Normally, I write Dutch in Nederlog,
but since President Obama
delivered his inaugural address in English, and I wish to make some
elucidatory comments, here it is, with numbers with links for notes
included, and the notes following it, followed by a short general comment.
My fellow citizens: 
I stand here today
humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have
bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank
President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity
and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition. 
now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during
rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so
often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At
these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill
or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have
remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our
founding documents. 
So it has been. So
must be with this generation of Americans.
That we are in the
of is now well understood. Our
nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and
hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and
irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure
to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have
been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too
costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence
that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our
These are the
of , subject to data and statistics.
Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across
our land - a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and
that the next generation must lower its sights. 
Today I say to you
the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many.
They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this,
America - they will be met. 
On this day, we
because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict
and discord. 
On this day, we come
proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the
recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have
strangled our politics. 
We remain a young
but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish
things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose
our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble
idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise
that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue
their full measure of happiness. 
In reaffirming the
greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given.
It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or
settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for
who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and
fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of
things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their
labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity
and freedom. 
For us, they packed
their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a
For us, they toiled
sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and
plowed the hard earth.
For us, they fought
died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn. 
Time and again these
and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw
so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than
the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences
of birth or wealth or faction. 
This is the journey
continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on
Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this began. Our
minds are no less inventive,
our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last
month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of
standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant
decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick
ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking
For everywhere we
there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action,
bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to
lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges,
the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us
together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield
technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost.
We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and
run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and
universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And
all this we will do. 
Now, there are some
question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system
cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they
have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and
women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and
necessity to courage. 
What the cynics fail
understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale
political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.
The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or
too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs
at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.
Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is
no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars
will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do
our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the
vital trust between a people and their government. 
Nor is the question
before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to
generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this has reminded
us that without a watchful
eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot
prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our
economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic
Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend
opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it
is the surest route to our common good. 
As for our common
defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our
ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely
imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of
man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still
light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake.
And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today,
from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was
born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man,
woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we
are ready to lead once more.
Recall that earlier
generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and
tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They
understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle
us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through
its prudent use; our security emanates from the
justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering
qualities of humility and restraint. 
We are the keepers
this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those
new threats that demand even greater effort - even greater cooperation
and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave
Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With
old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the
nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will
not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense,
and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and
slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger
and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you. 
For we know that our
patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of
Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are
shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this
Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and
segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more
united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday
pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world
grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that
America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace. 
To the Muslim world,
seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To
those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their
society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on
what you can build, not what you destroy. 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. 
To the people of
nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish
and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry
minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we
say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our
borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to
effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it. 
As we consider the
that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave
Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant
mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen
heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not
only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody
the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something
greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will
define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us
For as much as
can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the
American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to
take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers
who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which
sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to
storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to
nurture a child, that finally decides our fate. 
Our challenges may
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. What is demanded then is a return
to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of
responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we
have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do
not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge
that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our
character, than giving our all to a difficult task. 
This is the price
promise of citizenship.
This is the source
confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain
This is the meaning
our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every
race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent
mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not
have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take
a most sacred oath. 
So let us mark this
with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the
year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of
patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The
capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained
with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in
doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the
"Let it be told to
future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and
virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one
common danger, came forth to meet [it]." 
America. In the face
our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember
these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the
icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our
children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this
journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes
fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that
great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.
I believe this is the standard opening phrase of American Presidents
who address the people of their nation. One of the points behind it is
that, according to the Constitution, "all are born equal" - that is,
more precisely speaking: all adults count as the same in status and
rights for the law.
This is mostly the socalled "captatio benevolentiae" recommended by
rhetoricians, but the humility probably is real or at least realistic
in view of the enormous problems Obama faces.
The idea of being
"mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors" will be taken up
later, because Obama wants to return to a better understanding of what
made the USA a promised land for so many, and of the moral, legal and
philosophical notions these are based on, as e.g. enshrined in the
Declaration of Indpendence, the Constitution, The Federalist Papers,
and other foundational ideas and texts of the United States of America.
This mostly sets the scene and repeats the point of the intellectual
and moral foundations of the USA: "because We the People have remained
faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding
This is to some extent both a true and a conservative point: Nations
based on laws are nations based on traditions, ideas and ideals. That
is, Obama wants change, but within the accepted foundational
American traditions, ideas and ideals, and indeed part of his change is
return to these foundational ideas and values.
sum-up of reasons why the term "" is
appropriate for the situation the US and the world are in, and also a
list of main problems to (dis)solve: war, depression, health-care,
The is real and provable
by objective evidence, but one should not be cowed by it.
This is a promise and a - very vague - plan or ideal. The main content
is that there are many serious problems that will not be solved easily
or fast - which is a fair estimate.
Indeed, and it is worth remarking that this idea is at the basis of a
free human choice to form a society with others: Because cooperation
and mutual help will be in the interest of all or most, and because
these offer many advantages that without cooperation cannot be realized
This is critical of past American presidential policies, and is
probably also meant to indicate that Obama intends to cooperate with
the Republicans rather than keep them down (as is wise, if only because
of the ).
That "all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue
their full measure of happiness" is, of course, part of the American
Constitution and ideal - and it is both just and somewhat
tragi-comical that the first (nominally) black President of the US
should stress them.
This probably is mostly intended to woe Republicans, but it is sound in
this sense: Every society consists mostly of historically anonymous men
and women - i.e. such as will not be recalled after they die, except by
friends and family - who do most of the work done in society, that
makes life for all or most in the society much better than it would be
if they had lived without society.
The last of these three sentences starting "For us" names some places
of historical battles of the US, and the first two draw attention, in a
somewhat shaded fashion, to two large groups who together make up the
majority of the inhabitants of the US: Descendants of mostly white
immigrants, looking for freedom, happiness, prosperitity; and
descendants from black slaves.
true, probably, for some or many of those who died young and in battle,
but of course it is also true that at least the white immigrants
immigrated also for the purpose of furthering their own interests,
including those of their children.
That a nation can be fairly said to be "bigger than the sum of our
individual ambitions" is due to the fact that social cooperation
multiplies the chances and possibilities of the individuals who
cooperate. (Those who care for mathematics may consider the number of
possible re-orderings of n things, that equals 1* ...*n, which is a
formula that grows rapidly in size with increasing n.)
In view of the economical indeed it
is relevant and important that "Our minds are no less inventive, our
goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last
month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished" - for, in
other words: The basic capacities for production, in terms of land,
factories and people to work there are still there, and have
hardly been touched by the that
happened so far.
This casts back to all but the first of the points mentioned at : war, depression, health-care, school-system,
climate. It seems Obama will want to create jobs by state-investments
in "the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines" (and I
may remark as an aside that the English government might invest a lot
in drains, as these - presently! - mostly date back for a good
part tot the Victorians).
He also seems to
invest in ecological projects, renewable energy and the climate problem.
Personally, I am
pleased with "And we will transform our schools and colleges and
universities to meet the demands of a new age", because it seems to me
these do and have done a poor job, for the most part, for the
last 40 years or so: All universities and polytechnics in the West,
apart from the few best, have offered worse and less and less
scientific education than the generations before them received, largely
because of educational changes made since The Sixties, that consisted
mostly in levelling and post-modernistic
This is probably a somewhat diffused argument in favor of far greater
state intervention in the coming years, in economical, educational and
ecological affairs, than was common or perhaps even acceptable in the
US so far.
And though some
Republicans claim it is "socialism", this is not so: In fact it
is at least a partial turn to how European capitalist states are run,
that do and have relied far more on state intervention than the US.
This continues what was said at  and also
implicitly argues the case for considerably more state intervention
than was common in the US for a long time - and indeed, even hard core
Republicans should admit that if ever there was a time for more
state intervenion in the US in things economical, educational and
ecological, it must be during a time of as it is now.
Also, "to spend
wisely, reform bad
habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can
we restore the vital trust between a people and their government" no
doubt is a rather restrained criticism of the economical policies of
the Bush years.
Here again Obama implicitly argues the case that more state
intervention is not at all the same as state socialism. And
indeed, his "this has reminded us
that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and
that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous"
is little else than undiluted Keynes.
The second part of
paragraph reiterates the theme what human society is for, if it
is a free and deliberate and rational and
reasonable creation of its members: "our ability to extend opportunity
to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the
surest route to our common good".
The first statement is a denial of the Bush polici since 9/11: "As for
our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety
and our ideals."
Indeed, that is
in that one can not have a free state while divesting its
citizens from many of their fundamental freedoms and rights in the name
of "the fight against terrorism" - for the most likely result of that
terrorist or at least authoritarian state, where the rule of law
has been replaced by the rule of the state for "reasons of the state". (*)
belief in the fundamental ideas and ideals expressed in the
Constitution: "Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give
them up for expedience's sake."
He also articulates
what may be called - the promise of the Statue of Liberty thus: "know
that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child
who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead
And indeed, it is at
least somewhat disappointing that with the fall of the
Soviet Union, there has not been a corresponding rise in
of the ideas and ideals of the founding fathers of the US - who may be
fairly said to have seen far deeper and far more truly
into the human heart, mind and possibilities and incapacities than -
for one example - the founding fathers of the USSR.
This is true, and if you read Dutch my "Over
terrorisme" (2005) is recommended here as is Over de "war on terror": eindelijk enig gezond
verstand" (with quite a few links).
Also, in part Obama
to be here - as elsewhere in his speech - the example of ancient Greek
orators, and indeed it is true that the best human societies require a
rationally planned society, in which the greater part of the population
feels inspired by its foundational ideals.
This reaffirms Obama's commitment to the ideals of the Constitution and
suggests some of his plans as regards Iraq, Afghanistan and ecology.
I suppose that "We
not apologize for our way of life", is not so much an argument for more
SUVs as an attempt to keep some Republicans on board: Under Obama, the
US will remain a great consumer, even if more consumption will be
state-directed, for the time being. And indeed, this seems realistic,
also in the senses that having money to consume is what motivates most
people to work, and that Obama cannot hope to change American economic
habits and preferences in the course of his presidency.
Although this is good rhetorics, it also contains three important
A. "For we
that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness."
That is: A pluriform
"multi-cultural", if one can say and think this without a post-modern
taste in the mouth or thought in the mind - society is normally a
higher civilised, stronger, more interesting, richer society than a
society which allows only one religion, doctrine, or race, and attempts
to subject all to it.
Why is this so?
in a pluriform society there are both the freedom to think, speak and
live as one pleases (while respecting the laws) and a great number of
diverse ideas, ideals, and values, that both check and stimulate each
B. "We are
by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth"
This is very true of
US, and is one of its strengths (if it does succeed in giving its
population in great majority what its founding fathers intended should
be given to them).
C. "that as
world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself"
far more bitterly: If our common humanity does not reveal itself, our
common lack of it may kill all or most of us.
O yes - and being an
(that is, I believe the evidence is such that the existence of a God,
especially one like described by any human
religion, is quite improbable), I do appreciate it that at long
last "non-believers" are mentioned by an American President.
This is again a somewhat diffuse way of announcing new policies, that
are more diplomatic than militaristic, and it contains
two nice pieces of rhetoric: "know that your people will judge you on
what you can build, not what you destroy" and "we will extend a hand if
you are willing to unclench your fist".
This seems to promise or announce new (economical?) policies related to
"we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders;
nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect",
that is to world poverty and ecology - but it does not name them.
This paragraph is especially for and about "brave Americans".
What is true in it
that no government that desires or finds a need to effect great changes
in a small period can hope to do this without the enthusiasm and
support of a great part of its population.
Continuation of previous paragraph and specification: "it is ultimately
the faith and determination of the American people upon which this
nation relies" - and it may be noteworthy that, historically speaking,
this was, when the USA was founded, a radical and new idea: A society
ruled by and for the people, rather than by and for an élite of a
special caste, and in perpituity, as had been the case then in Europe
In considerable part, this is moral exhortation, but is well to comment
on "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. "
These things are
in that they are tested through many generations, indeed at least since
the Ancient Greeks, and were shown to be the best human ways, apart
from chance, great talent, or great handicaps, to prosper and be moral
in Chamfort's sense:
"Enjoy and give
pleasure, without doing harm to yourself or to anyone else - that, I
think, is the whole of morality."
For more, see Aristotle's Ethics
with my notes,
and Hume's Enquiries
into Morals with my notes.
And note that "What
demanded then is a return to these truths" is both a statement of
Obama's trust in the Constitution and a sharp criticism of his
predecessor(s), who can be said to have been led by other principles,
also memorable expressed:
egoism are the roots of all vice.
These three paragraphs spin out part of the suggestions of the two
before them. Note also that "why a man whose father less than sixty
years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now
stand before you to take a most sacred oath" is both positive and
Positive in that it
possible for a - nominally - black man to become President of the
United States, and that it has happened; negative in that it took some
sixty years at least; positive again in that this is indeed a long
time, but there have been times and places when generation after
generation was and remained repressed.
This is mostly for American patriots - which is OK with me, but I am
not American. Let me note in passing, though, that the
Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers, and the
Constitution are rather amazing documents, that contain some very
good and clear thinking and formulating, and are very well worth
reading, also for non-Americans, and those who oppose the US without
knowing much or anything about the moral and intellectual foundations
it was surrrected upon.
This seems to relate to the American traditions of "the home of the
It is noteworthy
Obama speaks of "in this winter of our hardship", whereas that may not
yet have really begun for most, and may last a considerable while, but
indeed one never solves problems with hysteria
General comment on the inaugural addresss
and my notes:
Not having a TV since
40 years and not being American, so far I had not heard any complete
speech by Barack Obama, though I had heard it claimed that he is a
The above is his
inaugural address as President of the United States, which I have heard
as it was made on the BBC-WorldService, and since found on several
places on the internet, with thirty of my notes attached.
If you know more of my site, you may know that - being a
philosopher and an invalid - this is my standard way of dealing with philosophical
classics, that is, I quote the full texts, insert many numbers for
notes, that are then usually made in one or more separate files.
Although I doubt that
President Obama's inaugural address will be a philosophical classic,
his presidency, his person, and the time in which he accepted the
office of President, seemed important enough for me to consider the
speech somewhat seriously, and to annotate it.
My main reason for
this, apart from wanting to clarify my own mind, and apart from wanting
to make my mind up on his abilities as a speaker (about which I had
heard much, but which I had no opportunity to test so far), is that I
believe that his presidency is particularly important both
because of the great present problems of diverse kinds (war,
economy, education, ecology, depression) and because of the
considerable possibilities for fairly rapid change, especially in the
US and Europe, if we are happy, mostly for the best and if we are not
happy, certainly for the worst.
This does not quite
explain yet why I made my 30 notes, but then two specific reasons apart
from the ones just given are these:
First, I agreed with
that Obama said, but it turned out that most persons I heard
comment on the speech, and try to analyse it, seemed to have missed
much of it, and indeed Obama's speech was more in the tradition he may
have gleaned from Thucydides, than that it was directed at the average
understanding of his hearers.
That is, it seemed
a speech that set out general ideals and an outline for new policies,
that did so in a language of ideas, also spiced with some rhetorics,
that - unfortunately - especially as regards political speeching in
terms of ideas, is not very familiar to most of its
Second, I happen to
philosopher, and I think I can rather easily pick up most of his
references and suppositions, in sofar as these are related to having a
bright mind and a good liberal scientific education.
Indeed, either Obama
been reading Nederlog (with the help of Babelfish, say) or else - and far
more likely - those who have good minds, a good education, a good
knowledge of historical and political classics, and an appreciation of
the possibilities of modern science, will tend to come to similar
conclusions from the same premisses dictated by the present times.
Therefore, I have
my own clarifications to the speech, and also quoted it in full.
I hope it may be
to some, and all that remains to be said at present in this context are
First, and indeed
since two days ago it was Martin Luther King Day in the US, it seems to
me that Obama is a good speaker, but that Martin Luther King
was a great speaker - and indeed, I do not believe that Obama
will gainsay me, or that he should do so, or even want to do so.
a good mind, and I hope he will succeed in what he has set out to do,
while it is a considerable re-assurance that, at long last, the United
States has again a President who is at the very least intellectually
competent, so much unlike his predecessor.
Third, it should
said, in fairness also, that a considerable part of the problems that
the US and the world have at present, are the direct result of
the policies of his predecessor and his team, and indeed that if they
had been more competent, intellectually and morally, the problems that
plague the world at present would have been proportionally less.
"Reasons of state" - "raisons d'état" - tend to be those secret grounds
that lead to torture, murder, repression and secrecy, and are the
historical common diplomatic phrase for these activities: "We had
Guantánamo and we did rendition for reasons of state, y'all understand".
Jan 23, 2013: I found that for some
unfathomable reason some (parts) of the paragraphs of Obama's text had
turned into links to the
crisis series and
corrected that today.