Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Obama's Inaugural Address

Here is the full text of President Obama's Inaugural Address which he gave yesterday. It is well worth reading, and makes plenty of allusions to the United States' history as well as to the challenges ahead. One of its most well-quoted phrases was:

"We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall"

This not only makes a reference to the Declaration of Independence but also to three important moments in America's social history:

Seneca Falls, New York, was the location of a pioneering convention on women's rights in 1848, arguing in particular for women's right to vote which was eventually granted nationally by the 19th Amendment in 1920.

Selma, Alabama was the starting point for a series of marches in 1965 demanding Civil Rights and fair treatment of black voters in the state. The violent repression of the marches and the speeches of Martin Luther King (Coincedentally, yesterday was Martin Luther King day in the USA) directly led to President Johnson presenting the Voting Rights Bill to Congress with these words...

Even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and state of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause, too, because it is not just Negroes but really it is all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.

The Stonewall Riots were a series of demonstrations by New York's gay community that took place outside the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in 1969. They were angered by America's repressive laws against homosexuality and in particular hostile treatment by the police, whose attempted raid on the Inn had led to the riots. The demonstations brought gay rights to wider public attention and in particular led to the Gay Pride movement which grew out of an event to mark the anniversary of the riots. Obama's address was the first time the word "gay" had been used in this particular context.

There is plenty of comment on his speech. Here is Gary Yonge from the Guardian's verdict. Please let us know if you find any reactions that are particularly interesting.

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