John King on CNN has just used the words "elegant and artful" to describe Obama's speech, and that's a good description in my opinion. Very nicely constructed and very well delivered. Not that high on soaring rhetoric, but with a very clear and thoughtful focus on the themes of equality and unity. I think history will judge it highly.
There were two very, very striking winners in the speech, and indeed the entire inauguration event.
First, gays. Obama said:
Transcript: President Obama 2013 inaugural addressWe, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth...
...Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.
To put Stonewall in there with Selma is a major, major moment in gay rights. Even more astonishing for me, the pastor who gave the religious dedication mentioned gays! Religion, Lord save us, is even down with the gays! My jaw hit the floor when that happened. I'm not sure what a President can do about gay marriage at a Federal level, but I think Obama will do as much as the office allows over the next 4 years, perhaps in the final lame-duck period when he won't get much else done but might be able to get consensus on this.
The second big winner was the climate change movement. In a totally unexpected passage, Obama spent several paragraphs on the subject. It seems likely he'll push on climate change, also perhaps in his lame duck years. But the fact he mentioned it at all is a big win for those concerned about climate change.
Here's the full speech: