This morning Crikey asked our readers to send us their thoughts on Obama’s inauguration and his speech. We’ve collated a selection of the responses below:

Gabriel McGrath writes: Three times in my 36 years, I’ve been awake at an early hour, due to events in America:

  • Early one morning in 1983, my father woke me up to watch Australians in a boat race.
  • Early one morning in 2001, my mother woke me via telephone, telling me to turn the TV on.
  • But early one morning in 2009, I was already awake. My wife and I set two alarm clocks.

We watched history — listen to a new president “whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant”, and I rested my hand on my wife’s belly, knowing I’d have something to tell our son/daughter due in July.

Charles Shavitz writes: As a university student in my home country of the United States, I remember watching the inauguration of President Reagan in January 1981 with a feeling of renewed hope, pride, and optimism in America’s and the world’s future. On January 21, 2009, here in my adopted country of Australia, and now as an Australian citizen, I watched the inauguration of President Obama with tears in my eyes, and a greater feeling of hope and anticipation than I did 28 years ago. I pray that President Obama and his administration bring about the change that America and the world need, want, and expect.

John Wood writes: This day contained the kind of hope and promise and decency that I witnessed at the inauguration of JFK 48 years ago, and thought i would not see again. I did, and I thank him for it.

Wendy Bacon writes: The editorial in Crikey’s special Obama edition this morning said it all. I watched and in fact am still watching the inauguration on CNN live and CNN Facebook in Denmark where I am staying. What struck me most was the poetry of the speech, the blessings and of course, the poem written for the occasion. The humour at the end of the benediction by 85-year-old Reverend Lowrey was almost enough to send an atheist to church or at least a reminder of why religion can be important to oppressed people.

As a human being, it is uplifting to see so many people so happy and hopeful. People did get involved in making a change and it encourages us all that they were successful. As a journalist, one was aware how tough it was for the commentators to sound anything but banal — and banal they indeed were. There will be plenty of time for disappointment and skepticism. I tried to ignore the CNN ads which encourage black American women to go out and buy anti-wrinkle cream.

Obama must have been given the direst briefings about the economy and climate change to make such a sober and urgent speech. One can scarcely hope that serious change in patterns of excessive consumption, inequality and conflict can happen. But if hopes and challenges are not articulated, no change will happen.

Obama has set the bar high for himself and there is a huge amount at stake — if the military machine, wanton consumption of resources and climate change cannot be tackled, hope will be in vain.

Now it is time for journalists to do some serious reporting on how grass roots people around the world are faring as the depression deepens.

Dan Cass, Communications manager, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, writes: Obama invoked “the people” as a player in history and it has meaning, contrasted not just with conservatives like W, but also liberals like Australia’s Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. This whole rhetoric of responsibility has gravitas when spoken by somebody who has worked in activism (community organising). On green-ness, Obama spoke early on of the need to rebuild America with new energy, something about harnessing the winds, sun, soil.

When he asks the audience to “endure” it rings true with his life’s experience in a way that is complex and interesting. When he calls for a return to old truths, values and responsibility, it again reminds me — he was an activist, he is a black man.

It’s late as the poets say, and not the time to revert to boring Australian cynicism, or shying from honest connection with over-thinking … time to sleep…

Kathleen Delaney writes: This is the first time I have watched an entire Inauguration ceremony live, and my response was “awesome”, a word I seldom use. When President Obama said words to the effect that “we will hold out our hand if you will unclench your fist” I was reminded of President Kennedy’s “Ask not … etc”, though in these times I thought President Obama’s words were even more significant.

I was bemused by the former President’s demeanour; as he walked alongside the new President, waving intermittently almost as though he was still the top doggie. The sight of Cheney in a wheelchair was quite satisfying, though if he had been inside a cell, along with his other buddies, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz et al, it would have been even more so.

Ann Moir writes: Music for music’s sake, recognition of the power of poetry, reference to the importance of science, noting the patchwork heritage of cultures is a strength … the experience of the inauguration ceremony has added value to my life and allowed me to believe that major power shifts are indeed possible. I was on tenterhooks when they got out of the car to walk or the camera panned to the top of buildings.

John Harry writes: We each know, as Obama said repeatedly this morning, that the core of national betterment is the granting of trust and obedience to our leadership, our willingness to have regard to civic duty and the embracing of personal responsibility and aspiration, our acceptance that our country will be what we do as much as what our leaders do.

But we have become so cynical and mistrustful of our politicians, with good reason, that we find it hard to have belief in any new leader, without which our present lack of will to work for the community (or, if you like, our national morale) won’t change. So hardened are we that we can’t easily talk about personal duty lest it be seen as corny or naïve.

The thrilling possibility is that Obama is a person who will be trusted and who can restore the momentum of personal civic contribution; and that he will actually prove to be a person worthy of that trust, who will not be crushed by party machine, interest group, political correctness, the spin doctors or the media demand.

Even with the usual ballyhoo, the inauguration process we have just witnessed shows that the American community is willing to be convinced that they now have the right man for the job.

I’ve been watching Obama’s doorstops and interviews closely since his election. Have you noticed that when he is asked a question, he answers it honestly and on its merits? How the evasion, spin and “party line” rubbish we are so used to hearing from our politicians has vanished? How upright and dignified he is?

This is more telling, refreshing and encouraging to me that a hundred inaugural addresses. Like watching the moneylenders’ tables being overturned. Leaders are as leaders do. If they answer the question, if they convey a sense of honour and responsibility, there’s a good chance they have character and mean to apply it.

I’m hopeful and anxious about Obama, but, thank god, not cynical.

Jo Martyn writes: The hope embodied by this man has reached around the world and seems almost boundless. His inauguration speech made me believe that America will become a better place over the next eight years. He convinced me that America will learn from its errors and finally “grow up”. He made me see the best in the American spirit and realise that as a nation, they didn’t mean to get it so wrong. If he inspires this kind of faith in a “non-believer”, imagine what he will do for patriotic, god-fearing America.

Matt Cowgill writes: Obama continues to keep his options open in the best possible way. By not committing to a specific course of action, or specific ideological principles beyond the most lofty and non-specific values, he can engage in whatever course of action he deems necessary. The bold, persistent experimentation of the first FDR administration may yet be repeated.

John Wallace writes: The motorcade was so slow and boring. It reminded me of Winston Churchill’s funeral … but at least that had Ed Murrow doing the commentary. The news coverage is excessive and echoes that of the US tragedy of September 11. Why do news media in this country assume we live American lives? OK, the US is objectively the most powerful nation etc, but gives us a break. Would we (equals you) gush over a comparable transfer of power in China?

OK, so he’s black, or sort of, which is great given US history and the civil rights journey there, and one can understand the joy of black Americans today. Maybe black Australians share that, too. If so, how about coverage of that? My preference would be for news media here to take a cold shower, give us the essentials and save some energy for analysing the actual performance of this new president in the months and years ahead.

At the same time, it would good for Australian news media to spend more time examining the nature of the Australian-US relationship and asking why we need to be so supine in dealing with our historic protector … like going to war and helping murder hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis. In passing, news media could do some introspection on why they are so interested in the pageantry of US politics. I thought Australia, as it moves slowly towards a republic, was getting over interest in such trivia.

Sally Dominguez writes: I relocated to San Francisco quickly in order to be over here for the election and this morning’s speech. My local streets were empty — everybody inside watching the box. I hear there are Obama in Pajamas parties in Sydney but it’s more sombre over on the West Coast with everyone hoping that change happens FAST! A brilliant speech — I shed tears. I would have loved a little crack of a smile before he started…

Scott Writer writes: Watching the inauguration this morning, right up until Obama recited the oath I could not shake the (admittedly ridiculous) thought that at the last moment a UFO would descend, fix the President-elect in its beam and whisk him away to outer space a la Monty Python’s Brian (another man mistaken for the messiah!).

In the ensuing pandemonium Bush would intone regretfully into the microphone that, given the national emergency, “it looks like another four years”, and the shoulders of two million on the Mall would slump in “somehow-we-always-knew-this-would-happen” disappointment as they registered that the nightmare was to continue. What a relief.

Jeff McLean writes: What an impressive man. Many people will probably chide him for what they think are his “empty words”. But looking back through history, what speech has been as pointed as that? What speech has delivered thoughts like that, rooted in such strong ideals, with language that is not tired or hackneyed? He is the leader. He is not necessarily the doer.

And it is for precisely this reason that he must define the path that America, and thus the rest of us, travel. He has defined that path, and defined it brilliantly. And if anyone has a chance of leading the US out of the mire by pulling a nation together, then it seems this is the man.

Brian Haill writes: “Humility and restraint” are the words that jump out of President Obama’s speech. If his presidency does indeed embody them, the world will see and embrace a new America. Away with denouncing nations as evil, along with threats for nuclear strikes against Iran, and refusing to talk with nations that are different.

Hopefully, the restraint will see a halt to the endless supply of warplanes, bombs and missiles for Israel to rain down on defenceless Palestinian populations and NO to the Israeli government’s plan to sideline Hamas in the reconstruction of Gaza.

Hopefully too, an end to mindless vetoes in the United Nations, and the spiriting of prisoners of war to other lands to circumvent the Geneva Conventions. Hope very much has a black face today! The world now depends on it.

Henry Benjamin writes: With the financial mess the world is in and without the full knowledge of the inner workings of the financial institutions with whom Obama has to deal, perhaps hope and inspiration are the only known two major ingredients in the going-forward formula. If nothing else, Obama has provided them. Where will the rest come from? The God to whom he so frequently referred, maybe the only one who knows.

Nanettte Kerrison writes: I shed tears while watching it. I still am.

Jenny Sams writes: Immense relief — that Bush has gone. That there now can be a new start, a new hope in the Americas. I just love the Obamas and the equality that Barack promises!

Jon Bauer writes: Yes it’s brilliant and exciting and desperately needed, but all this expectation can only lead to one thing: petulant disappointment. He’s just a man, and more than that, he’s a man working in the shackles of office.

Andrew Woodhouse writes: Never have so many cliches, motherhood statements and so much self-serving, soppy schmultz been so grateful to so many for so few real statements of any meaning. Obama’s speech lacked the gravitas or new thought it needed to corral the people “by the people for the people with the people” etc etc. Yawn.

Peter Fray

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