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.
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James Fallows is a staff writer 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. He and his wife, Deborah Fallows, are the authors of the new book Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America, which has been a New York Times best seller and is the basis of a forthcoming HBO documentary.