Barack Obama Worked a Classic Inaugural Theme in His Address

His speech echoes previous inaugurals.

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By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Barack Obama worked a classic inaugural theme today: That while the country faces great troubles, we will vanquish them as we have in the past. That on the day we renew our democratic republic, we commence the work of revitalizing it.

President Franklin Roosevelt told the country in 1933 that "in every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory."

President John F. Kennedy told the nation and the world in 1961 that the generation coming to power faced a "long twilight struggle" but that, being "proud of our ancient heritage," it would not shirk the responsibility.

President Ronald Reagan said in 1981 that while the country was "confronted with an economic affliction of great proportions," they would "go away because we as Americans have the capacity now, as we've had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom." We must believe that would resolve our problems, Reagan closed, "And after all, why shouldn't we believe that? We are Americans."

This afternoon President Barack Obama proclaimed that while "the challenges we face are real ... they will be met."

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends—hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism—these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.

It is a classic theme and a good start for the Obama administration.