Inaugural - The Benediction

January 21, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

I’m not much of a connoisseur of religious speech (did anyone else notice – how could you fail to notice – Obama’s shout-out to “nonbelievers”?), but I thought Rev. Lowery’s benediction closing the inaugural was perfect. OK, maybe a bit too long. But what a finish. It stayed right on topic, a serious topic, but still provided needed smile at the end of an hour, a day, a two-year campaign, of gravity and high drama.

(Full text here.) Even if you don’t listen to the whole thing, drag the time button to 4:30 and listen to the last thirty seconds. And look at Obama and the others with him smiling.
help us work for that day when
black will not be asked to get in back
when brown can stick around
when yellow will be mellow
when the red man can get ahead, man
and when white will embrace what is right.
That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen.
There’s a weak “amen” from the crowd, so he repeats the call twice. And you get the sense that hundreds of thousands of people on the mall and millions of people across the country were saying “amen.”

I watched the inauguration in a classroom full of undergraduates. They were all attentive. I didn’t hear any chatting, and I didn’t see anyone texting on a cell phone. Most of them filed out after the speech, so there weren’t too many of us left in the room when Rev. Lowery spoke. But I’d bet that none of the students who had been in the room with me knew what he was talking about in those last lines. Too bad.

Listen for yourself.

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