lunch.
There were all the usual things that go with an inauguration—the ceremony, the rituals, the swearing in, the first lady and daughters decked out in their finery, the patriotic songs—done beautifully this time by various singers. (Where else would you hear, on the same stage, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir and James Taylor?) A Maine poet—Robert Blanco from Bethel—read a poem that was full of everyday things and working people.
But there were some surprises, too, chiefly President Obama’s speech, which was unabashedly liberal—or progressive, if you will. Despite the luminous delivery, it seemed to me that the president was throwing down the gauntlet to the Republicans. After four years of trying to work with Republicans and having terrible results, Obama made few references to bipartisanship in his speech. Instead, the president spoke of the need for collective action, of how freedom “was not reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few.” President Obama noted that truths might be self-evident but they were not self-executing, that we cannot succeed when only a few do very well and when many can hardly make it. He affirmed gay rights, voting rights, and immigration rights. By gum, he even mentioned climate change, sustainable energy, and the environment.
As the columnist Mark Shields put it, this speech marked a change in attitude, from the “me” generation to the “we” generation. I agree, and it is long overdue.
I realize as well as anyone else that a speech is just words and that actions and results are what really count. Still, words do matter. They signal intent, and I felt more hopeful after hearing this speech than I have in a long time. Stiff opposition will likely follow, but President Obama just might surprise us with how much he is able to accomplish. After all, he passed a health care bill, something no previous president has been able to do.
Finally, as with election night when Obama was elected, I was struck by the beautiful diversity of the event. In America, there has always been diversity, it just wasn’t allowed to be visible. Yesterday it was, on the podium and in the crowd. And it was good to behold.
Note: This bran muffin recipe, one of the best I’ve tasted, has already been posted on A Good Eater. But because the recipe section isn’t exactly organized—Clif, are you reading this?—I’ve decided to post it again.