A Special Day

A great speech is a product of many factors. One of the biggest is how a speaker connects on an emotional and personal level with his audience.

On the National Mall, young and old alike share the joy of President Obama’s inauguration.
Photo by Aaron M. Cohen/Corbis.

A great speech is a product of many factors. One of the biggest is how a speaker connects on an emotional and personal level with his audience.

By that standard, Barack Obama hit a home run with his January 20 inaugural address. The speech did not soar in its rhetoric, nor did it have many of the wild-applause lines of past Obama orations. But I believe the new president inspired and motivated people to look within themselves and ask how they can make a difference—how they can contribute to a better America.

You did not have to be in Washington to be moved by Obama’s message. In fact, people gathered all across New Jersey to watch Obama take the oath of office and then listen to his eighteen-minute appeal to our better senses.

What is particularly striking is the connection Obama made with younger New Jerseyans. I am not just talking about African-American youth in inner cities. Virtually all young people, even those in the first or second grades, understood that something very special was happening on that day.

At the Robert Treat Academy Charter School, a nationally recognized educational institution in Newark (full disclosure: the school was founded by my father, Steve Adubato Sr.), young people from kindergarten through eighth grade watched the inauguration. Many were moved to tears by Obama’s speech. Here is what a few of these eighth-graders had to say:

Savonne Anderson: “The fact that Barack Obama is president of the United States means that any American, no matter what race or gender, can amount to anything they want to be.”
India Stafford: “President Obama makes me believe that anything is possible. He gives kids the hope they need for achieving their own goals.” 

Nathan Hawley (president of Robert Treat’s student council, speaking to guests before the inauguration): “Every generation has their own inspiration or role models they want to live up to… .In the ’60s it was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President John F. Kennedy.  Now, in the 21st century, I can say as an American citizen that Barack Obama is my inspiration and role model…Yes, today is significant to me as an African-American. However, I have never been more proud just to say I am an American.”

It’s a source of hope that these young people want to do better and try harder because of Obama’s leadership. They want to make more of themselves and contribute to their communities.

How much money will New Jersey get from Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package? Who knows? Perhaps several billion dollars to deal with our massive budget deficit. But the larger deficit in New Jersey and other states may be one of personal responsibility. With that in mind, the sense of pride and possibility that our new president has given young people across the nation, particularly in our inner cities, may be the biggest stimulus package of all.

Write to me at [email protected] if President Obama has inspired you to make a difference in your community.

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