by David Safier

There's lots to mull over in Obama's second inaugural address, but I keep coming back to his opening words where he referred to the statement from the Declaration of Independence that some truths are "self-evident." Then he went on to enumerate those self-evident truths, which every American should know. Except that most of the truths he enumerated as he expanded on the central concept of the Declaration — about how we have to care for everyone, assure the equality of opportunity for all, look out for the environmental health of the nation and the world — are hardly self-evident to Republicans.

Professor Obama taught the nation a lesson about self-evident truths, and in the process, he shamed the opposition at the same time he threw down the legislative and executive gauntlet. Those of you on the other side of the aisle have a lot to learn about what makes this country great, he told them, and I, working with Democratic legislators and the American people, will be steadfast in moving this nation toward making more of those self-evident truths a reality, because, in his words, "history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing."

It's telling that Obama chose the term "self-executing," seeing as how he's the head of the Executive Branch of government. The choice of language by the Wordsmith in Chief is rarely casual. He's saying it is his personal duty as President of the United States to make sure the self-evident truths are put into execution. As he's shown since the election, he plans to push his agenda forcefully. No more Mister Nice Guy. For him to reach out to Republicans, they need to reach back to him.


  1. This Address echoed Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King, but it is also consistent with what Barack Obama has said all along. From Obama’s speech on race on March 18, 2008, entitled “A more Perfect Union”

    “The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

    Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution – a Constitution that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

    And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk – to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

    This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for our children and our grandchildren.”