Jan 21, 2021 Letters
In just about 21 minutes and almost 2,600 words, America’s 46th President, Joseph Biden, sparkled in the transcendence of American craftsmanship and American eloquence that resonated across a stricken land and a watching, raptly listening globe. From my perspective, this is the stirring essence of the singular grandeur of America, in the themes touched upon by the new president assuming the mantle of office in a tempestuous atmosphere and in the tones he embraced and extended that were graced with just what a parched and poisoned land needed to slake it fears and dry its tears.
As inauguration addresses go, Mr. Biden’s final product was a work of supreme art. It touched the senses, it stirred the hairs at the back of the neck, and it gave somber reassurance that the greatness -the true greatness – of America is still there to be tapped and maximized and tasted. After all the toxins, the long winter of political discontent, it was humbling, as an American, to hear of working for peace, of strenuous and genuine efforts towards unity, and of racial justice and harmony. There are many pieces to be picked up, and President Biden picked the first small ones, even if in soaring words only. If I were to be so crass as to measure his words, I think that on the Beauford scale, they registered with all the strength of a force 12. In physics, there is something called radiation; on Wednesday, Joe Biden radiated the luster of an America brought to its knees, but one still gleaming with promise, with hope that attract millions from all over, with the dreams of a place blessed with so much, yet that was forced to come to grips with its dark side and worst nightmares.
Perhaps, that self-discovery was necessary, too, if only for the cathartic power that it generates in response. And on Inauguration Day, the new president was the catharsis that American has been groping so futilely for, and for the longest while. I heard that favorite one that still has the power to strike a chord: every difference of opinion does not equate to a difference of principle. It must not degrade to that, and that must be embraced as a sacred principle. Mature men and women do so, live by that code; they are wiser and stronger and better for it. It is time to say, let there be an end to the easy readiness for total war for what civilized men and civilized times demand must be the best that can be found in us.
The president has set himself a tall order, and his vision and cause are not helped by a hopelessly divided and bitter society. But he does not appear to be flinching or swerving before the circumstances faced, the hard challenges that stand arrayed against his program, his very presence. He must go on resolutely, with a keen ear to listening to the rhythms and cadences of his countrymen, including those who are scattered across distant parts of the globe. President Biden will succeed if he is honest and humble, and alongside those two cornerstones, there must be the honourable. I wish him well. I expect much from him and his team. America needs it, and so does the rest of the world, too. I need it and could use it, after four harrowing years of the memorable and the totally forgettable. Except that there is so much that cannot be forgotten, because if that is done, then it is to the peril of both the individual and the wide collective.
I welcome President Joseph Biden, and as I wish him the best, I leave him with the words of that sublime Roman orator, Cicero: salus populi suprema esto, which translates to: the welfare of the people should be the highest law. As we have learned to our great anxiety and distress, it should never be: regis voluntas suprema lex (the king’s will is the supreme law). That was practiced and it failed abjectly. Now, Mr. Biden must work tirelessly to undo the damage and to restart along a different pathway that is decent and dignified. He has rekindled some embers with the right words. Now he must embark with the right steps tried. Amen.
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