I never thought I’d finally see the day, but George W. Bush is no longer President of the United States, and Barack Obama is. I have to say, I’ve paid attention to Presidential Inaugurations since 1981, and I can’t recall one greeted with as much excitement, hope, and expectation. All around my university, in my medical center, and even in my cancer center, auditoriums were set up and the oath of office and inaugural speeches televised on the big screens there. At my cancer center, the auditorium was packed. Our cancer center director was there, as was most of the center leadership and many of the physicians, nurses, secretaries, and researchers. It was standing room only, with actual applause at various points in the speech. Heck, our hospital cafeteria had even proclaimed today “Obama Day” and had revamped its menu to feature many of Barack and Michelle Obama’s favorite foods, some of them supposedly taken from Obama family recipes.
I had never seen anything like it, and this is what we saw:
One year ago, I didn’t think too much of Obama. His relative lack of experience concerned me–a lot. I thought he was highly overrated. His politics were (and still are) more liberal than my politics, although not as much as they would have been in 2000–or even 2004. I had a lot of doubts. Today, I won’t say that I don’t still have some remaining doubts, but Obama has certainly impressed me a lot in the interim since he won the nomination. Certainly, I have a lot more confidence in him now than I did six months ago.
And, yes, I still despise that Obama felt it necessary to choose the gay-baiter and agent of intolerance Rick Warren to give the prayer in order to make nice with the religious right. However, that aside, I’ve been impressed overall with Obama’s handling of the transition thus far. He’s more or less tentatively won me over, and, having voted for him more because I couldn’t stomach John McCain and Sarah Palin than because I really liked Obama, I’m now willing to do more than just give him a chance; I’m rooting for him. I’m also very happy that, whatever my political disagreements with Obama may be, finally, after eight long and painful years, we finally have a President who at least tries to think with his head instead of letting his “gut instincts” rule his decisions, a President who thrives on debate and having his opinion challenged instead of sycophancy. I hope he can maintain that in the fishbowl of the White House, which can all too easily turn into an echo chamber filled with yes men.
Even better, as computer geek I like that the White House website now has a blog, and a physician and scientist I particularly liked this line from his address:
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.
This line got serious applause in the auditorium.
Here’s hoping President Obama can do all this and fix the economic mess we’re in (or at least avoid making it any worse than it already is). Here’s hoping Obama can restore science to its rightful place where appropriate in guiding federal policy. I harbor no illusions that, despite the lofty rhetoric of Obama’s speech, politics as usual won’t go on in Washington after Obama’s honeymoon ends. Every new President vows to “end politics as usual” or “divisiveness” and to “heal the nation’s wounds.” Even George W. Bush made similar pledges in his first Inaugural Address. Politics goes on, because that’s what politics demands. Still, for one moment, as I watched the speech with several dozen of my coworkers paying rapt attention, I allowed optimism to stir in me. After all, a racial barrier that I had doubted that I would ever seen destroyed in my lifetime has been shattered, and the man who did it respects intellect, reason, and science. I can’t help but feel optimism that maybe–just maybe–this time there will be significant change.
And not just change, but change for the better.
49 replies on “A Presidency ends. A Presidency begins.”
Yeah, I saw that line too. People looked at me funny when I clapped for it.
Thanks, Orac: I endorse your comments (except that I’m considerably to the left of Obama,) but I’ll take what I can get, and I think we made a great bargain on November 4th.
As I was reading this post, I was also watching President Obama (it’s going to take a while for that sneer with which I say the word “president” to go away) walking down the street in the parade and waving at the crowd. We elected an African-American president, and if Hillary Clinton had been nominated, I’m sure we would be inaugurating a female president today. This is a great day for America. There is one thing I’d like to run past you and your loyal commenters as medical doctors, though.
President Obama strikes me as the most physically fit president I’ve ever seen, and that prompts the question, what if he weren’t? I’ve read a lot of speculation on exactly what was wrong with president Lincoln (if Bill Frist can diagnose someone on video, why not a daguerrotype?) and whether it was Marfan’s Syndrome or whatever, is it conceivable that anyone with the same condition could be nominated, much less elected, today?
Or picture FDR being wheeled down the same parade route in a wheelchair. Is that even conceivable today? What if neither one of them were elected because of their medical condition? We would be living in a much different (and in my opinion, much worse) world right now.)
Isn’t this obsession with examining every detail of a candidate’s physical condition severely limiting our choices? Couldn’t the best person for the job be in a wheelchair? Don’t we care much more about what’s inside a person’s head and their political positions when choosing a president? Hell, the MSM jumped all over Bill Clinton for not looking anorexic enough to suit the preferred presidential image!
What is the general take on this in this forum? Am I the only one who feels this way?
Orac, I applauded to that line as well, and the one about how we are a nation of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus – and even nonbelievers.
As far as Rick Warren’s opening prayer, I was opposed to him too, but I thought he made a pretty non-controversial prayer for the believers. For the non-believers it was, in the words of the Bard “A lot of sound a fury, signifying nothing”, but it still sounded pretty.
I’ve seen some news reports examining why Obama’s speech was so ‘somber’. Riiiight… like we have nothing to worry about… Just reinforces my opinion of both the new President and the talking heads in the news biz…
It would have been better if the market had not decided to tank again in celebration. I wish President Obama all the best, but the reality he faces really sucks.
Two things in the speech caught my ear. The first is what Orac mentioned about science. Finally, a President who gets it.
The other was brought up by Blaidd Drwg, the non-believers quote. That really shocked me as I’ve never heard any other president say that.
OMG: he speaks in complete sentences.
That is all.
The science line got a lot of applause and whoops here at Harvard Medical School. The cafeteria (one of several viewing places) was packed.
I don’t know if I can handle that. Over the years, I’ve gotten used to every single public speaker out there stringing together sentence fragments and free-radical words.
The idea of someone who actually, like, thinks about what he says before he opens his mouth and starts leaking phonemes is going to take getting used to.
I do wish Obama had added Buddhists to the list.
And I think Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh would have been better than Warren, due to Nhat Hanh’s connection to MLK Jr. (TNH wrote to MLK to ask MLK to oppose the Vietnam War. MLK nominated TNH for the Nobel Peace Prize.)
After the speech, I opened a bottle of champagne I bought this morning and shared it with my lab mates and boss/PI.
The Jew (my sister-in-law) and the atheist (me) were put off by the tone of Warren’s prayer.
Both the Jew and the atheist caught and applauded the science line.
Funny story about my 88 year old mother-in-law, who isn’t as mentally alert as she used to be:
On seeing video of Bush yesterday on the news, she exclaimed, “What! Is he still President? What are they waiting for?”
It turns out that this socially and politically conservative lady voted for Obama. She thought McCain was too old.
“Even George W. Bush made similar pledges in his first Inaugural Address. ”
True, but looking at the tone of Obama’s run, versus the tone of Bush’s run, and the absence of anyone as vile as Karl Rove on Obama’s team, and it seems to me that Obama has a chance of changing politics, whereas with Bush it was just empty rhetoric.
The thing that I objected to in the coverage of the inauguration was the emphasis on Obama’s African heritage rather than his ability to run the country. It made me realize that a large number of people voted on the issue of race alone; that’s a lousy reason to elect a man president.
We had champagne, too–mostly because we just submitted a paper to Nature Genetics (fingers crossed), but Obama’s day was on everyone’s mind (and is now inscribed on the champagne cork) as well.
Coolest thing about today so far: watching the inauguration at my kids’ elementary school, realizing that even as all the teachers and parents were feeling so teary and glad and hopeful and ebullient that the kids were mostly feeling…bored. I actually think that’s a good thing, because it illustrates beautifully just how much of a ‘normal’ event this seems to them.
Both my kids have learned a bit about the Civil Rights movement, but at 6 and 8 they are too young yet to appreciate the historical context, or the road we as a nation have travelled to reach today’s triumph from the stepping stones laid down over the last several decades. To them, racism is simply indefensible, and they just don’t get how anyone could feel that way, let alone enough people to influence social policies. I feel teary and glad and hopeful and ebullient all over again that they live in a time and place where such things are as unthinkable as they should be, everywhere, and at any time. Way to go, America!
Somebody commented on the market tanking today. Every time President GW Bush spoke while the market was open, during his first term, the market did the same. Short term, the market is often wrong. Tomorrow will be a day where traders/investors have gone home and slept on the news, as predictable as the news was. it isn’t as if anybody expected the Klan to ride in with a restraining order, to stop the inauguration.
Unfortunately, I do not think that President Obama’s policies will be good for the economy (not necessarily worse than previous administrations).
I did not watch the inauguration, not out of disapproval for the president, but I have not heard any inaugural addresses that I approve of. Centuries ago, we had inaugural addresses that were worth listening to. Now it seems that it is more about appearances, than substance. I hope President Obama proves me wrong.
It is impressive that we now have a non-white president and that no hate group interfered with the inauguration. I was worried that the dregs of society might mar this day of celebration.
I hope that President Obama follows through on the promising words of change, from the inaugural address.
“One year ago, I didn’t think too much of Obama. His relative lack of experience concerned me–a lot. I thought he was highly overrated. His politics were (and still are) more liberal than my politics, although not as much as they would have been in 2000–or even 2004. I had a lot of doubts. Today, I won’t say that I don’t still have some remaining doubts, but Obama has certainly impressed me a lot in the interim since he won the nomination. Certainly, I have a lot more confidence in him now than I did six months ago.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
I suspect that he didn’t mention Buddhists because mentioning every religion might take a while. I also suspect it is because tomorrow’s prayer service will include representatives from the four religions mentioned (though not non-believers [or even open non-theists unless the Hindu representative is a non-theist]). Assuming all show up it will be a first for a Muslim and a Hindu to speak (Bush did invite a Muslim to speak at his second inauguration prayer service but he was ill and couldn’t make it).
I was glad for the mention of science/technology.
My lab mates and I were watching the speech streaming live on an office computer. When Obama gave the “shout-out” to science, we all collectively raised our fists and gave a little cheer. It was pretty funny since we didn’t know it was coming and all reacted the same way!
I’m disappointed that Santeria was not mentioned with the other religions.
Don’t forget that Hitler had his physicians and scientists commit atrocities in the name of Science. I’m just sayin’.
What will save our Republic is the “checks and balances” that will prevent Obama from doing much of what he would like to do to us.
It is really nice to hear this criticism of Bush from a conservative. I know it happens, in theory, but I so rarely get to see it.
I work with a bunch of those “22 percenters” and I am so damn sick of hearing how no one else could have or would have done it better. And about how awesome Palin is.
Thank you, dear Orac, for reminding me that all conservatives aren’t stupid. (I know that’s a bit of a backhanded compliment. But on some days in my world, it really does seem like they are. You would not believe the MILF power that Palin has young republican males. I can only imagine what dreadful glamor W. has cast over them…)
Plus, you get bonus points for mentioning the Jesus Lizard and posting the XTC “Dear God” video a while back.
I officially love you, even though you’re a dirty, fascist, conservative bastard 😉
Hey Orac. You have proven yourself once again to be very open-minded!
I’m a public school teacher who was almost moved to tears at the inaguration, but the tone of many comments left here upset me……
140 million dollars for a celebration; Palin’s wardrobe expenses seem so trivial now.
Why keep slamming Bush? Who would have done well as Commander in Chief after 911? Please- I hope the best for Obama but his Senate voting record of “Present”/noncommital is worrisome
See what I mean (*points to previous post*)?
Joe: Who would have done “as” well? Someone who didn’t fabricate reasons to invade Iraq, someone who didn’t justify the use of torture with fear. Someone who didn’t act like science and civil liberties were a discardable convenience. Someone who didn’t let the Vice President treat their position as if it were incidental.
Palin’s wardrobe expense didn’t include the security expenditures to keep her alive during her campaign. She bought some nice clothes with that money, not security. Nor did she buy the opportunity for over 2 million Americans to see her inaugurated.
If you think that’s as frivolous as the inauguration of the first black president then perhaps you should rethink your priorities.
I watched with 300 other people at Wayne State’s law auditorium. Spontaneous applause for the science lines, and also his general mention of relying on data for determining policy.
As a super mega ultra liberal, I’m not too into the cult of personality that seems to surround Obama, but I have to say that I was quite impressed by how his speech did not deny the complexity of the problems ahead, nor did he resort to the black and white dualism that our previous administration loved to reference.
BTW, Dr. Steve, ‘checks and balances’ didn’t work so well in the previous administration – when your executive keeps claiming all sorts of powers to hide his actions from the courts and the legislature, it is certainly refreshing to hear the new guy speak of conducting business in open air.
Posted by: Steve Parker, M.D.
From David Sirota’s article in the San Francisco Chronicle about the dangers of American Czarism and consolidated executive power… points out this statement from Barack Obama at last night’s dinner honoring John McCain, just hours before the inauguration:
“We will not always agree on everything in the months to come. We will have our share of arguments and debates. John is not known to bite his tongue. And if I’m screwing up, he’s going to let me know. That’s how it should be, because a presidency is just one branch of a broader government of and by and for the people.” (emphasis added)
This is a profoundly important statement. Though he is referring to McCain, Obama is making a bigger point: Namely, that he sees the real value in having a strong, assertive legislative branch – and really, strong, assertive state and local governments at all levels. And we should all agree, as the Founders did: The stronger and more vibrant all those levels of government – and the less imperial we allow the presidency to be – the more powerful this moment of change can be.
Who would have done better as Commander in Chief after 911? Would you like that alphabeticaly? It could take a while, there’s about 100 million eligable for the post and most of them make the list.
i can see more of obamas ascending their White House.there is no dream that is not achievable. Who say i cannot actualise my dream? you daer to dream and you will get THERE.Dreamers dont die b/c DREAM dont die. u can becme what u want 2 become.
One year ago, I didn’t think too much of Obama. His relative lack of experience concerned me–a lot. I thought he was highly overrated.
Quick comment about something related to, though not the same as, the above: Many people over the past year or two, notably John McCain and Christopher Hitchens, have confused Obama’s “cool” demeanor with a lack of commitment or gravitas. McCain, of course, is now listening to the press kvell over how lovely it was of Obama to have a dinner where he said nice things about poor old John.
Anyone who thinks Obama is too much rhetoric and too little substance needs to watch the speech he gave on the eve of the election after learning that his grandmother, who helped raise him, had passed away. As he spoke of her, a few tears rolled down his cheeks – but he never once changed expression. The composed expression and cool demeanor come from absolute iron control, not from a lack of inner fire. We haven’t had anyone with that type of self-control since Reagan, who managed to make nearly everyone think of him as avuncular, and many think of him as some sort of pleasant fool controlled by his wife and staff, while becoming president of the Screen Actors Guild, two-term Governor of California, and a wildly popular President of the U.S.
Reagan, whatever you may think of him (I opposed most of what he favored politically) got quite a few things changed in his 8 years, and I will be surprised if Obama doesn’t manage to make some changes as well. (As one practical indication of Obama’s current political sway, the latest polls indicate 68% of *Republicans* want their Congressional representatives to work with Obama rather than opposing his initiatives.)
The fact that everyone seems to be excited about Obama’s stance on science is amazing and a great sign that people are tired of the good ol’ boy routine of ignoring science.
“It would have been better if the market had not decided to tank again in celebration.”
Apparently the market hasn’t risen on an inauguration day since JFK.
As a potential future scientist, or potential future high school Biology teacher, I loved that he explicitly promised to bring science back into classrooms.
As a Buddhist, I find it interesting that he didn’t mention Buddhists, considering there are more Buddhists in the US than Hindus (the top religions are Christian, nonreligious, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu in the USA). My fiance suggested it was just because the diction was better.
Meh. A real Buddhist wouldn’t care if Obama had paid lip service or not.
However, this Buddhist remains nonplussed until the interest rates in my savings accounts rise a bit.
1. The end of gov’t sponsored woo
2. Better interest rates in my savings
3. The renunciation of theocratic power in the US
and a kitten would be nice, too.
A kitten in every pot! 😀
Proof of a true generational divide. We used to go for pot in every kitten.
I don’t think that’s fair, bigjohn756. The fact that people are excited that this country finally elected an African- American for President doesn’t mean that’s why we voted for him. I, for one, voted for him because he was by far the most able candidate… and I am also enormously proud and excited at the enormous step our country has taken to move past racism.
We judged the man, not on the color of his skin, but on the content of his character. We didn’t used to do that. That is worth celebrating and being proud of.
In medicine we have to fight woo — bullshit trying to pass as therapy.
In society we have to fight poo — bullshit trying to pass as leadership and policy.
Obama is chock full of poo. Orac, you are a wise skeptic about woo and medicine. Why are you so gullible about poo and politics?
“As a Buddhist, I find it interesting that he didn’t mention Buddhists, considering there are more Buddhists in the US than Hindus (the top religions are Christian, nonreligious, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu in the USA). My fiance suggested it was just because the diction was better.”
Also, he’s from Hawaii, where there is probably a relatively high concentration of Buddhists.
I believe he wrote a similar line in a book, which included Buddhists. It probably was the diction or flow of the line that led him to leave it out of the speech.
As a Buddhist, I find it interesting that he didn’t mention Buddhists, considering there are more Buddhists in the US than Hindus.
I think the reasoning is this: Since there’s ongoing tension between the US and parts of the Muslim world, he wanted to make a statement of inclusion towards Muslims. But there’s also ongoing tension between Muslims and Hindus, and he didn’t want to imply that he was siding against the Hindus.
There’s also a lot of tension between Christians and Non-believers in the US…it’s mostly vicious rhetoric rather than violence, but there’s still enough tension to justify a statement of inclusion for both of them, too.
But there’s not a lot of Buddhist-related tension right now, and it’s easy for them to get lost in the shuffle. I mean, no offense, but are you sure this “harmony with all mankind” business is a good idea? If you guys get in a really big shouting match with the Wiccans, I bet you’ll both get a mention in 2012.
I happened to be in a hospital waiting area, killing time while my bones absorbed the radioactive dye so I could complete a bone scan. The whole place just stopped (to the extent a funtioning hospital can stop) and everyone gathered in the waiting area to watch. I too caught the line about science and health care, and I was pleased to see the positive response it got from both the various medical professionals collected there and the patients and visitors.
My favorite line has been bandied about on the news since then, “We reject as false the choice between our security and our ideals.” Cut to a shot of the former president, who clearly still doesn’t get it.
And for those who used to play D&D, whenever I see Rick Warren, I think, “gelatinous cube.”
I cast magic missile at the darkness!
methinks Dr T hasn’t been paying attention to either politics or Orac…
Quoth chaos_engineer, “But there’s not a lot of Buddhist-related tension right now, and it’s easy for them to get lost in the shuffle.”
Uhh, Southern Thailand would like to have a word with you. That whole bit with the Muslim separatists blowing up trains and killing teachers, and the Buddhist majority fighting back? It’s easy to forget when the country in question has trouble picking a prime minister. Barricaded airports and all that.
You’re not in the room, you’re at the tavern getting drunk!
Al Gore, for one?
fyi1: the drop in the stock market wasn’t related to the inauguration, it was related to news that several large banks are in worst shape than was generally believed. http://www.bloomberg.com had a great article about this.
fyi2: the $150MM estimate was INCLUSIVE of security costs, and the numbers being spoken of for Bush’s two inaugural days did NOT include security costs. only idiots like drudge fail to comprehend (or disclose?) this.
i voted for obama but KNEW he was the right choice when his transition team started announcing his various science-related appointments.
i said to a close (republican) friend that i could forgive him for voting for bush the first time, but not the second time. surveys about 22% of our country thinking he was a good president are indicative of incredible ignorance.
I barely participated in Obama’s campaign because I was so bitter about the election of 2004 and how the swiftboaters and the religious crowd defeated Kerry, for whom I volunteered.
After Kerry’s defeat, I basically assumed that Americans were permanently committed to the Bush model.
It’s now three days into the Obama presidency, and as a 45-year-old woman with a science background (M.S.) who has been out of the field for many years, quite discouraged with Bush, I am really heartened by what Pres. Obama has already done. First out the gate were executive orders relating to human rights, interrogations and foreign policy. I am so relieved that we are straightening out our relations abroad and our adherence to fundamental legal principles.
Second out the gate, and I never expected it so soon, was the FDA approval of a small safety-related trial of a stem cell therapy for a type of spinal cord injury….and indications that the economic stimulus bill will have many science-related projects in it.
Two thumbs up, and dawgone I wish I had more thumbs haha!!!!!
Well, Orac, you’re the guy who emphasizes science, and Obama is the guy who appointed an antiscience crank to be his science adviser.
Take 2 aspirins and call me in a few months. I think you’ll have a headache by then.
“Anti-science crank?” Really? Do tell.
I think this is who Harry Eagar is talking about: http://www.seedmagazine.com/news/2009/01/the_holdren_factor.php
Harry’s definition of “antiscience crank” includes anyone who accepts the scientific consensus on global warming, apparently.