“No drama Obama” found his drama this morning in the best possible way. Given the weight of expectations on his shoulders today, this wasn’t a foregone conclusion. I’m not sure exactly how one rises to such an occasion, how one finds the words to fit such times, but for me at least, our new president did.
One clue I realized as I listened to Obama’s words: this speech, stern in many ways and uningratiating by design, stuck to hard nouns and verbs. There was little flowery rhetoric. The sentences had weight not by being heavy but by being solid. In that solidity, I heard the cadences of Whitman and Melville, American voices full of rough power rooted in the experience of nature and the effort demanded by the settling of the land.
In speaking of “the risktakers, the doers, the makers of things,” Obama found words that could encompass both the laborers who have represented the old school of the Democratic Party and the entrepreneurs and digital innovators who represent its newer supporters. In telling us to it was time to “put away childish things,” he may have been referring to the bitter divisions of the past decade, the political squabbling that has diverted so much precious energy and time. “Childish” might well describe the stupidity of the Clinton impeachment drama; but — painful though it may be for many of us to accept — it might also refer to the passion for a settling of accounts with the malefactors of the Bush administration that so many of the new president’s supporters share. We’ll have to see, over time, exactly how Obama defines this “new era of responsibility.”
There was a roll-up-our-sleeves quality to the whole address that was sober without being grim. I’ll want more time to digest the whole thing. Right now, I’m left with the picture of Malia, the president’s older daughter, pulling out her own digital camera to take a picture right as the TV camera was trained on her. It was a little pointer to the future, a gesture for a new generation that will be taking charge of its media in ways we can’t yet imagine.
“Write it yourself” is Jay Rosen’s sharp advice to the new president. He means, “Write that new White House blog yourself” — but also, in that moving-finger-writes way, write the whole story, the big drama of the next four years, yourself. Really, it’s what each of us needs to do.