Inauguration ’09: Lose the Skepticism!

By January 20, 2009General, Inauguration '09

Words of wisdom in the Wall Street Journal from former Reagan speechwriter, Peggy Noonan, who is still moved by the sight of the city when landing in Washington, D.C.

What is required for full enjoyment of an inauguration, from opening prayers to speeches to marching bands is, in the great 19th-century phrase, the willing suspension of disbelief. If you don’t put your skepticism aside, you will not fully absorb and experience the drama. You must allow it to be real for you. Those two young people on the stage did not really take poison and die, but Romeo and fair Juliet did, and that is the reason the audience, which knows the actors still live, says, with genuine feeling, “Oh, no!”

To believe, suspend disbelief. We have been through this before, the flags and fine speeches, the brass donkey paperweight, the glass elephant, the rise and fall of administrations, the coming and going of figures great and small. It’s good to put that aside for a few days, to remove yourself from politics, partisanship and faction, to suspend your disbelief, to be grateful that the signs and symbols endure, as does the republic, and raise a toast: “To the president of the United States.”

NPR this morning is interviewing scores of people this morning embracing the day, the moment, the mood with enthusiasm, not skepticism. It helps that they’re not part of the permanent Washington scene.

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