HETRICK: Common threads weave through Pence, Obama speeches

Keywords Notions / Opinion

From the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., to the Statehouse in Indianapolis, there’s been a whole lot of speechifying going on.

In recent weeks, newly elected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has delivered his inaugural address in the bitter cold of an outdoor ceremony and his state-of-the-state message in the warmer climes of the Indiana House chamber.

In between, recently re-elected President Barack Obama delivered his second inaugural address to the million-strong masses on the mall in Washington.

Two pols. Two parties. Seemingly opposite points of view.

Yet these polished communicators had plenty in common in what they said and how they said it to “we, the people.”

The cliché opening for political pontificating is the crossroads.

“Our city is at a crossroads,” says a mayor. “We’ve arrived at a crossroads,” says a governor. “We meet at a crossroads,” says a president.

But Pence and Obama said we’re past that.

Pence, citing the good work of his predecessor, Gov. Mitch Daniels, and the governors who preceded him, cast our state as good going on great.

Obama, four years into his presidency, noted that, “A decade of war is now ending” and “economic recovery has begun.”

Having passed beyond the proverbial crossroads, both Pence and Obama would have us believe we’re poised for the Promised Land.

“My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment and we will seize it, so long as we seize it together,” said Obama.

“This is our time to shine,” said Pence. And, “This is Indiana’s moment.” And, “We dare not squander this moment with complacency or self-congratulation.”

As basketball analyst Dick Vitale might say, “Carpe diem, baby.”

In an era of divisive politics, Pence and Obama stressed the importance of unity and public support if we’re to realize our potential. The people, they said, matter more than government.

“Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority,” said Obama, “nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all societies’ ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise, our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, these are constants in our character.”

“Our state is poised for greatness,” said Pence. “The core of that greatness remains our people.”

“You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course,” said Obama. “You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time, not only with the votes we cast, but the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideas.”

In calling people to lift their voices, both men repeatedly used the word “together.”

“Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people,” said Obama.

“Together, we will write the next great chapter of Indiana history,” said Pence.

“Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce, schools and colleges to train our workers,” said Obama. “Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play. Together, we resolve that a great nation must care for the vulnerable and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.”

“Together, we will build a more prosperous future,” said Pence. “Together, we will open doors of educational opportunity for all our kids. Together, we will approach our third century with confidence.”

So much togetherness. So little time.

As might be expected at inaugural events, both men waxed historic. Pence told the tale of Indiana’s flag and cited Indiana’s role in shaping Abraham Lincoln’s character.

Obama, speaking on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, covered the historic gamut from the nation’s founding to the civil rights movement to modern-day issues of equal pay for women, illegal immigration, climate change, tax reform and gay rights.

“The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few, or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a republic, a government of, and by, and for the people. Entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed,” said Obama.

Despite admissions of obstacles to be overcome, Pence and Obama sounded strong notes of optimism.

“With so many families and businesses struggling just to get by, we have no choice but to remain bold, optimistic and relentless in our work until good jobs, great schools, safe streets and strong families become the hallmark of every community in this state,” said Pence.

“America’s possibilities are limitless,” said Obama, “for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive, diversity and openness, of endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention.”

Finally, with requests that God continue to bless each of us, our state and our nation, the pontificating was done and the more difficult work of implementation begun.

Good luck with that.•


Hetrick is an Indianapolis-based writer, speaker and public relations consultant. His column appears twice a month. He can be reached at bhetrick@ibj.com.

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