CHOICE WORDS

01.21.13

Obama’s Moment to Call Us to a Greater Collective Commitment

To get to “we,” Obama’s speech needs to avoid “I” and “they,” writes Mark McKinnon.

Here’s what I don’t want to hear in President Obama’s inaugural address:

The word “I.” A recap of his first term. How hard things have been. No straw men. No references to “they.” As in, “They said we couldn’t, or shouldn’t take on ... [fill in your favorite agenda item].” No blaming Republicans for obstructionism. No whining. No excuses. No long speech.

To borrow a signature phrase, let me be clear: This day is not about him. It’s about us. Our nation. Our future. Where do we go from here? What is the right path forward? How do we come together?

We have been given so much. Yet so much is left to be done. But we are Americans. And today that is what we celebrate.

Democracy is but an experiment in the long history of the world. And ours, rarer still: a representative republic, a country owned by the people. One people. An idea enshrined in our founding documents and echoed years later by Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg address. Ours is a government of the people, by the people, for the people. An ideal sanctified by the blood of many who came before us and by those forgotten who fight in our name still.

Here’s what I do want to hear:

The word “we.” A call to a greater collective commitment. A recognition of the sacrifices to come. A signal of willingness to do the unpopular, to take on his political base. A surprise or two. Humility. Faith. Gratitude. And keep it short.

To borrowa signaturephrase, let me be clear: This day is not about him. It’s about us.

How great a legacy to leave: To call together an anxious nation. To calm the divide and ask brothers to lay down their arms. To inspire them to a greater cause—to fight not against each other, but alongside each other for something far greater than ourselves.

This day, this country, this future—it is ours. Will he answer the call? And will we?