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Obama Connects (January 2009) PDF Print E-mail
Written by David Brunnen   
Wednesday, 21 January 2009 14:18

President ObamaIt was no surprise that Barack Obama’s inaugural speech combined health, wealth and better broadband (‘…the digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together’) in his call to crack on with a series of national get-well plans.  These things had all been trailed in campaign speeches and transition team calls for policy inputs. 

Nor was it a surprise that all these things (and more) were lumped together, as if to redefine ‘infrastructure’, and rise above out-moded precepts and our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age’. 

And, of course, it was fully expected that he would feel the need to remind anyone who had not been paying proper attention (or just didn’t want to hear) that ‘what the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply’. 

So if little in this speech could not have been anticipated or even ghost-written by a thousand would-be speech writers, what exactly was different or surprising? 

The answer curiously was not anywhere on the lips of the speaker but in the individual ears of that massive global audience. 

Sidney BrettI was listening to the speech relayed by BBC Radio 4 and in the company of Sidney Brett, an old friend now in his 102nd year.  Sid said it all.   ‘It’s a lot easier to get to Yarmouth if you’re sailing with the tide’.  

Last time Sid sailed was at the onset of World War II and his very last trip was to deliver his family’s yacht up-river for storage 'for the duration'.  At the end of that war the yacht was sold to make ends meet but the memory remained – that to get to where you need to be is a whole lot easier if you are not pushing against the tide.   

Sid has been listening to the radio for most of his adult life.  He didn’t need TV pictures to tell him that the audience was listening and committing themselves to the cause every bit as much as their new President was undertaking the challenge of changing the way we do things around here. 

Sid’s long-term memory – his ability as an oral historian – remains undimmed by age.   As with so many aged folk his ability to recall recent events is decidedly dodgy.  ‘What’, he repeatedly asked, ‘ever happened to that lady who used to travel with her President husband?’  When finally he grasped that Hilary was up for Secretary of State he nodded and said quietly ‘better inside the tent’. 

So more than all the hints of get-well plans and the carefully crafted words (and the sheer relief that ‘that other chap has gone’) what got through to Sid and no doubt millions of others was the sense that we are working together – and you're part of it even if you’re coming up to 102.




See also:  'Health Wealth and better broadband' - editorial published December 2008

Author's note:  Sidney Brett, aged 102, passed away on 17th September 2009.  'His soul goes marching on'.



Last Updated on Thursday, 01 October 2009 12:38

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