I watched and heard the inauguration in bits and pieces. At work, I opened up C-Span and got the live feed, but I kept getting IM'd or called.
I saw Dick Cheney get sworn in, and I was surprised that it was Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert who swore him in. Somehow, I'd assumed that Chief Justice Rehnquist would do the honors for the Vice President as well as the President. How fitting, though, that it was the Speaker of the House swearing in the man who presides over the Senate. With Hastert and Rehnquist there, the inauguration brings all three branches of the government together for the ceremony that symbolizes the peaceful continuation (or transition) of power in our nation.
Shortly after the beginning of President Bush's inaugural address, I got a call about work and could hardly ask them to call back later. So I missed most of what he said. At lunchtime, as I drove through Taco Bell, I heard Dennis Prager, in response to the speech, asking his listeners if they believed America has the mission to spread freedom to the world. For my part, I believe we do--as do all free nations. I don't see it as a military necessity to depose all dictators immediately, but all who value freedom should value it for all and should work to encourage it in other nations. Jan Egeland of the UN charged America with being "stingy" over tsunami relief. But I contend that free nations are most stingy when they are content to rest in their own freedom without sharing that precious gift of liberty with other nations.
After I got home, I read the text of the Presiden't speech. And something stirred inside of me as I read it. I recognized the parts that Hugh Hewitt played on his radio show this afternoon, the same parts he highlighted on his website. While I agree with Hugh that the President's two questions are key to understanding the speech, the words that resonated with me were nearly at the end. "When the Declaration of Independence was first read in public and the Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration, a witness said, 'It rang as if it meant something.' In our time it means something still."
Liberty means something still. If it ever ceases to mean something to the soul of America--if peace (the kind that fears to make waves) or world popularity or the nanny state means more to us than liberty--then America will cease to be great. We will become just one more stingy nation among many.
But President Bush has made it clear, in his inaugural address, that he does not intend for our nation to abandon the principles of liberty. "We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul."
May we have the strength to see this vision through.