Wednesday, January 21, 2009

President Poet

I went to my parents' house yesterday to pick up the children after work and was just in time to see the inauguration of President Barack Obama. The five of us sat there, rapt, as he spoke. Before us was an orator of breathtaking ability, who touched me at a visceral as well as intellectual level. There he stood - still, solid, planted in the ground - and spoke in a way that was at once direct but deeply poetic.

What struck me forcibly was that Obama speaks in Biblical cadences as though he has absorbed the Kings James. Again and again I was moved by the sheer poetry of his utterances, which for me almost superceded their meaning. But then as much as Barack Obama is a man who must act immediately and powerfully in extremely trying times, he is also, like poetry, symbolic; a potent symbol of how the world has and can continue to change for the better. To see a black man take the oath in a country where fifty years ago a black person could not even go into the same cinemas as a white person or had to stand up on the bus if a white person boarded , was the most hopeful and deeply moving thing I have seen for a long time.

Let's hope that he can live up to the poetry of his promises, is allowed to fulfill his dreams and that all the hope and joy that so many people have felt on his success isn't found to be hollow. I for one hope not.

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