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First of all, nowhere in Barack Obama's Inaugural Address, which I've written about here (thanks to Greg Dworkin for including that article in today's Pundit Roundup), did the President use the words "un-American" to describe his opponents.

Obama did, however, ground his inclusive conception of our national identity and, yes, his progressive political philosophy securely in our American traditions and history going back two centuries. Mr. Hazelwood takes umbrage? Fine. I could point out something about the pot calling the kettle black, and discuss the innumerable examples where conservatives have claimed that they are the "true" Americans and that anyone who disagrees on, say, I don't know, the Iraq War, are "unpatriotic."

But I'd rather take the high road. Barack Obama in his Inaugural Address did something that great American speeches have long done. Let's look at the most important speech in American history, for one: The Gettysburg Address.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

In other words, Lincoln explained that our definition of America requires an end to slavery and acceptance of equality. Those who disagree don't get America, don't get American values. This speech changed fundamentally changed how we understand our national identity, as historian Garry Wills demonstrated.

Let's also look at Martin Luther King Jr., who always knew how to wrap the American flag around his ideas. In his classic Letter From A Birmingham Jail, he declared:

“The goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.”
And in his "I Have A Dream" speech, one that rivals the Gettysburg Address in importance, he called on America to support the movement for Civil Rights because that movement is consistent with America's values:
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

Clearly, Rev. King is saying: My side is the "American" side, and Bull Connor is on the, well, "un-American" side. Same thing Lincoln said at Gettysburg.

Now, if Mr. Hazelwood is accusing President Obama of doing that, well, guilty as charged.

PS-Please check out my new book Obama's America: A Transformative Vision of Our National Identity, published by Potomac Books, where I discuss Barack Obama's ideas on racial, ethnic, and national identity in detail, and contrast his inclusive vision to language coming from Mitt Romney, Rush Limbaugh and (some) others on the right. You can read a review by DailyKos's own Greg Dworkin here.


Originally posted to Ian Reifowitz on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 06:04 AM PST.

Also republished by Jews For President Obama, Invisible People, and Barriers and Bridges.

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