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Imagine it's 2008 and you're an adult American worker. Yeah, it's a tough mental exercise, but just bear with us. The stock market has just crashed, and to add insult to injury, the housing market has exploded. You lose your house to foreclosure in the same month that your company lays you off to save money. Your investments have gone down the tubes, putting your retirement plans in jeopardy. You're trying to look for a new job, but no one is hiring. You don't have enough money to make ends meet, much less to buy the things you want.
Basically, your life is a stone-cold bummer.
You turn on the TV and flip to the inauguration ceremony for the new president. Wouldn't you want to hear something that encouraged you to keep on trying? If not, go ahead and change the channel—2008 was peak Gossip Girl.
Anyway, Barack Obama's 2009 inaugural address is built around a comforting message of perseverance: he encourages American citizens to weather the storm with help from themselves and their government.
The 2009 inaugural address is about the responsibility of government and citizens. It asks the American people to work with the government to survive a crisis.
One of Obama's primary objectives in his inaugural address is to comfort and reassure a nation reeling from multiple crises.
We're kind of generalizing here, but historically in American politics, Democrats tend to place more emphasis on community while Republicans tend to place more emphasis on individuality. Both are quintessential American values, and both affect how people think about political issues. Should people navigate the world freely as individuals or sacrifice some of their own interests to help each other out?
After the financial crisis of 2008 hit, even conservative folks were more open to the idea of using government spending to lift people up. In his inaugural address, Obama advertises community and unity between the political parties as solutions to the economic crisis, and a bunch of other domestic and foreign policy issues, too.
Obama's inaugural address evokes the idea of unity through diversity, which resonated with many Americans and alienated others.
By downplaying the importance of the size of government, Obama tries to get the country to think of itself as a unified team, greater than the sum of its separate parts.
Faith and religion have always played a major role in American politics. And Barack Obama's 2009 inaugural address definitely references both, whether we're talking about religious faith or people's trust and belief in general in themselves, in each other, and in their country.
As a candidate, Obama often addressed the issue of faith and got up close and personal about his own faith journey in a 2007 speech. And focusing on his own religious beliefs during his campaign seems to have paid off in the election. In fact, compared to his Democratic predecessor in 2004, John Kerry, Obama earned more votes from pretty much every religious group (source). And he also received 75 percent of the "religiously unaffiliated" vote.
Hence the non-believer shout-out?
In his 2009 inaugural address, Barack Obama tells Americans to have faith in the country by having faith in themselves.
Obama's rhetoric from 2007 to 2009 focused more on faith and religion than his Democratic predecessors did. In his own words, "This guy is not the typical secular Democrat."
Obama acknowledges that America was hamstrung by economic problems in 2009. Still, the 2009 inaugural address isn't just about fixing things; it's also about what Obama wants to do after things are fixed. Reforming the health care system, investing in alternative energy, and rebuilding America's infrastructure are some of the issues at the top of his to-do list.
The speech envisions an America defined by responsibility—both at home and abroad. In this America, the government would work for the citizens, citizens would work hard, and America would be a force for good in the world.
Sounds good enough to be a mission statement.
The 2009 inaugural address lays out a vision for a post-Bush America, promising a sharp reversal from the previous administration's policies.
On foreign policy, Obama envisions America cooperating in harmony with the rest of the world.