Obama on Inouye: Another Interesting Speech

I mentioned earlier this week that Senator Daniel Inouye, who died at age 88, was as fine an exemplar of public virtues -- courage, dignity, public-spiritedness -- as modern America has offered. 

Since then I have heard from many people who worked with or around him in the Senate about the under-publicized ways in which he tried to keep that institution running and to help it rise above partisan small-mindedness. Interestingly, most people who have sent those stories said that Inouye would not have wanted them to be known.

But it is worth reading Barack Obama's lengthy eulogy for Inouye today at the National Cathedral. I see that Emily Yoffe, of Slate, hated the speech, finding it too self-centered on Obama's part. I disagree. I, too, have heard eulogies that were much more about the speaker than the one being mourned. I thought that in the first half of the speech, Obama was telling a story about himself in order to make a point about Inouye; and in the second half he fully developed the case for Inouye's virtues. (White House photo.) 


If you read it or see a clip you can judge for yourself. 

Bonus topic: Imagine yourself a president, of either party, and think how many performances you are called upon to give in a very short period of time. For Obama in less than a week, we have expected him to strike the right tone of national sorrow-and-resolve about Newtown; and to show the right mixture of firmness-and-flexibility in dealmaking about the budget; and to mourn a grandee of the Senate (knowing that Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, etc., would also be speaking); and to send signals to the Syrians and the Egyptians and the Chinese and many others; and to introduce the next secretary of state. No wonder these people look a generation older at the end of each term.
Presented by

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


Confessions of Moms Around the World

A global look at the hardest and best job ever


A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book


The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"


This Japanese Inn Has Been Open for 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

More in Politics

From This Author

Just In