Some thoughts on this past weekend’s events:
As Obama and his staff thumbed through the great American political speeches in advance of his second Inaugural address, I wonder if it occurred to them to go back to the first attempt to express the American idea, John Winthrop’s famous speech invoking a “City upon a Hill,” written for his fellow Puritans in 1630 on board the Arbella.
George Washington’s Farewell Address, Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural, and John F. Kennedy’s first all have their admirers. But Winthrop’s remains the ultimate inaugural address: the one that inaugurated everything. And it’s the one we most need to hear again with fresh ears — because it’s also the speech that everyone seems to get completely wrong.