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Professors Analyze Inauguration

Publication Date: 
January 21, 2009
The Stanford Daily
Jenny Rempel

Professor Jack Rakove is quoted in The Stanford Daily commenting on President Obama's inauguration:

Rakove, who talked with The Daily from Oxford, England, spoke with the same cautious historical perspective as Kennedy.

“As a historian, I want to be cautious about conflating a dramatic, highly visible event like this with all of the decisions and all the politics that will come out of it out in the next two to four years,” he said. “The historian in me says however much pageantry there is, however many people turn out, whatever mood it sparks, the reality of politics is the details of making decisions and developing policies and seeing how well they are executed.”

But Rakove, who compared Obama’s election to that of John F. Kennedy, was also struck by the excitement of the moment.

“It’s almost impossible for anyone - scholar to casual observer, even at this distance [being in England] - not to be struck by the amount of emotional energy that Americans in general have invested in this moment,” he said.

When asked about the historical significance of the new President’s race, Rakove spoke of Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I think the best way to push the American story forward is to say the inauguration is not about the symbolism of race or the politics of race, it’s about the content of Obama’s character - to use the famous phrase from Martin Luther King,” Rakove said.