Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Welcome President Obama!

Not one normally for pomp and ceremony, I was prepared to quietly welcome incoming US President Barack Obama without watching the Inauguration. But my Wife asked me to record the ceremony for her to watch later, and I realized that BBC America was also covering the day's event.

So, I had the pleasure of watching the momentous American occasion live, together with British commentary - perfect! I got to see a largely black audience at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre in North London, excitedly preparing to watch the historic proceedings. It's interesting watching British commentary on American politics, since they not only talk about the international effects and implications, but also are able to be a little less restricted by the need to be completely unbiased in their reporting. So they were talking quite a bit about how unpopular outgoing President George W. Bush was, and seemed a little surprised at the fact that any booing when he appeared was fairly muted.

I noticed that the BBC did not pass any comment when Obama stumbled a little over the oath of office (the error was, I believe, the fault of the Chief Justice). After his inaugural speech, they observed that although it did contain some soaring oratory, it had a businesslike tone. As if he wanted to prove that he wasn't just a good speaker; that he knew there was serious business to attend to immediately. And I agree with that observation.

Some wonderful moments for me were the mention of "non-believers" and "...know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy."

One BBC commentator mentioned how similar the speech was to John F. Kennedy's inaugural speech in terms of theme. They talked about America dusting itself off and rebuilding, and restoring the right balance between liberty and security. A correspondent spoke from Kogelo, Kenya, mentioning the excitement about "their son."

Controversial author and commentator Christopher Hitchens was invited to say something, but I have to say it was instantly forgettable. Coverage after the inauguration included Bush arriving by helicopter at Andrews Air Force Base - commentary of this included comparisons to a departing Richard Nixon and how unpopular Bush was.

The BBC America team, stationed outdoors at Washington DC, did give their audience a laugh when they had the camera pull back to reveal how they were all covered up in blankets!

At Noon precisely, the White House website was given a make-over: http://www.whitehouse.gov - it now has a blog!

Here's the complete text of the inaugural speech.

Let's hope that the positive change that the new President wishes to achieve is achievable. It's a momentous day in history, the day the first black president took office. But it's also the first day of a long haul. Now there are some major bridges to rebuild.

What did you think of the ceremony and coverage in the media? Please do leave comments.


Alison said...

I would have enjoyed it more with the BBC commentary. Of course there were no comments about Bush and him being unpopular at all from this end. Oddly enough, I was recording it to a dvd (my first time using this contraption) for my sister and her son, who is also half black, and I would not have watched this ceremony if it were left up to me.

I'm really happy that I did watch it. But the commentary was pretty inane here in the US....might have been better without commentary.

Twice the Man said...

"It's interesting watching British commentary on American politics, since they not only talk about the international effects and implications, but also are able to be a little less restricted by the need to be completely unbiased in their reporting."

That's funny. I think this Presidential election the US Media has been more bias then ever. Fox News tried to keep John McCain off the Republican ticket, but once he was nominated where biases towards him and particularly his running mate. While basically everyone else was bias toward Obama, it was sad seeing how they turned their back on Clinton in the primary(but also ironically funny).

I wish our new President the best and hope he makes wise choices.

Graham said...

That's interesting, TTheM. I automatically assume that the US media will at least attempt to be unbiased in their reporting, just as I expect the BBC to be unbiased reporting about UK politics. I didn't watch the US commentary of the inauguration (my Wife DVRed it, and watched highlights), so perhaps the US coverage was just as biased.

But did they have the blankets? ;)

Good luck with your goal, by the way. Are you familiar with the My Bad Habits blog?

Carmen Villadar said...

I enjoyed reading your blog commentary/recap. I did get to watch Obama make his speech and come to think of it, I can't even remember who covered it. It was posted on Ustream so I viewed it online. I still need to blog about my thoughts on the whole thing, just no time. Augh.

Graham said...

Ooh, please make the time, Carmen - I'd love to know what you thought.