Paul Greenberg

Were we all supposed to thrill to the wadding of boilerplate that surrounded such gaucheries yesterday? In the end, it all came to sound like one more PowerPoint presentation rather than a presidential Inaugural, with pol-speak extending as far as the national debt.

But I did cheer at the end. In relief. It was probably a common enough reaction from coast to bored coast. And the cheers as it ended were as sincere as those that once greeted a young governor of Arkansas as he reached the most awaited words of his first address to a great national convention: "In conclusion...." More welcome words have seldom been uttered in a public address.

As all the transient foofaraw of the inauguration proceeded, I could only hold fast to this thought: There is still goodness in this country, there is still resolve, and there is still an American Spirit. And it will yet be summoned and felt, called out and be responded to. But for now it still waits to be conjured up.

To use a phrase I've often repeated to myself in the midst of some speech by a self-absorbed politician that threatens never to end, a phrase from Scott Fitzgeralds's masterpiece, "The Great Gatsby": "He had come a long way ... and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night."

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.