The Gotham Gal and I have t-shirts that say '1.20.09' on them. We've been wearing them for the past year. At first, as a sign of protest against an administration whose values, strategies, and people we did not believe in from day one.

Then as the election grew near, we wore them in anticipation of today, a day when we inaugurate a president whose values, strategies, and people we do believe in.

I am excited for today like most americans. But I am also already a bit disappointed in our new president. This inaugurapalooza (term courtesy of kurt andersen) that has been going on for the past couple days is not my idea of the best launching pad for this terribly important administration.

This reminds me of every other inaugural celebration in my lifetime. The black tie galas, the celebratory tone, and the lavish partying that is going down in washington is more of the same. It turns me off.

But Obama has an opportunity to get me back on the train with his speech today and his actions tomorrow and the rest of this month.

We need a new way of operating in this country. We need to be more selfless and we need to say no more often. We need to accept and allow failure and we need to facilitate rebirth. That's what has made us great in the past and that's what will keep us great

There are those who comment on this blog like kidmercury who think we're already toast and our corrupt government and society needs a complete reboot. I don't subscribe to that kind of absolutism, but I know where that feeling comes from. Our country is in trouble because we are in denial and I would love to hear some admonishment from our new president on that score today. Some tough love in additon to, or even instead of, uplifting soaring words would play well in my ears.

I'll be watching like most of america and twittering my thoughts. I hope you will too. Most of all I hope Barack Obamna tells America to pull up our pants today.

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Comments (Archived):

  1. Dan Lewis

    I have the same reaction to Inaugural festivities, and have since being on the cusp of adulthood as GHWB took his turn with hand on bible.This is supposed to be an inauguration, not a coronation. That ideal hearkens back to Geo. Washington’s time, where (probably apocryphally) he was offered the title of King, with all the usual benefits thereof, and he declined. The notion that the President is our master is historically inapt — the President is our servant, not the other way around.The Inaugural festivities are something more royal than one would expect given that approach to the relationship between President and citizenry. It approaches King and subjects. That problem is clearly present here yet it is not specific to Obama nor this inauguration. Does Obama’s pop-icon status exacerbate the problem? No doubt — yet that it not his “fault”, for lack of a better word. It’s a cultural problem, which Obama can help fix by increasing transparency in govermnent generally and specifically by reducing the pomp and circumstance associated with being POTUS.

  2. Rik Wuts

    I’d not looked at it this way, but you’re absolutely right. This would have been an amazing opportunity to ostensibly turn things into a new direction. Maybe what’s missing in Obama’s inner circle is some conceptual, non-political thinkers. People who can take an idea or a situation and turn it upside down….

  3. fredwilson

    You have a stronger stomache for coronations than I do andy

    1. andyswan

      Somewhere late tonight in a remote part of the world, as the President sips champagne with billionaires and their designer wives, a financier of an operation designed to test the new President’s fortitude will have his throat slit silently by a man that no one even saw.We don’t limp into greatness.

      1. JakeGint

        I like that, but make it a garrotte. No blood, leaves the returning body guards guessing…

      2. fredwilson

        You sure that’s going down tonight?

        1. andyswan


  4. kidmercury

    inaugurapalooza is indeed a scary proposition, as the rock star effect of obama will be on full display. terrible.i’d have more hope if there was a govt that understood getting smaller was the way to improve things. obama doesn’t understand that, either because he doesn’t know better or because big government is a good business for his sponsors, and he is beholden to his sponsors. i’m betting the latter.meanwhile operation American Empire, built on the 9/11 lie and still a big part of the all political and economic problems, continues in full effect, with no signs of slowing down. to this end obama is also into national service, which is a nice way of saying slavery to the the end, though, empires always self-destruct, largely because they’re not able to continue financing themselves. (conquering the world gets to be pricey).

  5. gregorylent

    watching from bangkok .. and feeling the same as mr. wilson

  6. andyswan

    Obama has been a celebrity for 18 months now….I see no reason he would stop now. Plus, I am a huge fan of celebrating the peaceful transfer of elected power in a big way. I loved the inauguration parties for GW and I’ll love this one too….unlike the media which seemed to have such repulsion to the expenses of one but not the other.Today is a very exciting day for the US to show the world, once again, that NO ONE does it better.Then we can move on with making sure Obama fails to get his campaign promises fulfilled and sticks to puppet for the Bill Clinton Administration as indicated.

  7. Ed

    Dangerous: “But Obama has an opportunity to get me back on the train with his speech today” All we’ve had that’s positive so far is “speech”, or talk.Actions? The most expensive inauguration in history.Obama has received a huge amount of praise, gravity, and leeway, because folks are so sickthis current administration’s destruction of America. He gets credit because the people voted for change. He has not massively impactedour nation and world for historic betterment for four years now.That’s 4 years away.Do you want to tell you kids in 2012, if we’re worse off, and much is uncovered, (despite a biased press), that you were drunk with emotion, and didn’tsee we were heartily repeating mistakes?He is not MLK, and has accomplished anything yet. Enough.The downward spiral in this country is not only George Bushand a handful of crooks around him.Nothing happens in Washington without Obama’s party at the trough.Even the smartest on the Left in this country are already in denial.Emotion has swept so many up since the campaign, and we are a nationworshiping a man before he has fulfilled one mightily orated promise.We can be honest, or we can be worse off.

    1. fredwilson

      Yes, I agree about a lot of thisBut words do matterThey inspireThat’s why I was looking for the right wordsWe got some of them, but not tough enough for my taste

      1. Tony Confrey

        Fred,I think your original post and this followup are right on the money. Words do matter, they can inspire or they can lay the ground work for whats to come by setting expectations. I thought Obama hit the right tone yesterday. This was not the soaring inspirational speech he could have given (and has in the past) but a sober assessment of what lies ahead. When you really read it you can see the message load and clear.In a shameful plug I’ll point you to a different way of experiencing the speech, its worth the time:…Compare with the soaring inspiration of his victory speech a short few months back:…reminiscent of King:…Tony

  8. Steven Kane

    I kind of agree with you, Fred, in that we all hope the Obama administration will not shirk from calling for sacrifice and hard work and allbut i think its a little “bah humbug” to not grin and enjoy the humungous party for what after all is not just a celebration of the peaceful transfer of power 9as if thats not enough!), its also a truly significant historical watershed event in human history (not just USA history) vis a vis civil rights and diversity and minority rights etc etc etcbottom line, i think big inaugurations are appropriate no matter what — look world, this democratic system works! — and in this particular case, i say, PARTY ON!

    1. fredwilson

      That’s what everyone is telling me today SteveI guess I’ve got a little ebeneezer in me 🙂

      1. Steven Kane

        You’re allowed. Especially given your typically sunny, far-center disposition.BTW, here’s another reason to party hearty:BHO is not only the first ever African-American President; he is also the first President ever to NOT be of northern European descent.In fact he is only the second President in history to not be of English or Irish descent (Dwight D. Eisenhower’s family immigrated from Germany.)

        1. fredwilson

          Yeah it was a big day. Sorta feeling silly about my bah humbug attitude butI still have it to be honest. I want action not words now.

        2. RonDC

          Wrong. From:… Barack Obama’s mother had English, Irish, Dutch, French and German heritage from her parents. Just because he is half African the other half doesn’t count?

          1. Steven Kane

            I am duly corrected.

  9. DCVC

    Wow, what a disappointing, cynical post – I am frankly surprised at you.I am writing from DC; I was down at the celebration on Sunday and I have to tell you, you are in the distinct minority. People are not just celebrating the “celebrity” of Obama, they are celebrating the change he represents. And you cannot over-state the historical significance of this as well.If you think the President can effect change without the support of “the people”, then you don’t have a clue how the political system works. This celebration is an important part of his accumulation of a vast storehouse of political capital for him to spend on the extremely difficult and important work ahead.Further, your lip-pursing reaction to the Inauguration simply discounts the extraordinary and amazing process by which power is transferred – peacefully. It is amazing to watch, and should not be taken lightly, especially if you’ve ever spent any time in the many places around the world where this simply does not happen.I for one, am extremely excited to see a full 1% of America massing to collectively watch and participate in this amazing event.

  10. Philly Red

    Bush spent $40 million on his 2nd inaugural, and the press cried and yelled that he is spending too much, it’s too lavish, etc., etc. etc.Barack is spending $140 million (maybe even more??) and not one peep about this anywhere. The economy is in the crapper, we are trying to cut costs everywhere we can, and they go ahead and spend like this? My take on Barack is that he is a classic narcissist and the fact that they are spending all this money on “his party” doesn’t phase him in the least. What a joke.

    1. fredwilson

      That’s kind of my pointI’m a believer (to steal from the monkeys) but it still bothers me

  11. Rex Hammock

    Couldn’t disagree with you more on this: 1. It is a day to celebrate many, many things. The pomp and ceremony say to the world and to ourselves, this is special and unique and is — even more than all inaugurations — an incredible moment in history. 2. Unlike countries that have a monarchy, the President serves as the head of state. This is, indeed, a coronation, of sorts. It’s one of those rigid state events that conveys a sense of context in history and context in the world. 3. Jimmy Carter tried the “anti pomp” Presidency and it didn’t work. The “OFFICE” of the Presidency is not just about the person — it’s about the nation and the bigger-than-life responsibility of the office (Didin’t y’all watch West Wing? ; ) ). 4. Lastly, the money for the concerts and “black tie” stuff is going straight into the pockets of waiters, taxi drivers, extra-duty pay for police, small business who rent tents and jumbotrons, etc. The money for the “fun” events was raised privately and is acting as an economic stimulus for the much battered travel and tourism business.That’s all. I’m back to celebrating the day.

    1. markslater

      i agree – be proud of this country.

  12. Giordano

    I’m watching this from Singapore and I have to say that, as an atheist and a firm believer of the separation of church and state, I would be happier if there were less churches, pastors and religious paraphernalia involved. That’s really spoiling it for me.

    1. markslater

      completely agree – if i had one gripe it would bee that.

  13. brooksjordan

    I hear ya.In many ways, though, I see this is as a celebration for black people in this country, and I want them to have their moment.My sister is black (adopted) and is very involved in Alpha Kappa Alpha, a national sorority of black women that since their founding in 1908 have built themselves up brick by brick.Yesterday, she said to me “It’s here. It makes me want to cry.” I mean, me too, but not like her. It’s different. She’s experiencing a joy, a catharsis, that comes from being black on this particular day.That’s why this gala is worth every penny in my mind.

    1. Dan T

      Great comment. I had mixed emotions about all the hoopla, given the current state, but your point and others are much appreciated.

    2. fredwilson

      I understand that and it’s certainly a very big day for humanity in that regardIt’s even more special that it comes a day after we celebrate MLK

  14. Seth Lieberman

    It is totally trite but can’t help smirk at the phrase “end of an error” today.

  15. mattmaroon

    I think it’s good that this inauguration looks just like every other one. What better way to send a message to everyone that everything is going to be alright than going about your business the way you always have? People are panicky enough without our President sending a message that things are too bad to have a real inauguration.The inauguration is like a funeral, it isn’t for the person being celebrated, it’s for the ones doing the celebrating.


    The only HOPE and CHANGE we will get with this new administration are the full embrace of Socialism and the loss of many more of our freedoms. The BIG government will get significantly bigger and both ourselves and future generations will pay for it. McCain would have been no better, but Obama is the wrong man at this time in our country’s history. Both political parties are playing the same game with our futures with nothing in the way to stop them.

  17. Yule Heibel

    Well, up here in Canuckistan where all sorts of services (like Hulu) are blocked and I don’t have a TV (don’t subscribe to cable), my saturation by hoopla has been minimal. But quite by accident, I managed to find UStream just in time to hear the end of the musical performance and then see the actual inauguration and listen to Obama’s speech.It was great.I can say that because I didn’t see all the stuff leading up to it. Read about it, didn’t see it, though.The pomp is over the top, but on the other hand, if a person is watching it, they’re complicit. If we want to actualize the “yes we can” mantra, tough love with ourselves regarding what we consume is part of it. The media stream washes the edges off us, but it’s the edges we need. I saw the inauguration, heard Obama’s speech, and now I’m turning UStream off. If I watch more of this, it’ll take *my* edge off, sort of like too much booze. (I’m happily drunk just knowing that Obama is in and Bush is out!)PS, re. cynicism: maybe edges (rough ones) are good as cynicism-busters. No edge is slippery – cynicism just oozes with the smooth slippery bits.PPS: Reading this, I realize it makes me sound like a total Techno-Peasant, heh. Oh well, off to hoe my row now…

  18. hypermark

    Personally, I thought that it was a great speech, both in terms of calling us to live to the greatness of our history, and setting a tone of transparency, accountability and integrity.While it’s easy for some to parse the pomp and cite cynical tones, I for one, believe that rhetoric matters. It sets the narrative, which provides a lot of the tailwind (or headwind) that drives governance.We should celebrate this day for what it is: a launch party. The product (or service) still has to deliver the goods but that shouldn’t diminish what this day represents.And now for something completely different:The End: A George W. Bush Cartoon…God bless America!Mark

  19. peteware

    Obama: $45million, Bush: $42.5 million. First off, the $140 is made up. Secondly, the part of it that is real includes security which was never counted before.

  20. Alex R

    Obama certainly sounded like he was ready to get to work… his speech was a mix of hope, gravity and seriousness.

  21. blake41

    Fred, I totally disagree with you here. I just got back from the inauguration, and the positive energy in the crowd was palpable. I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of something so special. Over a million people celebrating the end of the Bush administration and welcoming the change Obama represents. On top of that the election of the first African American president marks a monumental occasion, and I for one think a celebration of this historic moment in our history is in order. Obama’s speech was phenomenal, and set a tone of peace, collaboration and openness in the world for the next 4 years.

  22. Scott Sherman

    Hi Fred,I appreciate your post, though I do have to differ with you from several perspectives. First, I don’t think people who are not african-american can really grasp the enormity of this moment (and, no, I am not african-american). This is the first african-american president; this is the end of the Civil War (I believe we are starting a new “Act” in our nation’s history); and, african-american people want what all white people have received to date. They want a glorious celebration just like others have received in the past. I think it makes a great deal of sense and is cleansing for our country and our democracy. Such a celebration is cathartic and essential.In many ways, to not honor this new president in the same way would be to take away from this incredible achievement. I remember when folks were worried that Martin Luther King was some kind of “communist” because he was fighting for civil rights. MLK was no communist. He wanted the “american dream” for ALL americans. I think that is true here… though on a much smaller scale… the election of Obama is a watershed moment in our history. People want to mark that, they want to celebrate that and they want EXACTLY what others have had before (and, that includes good as well as bad presidents). Obama supporters (namely African-Americans) NEED to feel the thrill of this moment, with the same pomp and ceremony and celebration that those who have persecuted african-americans experienced. To not do like-for-like would cheapen the day and make for a difficult transition.So, I say enjoy. Savor. Party. And, in another day, we will all begin the rebuilding of this great country. We have a lot of work to do, and, much sacrifice.

    1. fredwilson

      That’s exactly right. Thanks for saying it.

  23. Guest

    Reading this reminded me of this truly superb essay:…As a true-to-self liberal Fred is being cool, cerebral, and hostile towards power and authority, as well as towards the tendency of people to “coalesce temporarily into hives, a process that is thrilling, as anyone who has ever “lost” him or herself in a choir, protest march, or religious ritual can attest”…The interesting thing about conservatives is that they tend to put value on “respect to power and authority”, as Prof Haidth points out. This is just an amazing graph in support of the hypothesis:…Notice how, once he became The Chief, Obama won over the rest of the nation. Based just on moral psychology, I bet that in the coming months Obama will be viewed more sceptically by sardonic, left-leaning intellectuals (like Fred) than by the power-worshipping sheep on the Right. Fascinating!

    1. fredwilson

      That’s certainly where my head is at right nowI gave money to him starting in the fall of 2007, gave the max every time Icould, did not vote for him in the primary though I came close, and did votefor him in the general election. I also wrote a lot of words of support forhim on this blog.From where I sit, it’s time he starts delivering on all of that support interms of real actions.

  24. flowman1

    Words do matter.Here’s a slower, calmer way to read/hear what Obama said:…It runs longer than the speech itself (by half), but you have the time to see all the words and how he put them together.The speech was very good.

  25. fredwilson

    I agree and tweeted that during the speech

  26. fredwilson

    I totally agree about Bush hating. When I heard he was boo¹d yesterday itmade me sick. I never liked him, never voted for him, never could look at apicture of him without feeling sick to my stomache, and am happy to see himgo. But he was the president of the US. We gotta respect him for that.Particularly now that he¹s retired.

  27. Michael_Josefowicz

    Turns out he pretty much did what you asked, IMHO. Now the games begin.

  28. toddsavage

    Couple of things, I am a man without a party anymore, so consider me independent. First of all, the fact that they spent $140 million+ on this inauguration is absolutely disgusting, especially given the economic climate we are in. Second, Obama has not convinced me that he has “core values” and that he can make tough decisions – he appears to me as someone that wants to please others, and that is VERY dangerous as President of the U.S. I hope he proves me wrong. Say what you want about George W. Bush, but the fact that he 100% supported the surge when it was the most unpopular decision you could ever make showed me a lot about his “core”. Third, I hope the Bush-haters “let it go” and move on with putting their energy into fixing this country. The amount of Bush-hating I saw on Facebook yesterday was just ridiculous. Let’s “let it go” and put our energies into fixing this country – we are going to need every ounce of it! Obama is now my President, and let’s do everything we can to support him.

    1. Michael_Josefowicz

      Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I don’t see it that way. We’ll just have to wait and watch closely.Meanwhile, we should all keep in mind that Obama was elected by just barely over 50% of about 65%. He did not win a “mandate” as Bush didn’t have a “mandate.”The real job for us in the communication space is to deepen and extend the conversation that started yesterday. Some of our liberal friends are going to be surprised. President Obama is not a liberal, as that word has been understood since WWII. “Conservatives” are going to be surprised. The “values” used by the Bushies to hijack the Republican party are not, and never were conservatives.Look to American values, Yankee ingenuity and responsibility. As the President said, we are Christians, Moslems, Jews, Hindus and non believers. That sounds about right, but I never heard that said by a President of the United States of America. My take is that the era of bullshit is over. For business, for government, for education.

      1. fredwilson

        I sure hope the era of bullshit is over

        1. Michael_Josefowicz

          A couple of years ago, Eric Schmidt had a meeting with the conservative leadership in the UK. He told them at the time that the era of bullshit is coming to an end. Imagine the Google bullshit meter search. (he didn’t use those words)But if I can follow everything a pol has said through my RSS, it turns out that the easiest thing to do is to tell the truth.And we all know that no matter what the bullshit is, everyone will do the easiest thing to do.

  29. Shane

    To be honest, I am very concerned about the number of people who have invested their entire emotional well-being in the President of the United States. Call me a cynic, but to put all of your eggs into the President basket is setting yourself up for disappointment because by himself Obama has no power to follow through on any of his campaign promises. He has to get through the corrupt cesspool known as Congress, where the votes are always for sale. I hope that he does well, but I am not counting on him to magically fix every problem that ails the country, as many believe he will.

  30. Jason_Horowitz

    I’m looking at this thread a little late, but don’t see any follow-up about the speech. Fred, I think you got exactly what you asked for there: an earnest call for sacrifice, “a new era of responsibility” and a new way of doing things. Time will tell about the administration’s effectiveness, but all indications from the campaign and transition are that Barack Obama follows up on his commitments. At the end of the day, his ability to deliver depends as much on all of us as on the President. Everyone is entitled to his opinion, but I think the inaugural glitter is a great way to communicate our pride in a peaceful and orderly transition, which we take for granted but which is more the exception than the rule in the world. And it was nice that the faces celebrating in DC this time actually reflected America!

    1. fredwilson

      I agree Jason. It was a good day for America

  31. stone…Obama didn’t give a good speech, that is for sure, but I’m not sure it matters when you have folks like Bernie Madoff managing peoples money. Wall Street is corrupt and until it gets fixed our financial economy is going to be in shambles. I defy anyone to name another industry in worse condition. Autos looks pretty by comparison.

    1. fredwilson

      I thought it was a good speech but there will always be naysayers abouteverything

  32. DaveGoulden

    There was way more to this inauguration than fancy balls. We were in DC from Sunday through the ceremony. It was one of the most incredible experiences to be around millions of people who were all super positive and uplifted.On Sunday, there was a free concert attended by 500k people. Sure, there were celebrities there, but the spirit of the event was awesome. Here’s my post on what it was like to be there.…On Monday, there were over 200 service projects around DC heavily promoted by the Inauguration Committee. We participated in two of them. At one event alone, 12,000 volunteers prepared 85,000 care packages for the Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.And, of course, the main event was unbelievable with close to two million people sharing the experience. Here’s a few pictures of what it was like to be there.