The euphoric response of the general public to the inauguration of President Barack Obama gave the ceremony the appearance of a coronation rather than an inauguration.
The area known as the Mall in front of the Capitol Building was filled to overflowing. The total crowd was estimated to be 2 million people, making Obama's inauguration one of the best attended celebrations in history.
As he delivered his inaugural address, he was gazing over the very area where a century and a half before pens holding slaves awaiting auctions were located.
A repeated commitment President Obama made during his election campaign was, "I intend to end this [Iraq] war. My first day in office, I will bring the Joint Chiefs of Staff in, and I will give them a new mission, and that is to end this war responsibly and deliberately but decisively."
This commitment was reiterated in his inaugural address: "We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan."
Obama's first day in office was not quite what the nation expected. Instead, the president called a meeting at the White House to discuss "war policy." Present at the first day's meeting were the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen; Defense Secretary Robert Gates; Ryan Crocker, U.S. ambassador in Iraq; and Gen. David Petraeus, the general responsible for both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The Pentagon identified the Jan. 21 meeting as a "logical first step" for the president to meet directly with those people who are "most directly involved in both the war in Iraq as well as the war in Afghanistan.”
A senior military spokesman said the meeting with the Joint Chiefs would come within a week.
Normally the presidency is preceded by some years of executive experience, most often as the governor of a state. Few have ever come directly from a legislative background.
Governorships have been considered in the past as part of the “rights of passage” to the White House. In these positions valuable training and governmental management is experienced, leading to the advancement to the highest political office in the nation.
President Obama arrives at the White House with the least experience and training of any chief executive in history.
His training as a community organizer in Southside Chicago hardly equips him for any phase of the heavy responsibilities of Chief Executive of the most powerful nation in the world, in addition to the fact he is commander in chief of the world’s largest military force.
Vice President Harry Truman faced a similar situation on the unexpected death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in April 1945. He said at the time that he felt the weight of the world had suddenly been dropped on his shoulders.
Although Truman had gone through a period in his political life where he had been ridiculed as “the Missouri weakfish” of government, he was later to gain great respect, especially when he gave the order to drop two of the first atomic bombs on Japan, bringing World War II to an immediate end.
Hopefully Obama will surround himself with the most competent political and military leaders in the nation.
President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden had both campaigned on the promise to pull troops out of Iraq within 16 months.
No doubt, President Obama’s first day of on-the-job training proved to be a rather sobering experience. When campaign rhetoric faces reality, the scene changes substantially.
During the entire campaign leading up to the November 2008 general election, the word “change” seemed to be the operative word.
Noted in Obama’s inaugural speech are the words: “For the world has changed and one must change with it.”
He continued: “Our challenges may be 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 and the promise of citizenship.”
E. Ralph Hostetter, a prominent businessman and agricultural publisher, also is a national and local award-winning columnist. He welcomes comments by e-mail sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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