High Noon in DC

The Inauguration was impressive, even on the left-hand half of my computer monitor. High points: the John Williams piece (not quite as good as Copeland on the same theme, but good, and very well-performed. Nice to watch Yitzhak Perlman’s grin.) Lowery’s prayer (basically, Isaiah’s greatest hits. Stealing from the best.) Gene Robinson’s prayer, which I really liked. The crowd, all one million plus of them, not counting the poor guys who had tickets but never made it onto the Mall. The First Kids—the older one with her omnipresent camera (obviously it never occurred to her that now anybody in the world would send her an autographed picture if she asked for it), the younger one with her thumbs-up as First Dad went to do the oath.

Human-but-not-high points: the presidential oath, which the Chief Justice and Obama between them finally got right. The poem (YMMV, obviously.) The address—from Obama we have come to expect real barn-burners, and this was not one of those. It hit all the right notes, as if written to a checklist, which it probably was. Mr. Wired says he should have let his star writers do it, instead of insisting on doing it himself. But apparently the writers did at least have a hand in it. It wasn’t Lincoln’s Second Inaugural, which is probably the best of its kind ever. But it wasn’t bad. Rick Warren’s prayer.

What I liked most of all was something a lot of people probably missed altogether. Last night at one of the broadcasts from the various Balls, Beyoncé, after doing a quite creditable version of “At Last” for the First Couple to dance to, tried to relate her emotions to an interviewer backstage without utterly dissolving into tears, and, in one of her attempts, said, “He makes me want to be smarter.”

HE MAKES ME WANT TO BE SMARTER.

Sidney Harris, the late columnist, once said that, while he had heard lots of people say they would like to be better-looking or richer or in better physical shape or healthier, he had never heard anybody say they would like to be more intelligent. I pointed out in a response which I don’t know that he ever saw, that religious Jews pray for more intelligence every morning. But that was pretty esoteric, compared with Beyoncé saying, on national TV, coast to coast before untold millions of viewers, that Obama, and his inauguration, make her want to be smarter. I am overwhelmed with delight and hope at this. After decades of very smart politicians diligently hiding their IQ under very large bushel baskets rather than intimidate the presumably dumb but sensitive average voter, it is finally okay to be intelligent, and to value intelligence. I have absolutely no idea how smart Beyoncé already is, which tells you something right there. But I wish her well in her pursuit of more smarts, and hope she continues to encourage the rest of us in sharing that pursuit.

Jane Grey

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