Barack Obama will be sworn in today as the 44th US president on a tide of goodwill during which he has responded eloquently to the adoring crowds.
As he said at the Lincoln Memorial concert on Sunday:
"And as I prepare to assume the presidency, yours are the voices I will take with me every day when I walk into that Oval Office — the voices of men and women who have different stories but hold common hopes; who ask only for what was promised us as Americans — that we might make of our lives what we will and see our children climb higher than we did."
And the people have responded right back with an eloquence equal to his. Here is evidence of the wisdom of the crowd. While the world loves stars like Obama and admires the team of rivals he has assembling in his cabinet and needs meritocrats like them, Obama has every reason to believe in the people. Together they can even rise to poetry.
"I hear America singing", Walt Whitman rhapsodized in Leaves of Grass. A hundred years after its publication, yes, America is singing in a collective flow of passion and creativity made possible by the internet.
Will Obama's inaugural address be better than that created by Slate's readers working together, borrowing words from his predecessors? We shall see.
Borrowing from Woodrow Wilson's and Dwight Eisenhower's inaugural addresses and a speech given by Obama, the top-rated Slate inaugural is stirring in its idealism:
If we are to pursue happiness, we must also strive to protect the happiness of others. If we are to pursue learning, we must also strive to educate. If we are to love others, we must also have the courage to protect those who love us.
Future generations of Americans will look back at this moment of crisis and opportunity and they will judge us—but not by our words. They will measure us—but not by the promises we make. For language has the power to move us to action, but it is never a substitute for it.
Our children's children will ask only this: What did they do back then? Did they rise to the challenges providence had set before them? Did they unite as one people, with a common destiny? Did they set aside the old partisan rancor in order to protect our great nation, to strengthen democracy and human rights at home and abroad and to safeguard the blessings of the natural world for all time? Did they live up to the great promise cradled in that name: America? What will these future generations say?
They will say, "Yes, they did."
There is hope and idealism in these ringing words — and music too.
As Whitman wrote:
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear;
Those of mechanics—each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong;
The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work;
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat—the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck;
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench—the hatter singing as he stands;
The wood-cutter’s song—the ploughboy’s, on his way in the morning, or at the noon intermission, or at sundown;
The delicious singing of the mother—or of the young wife at work—or of the girl sewing or washing—Each singing what belongs to her, and to none else;
The day what belongs to the day—At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.