A sparkling inaugural day has been succeeded by the predictable clouds of carping, along with a dull haze of partisanship from the irrepressible Republican ideologues in the House. We’ve been told, for example, that Obama’s “somber” inaugural address didn’t measure up to the joyous moment—that the speech was, well, good enough, but neither eloquent nor enduring. That’s not the speech I heard, which was an unvarnished report on our current difficulties.

Like Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, Obama’s speech was marked by an eloquence that goes beyond rhetorical flourishes. Lincoln’s words have long since been engraved in stone. Obama’s will have their own lasting impact—and not simply because of his compelling summons to “follow our better history” or his timeless warning that “a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.” For Obama’s inaugural address, like Lincoln’s, is also a great state paper defining “the work of remaking America” for a new chapter of history.

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Robert Shrum has been a senior adviser to the Gore 2000 presidential campaign, the campaign of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and the British Labour Party. In addition to being the chief strategist for the 2004 Kerry-Edwards campaign, Shrum has advised thirty winning U.S. Senate campaigns; eight winning campaigns for governor; mayors of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and other major cities; and the Democratic Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. Shrum's writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The New Republic, Slate, and other publications. The author of No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner (Simon and Schuster), he is currently a Senior Fellow at New York University's Wagner School of Public Service.