The Trusty Flag Backdrop

As President Obama’s Second Inaugural Address showed, he has journeyed far in his four years. He has earned another term, and on issues ranging from stopping gun violence to addressing immigration reform, he is moving quickly to put his agenda in front of the American People.

As his second term begins, there is a broad turnover among his cabinet. But, it seems, his Secretary of Creativity is still lost somewhere in primary season 2008.

Here is then-Senator Obama on March 18, 2008 at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for his famous race speech. Peggy Noonan loved it, and with good reason, but not because the production values of the setting matched her coup de grĂ¢ce at Pointe du Hoc.

Fast forward nearly five years. Here is President Obama today, January 29, 2013, at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nevada.

I don’t think the blue tie from 2008 is exactly the same as the one he chose today, but it’s close. And the flag backdrop? It may as well be the Reagan years.

I love the flag as much as anyone, probably more than most, but I also believe its good to help the eyes of history distinguish one presidential event from another. The race speech in Philadelphia was historic, and also made when Barack Obama was a candidate. Our visual association with him and a flag backdrop will always go back to that day.

But President Obama took Air Force One across the country and made important remarks today too, in a state, Nevada, that is in the epicenter of the immigration issue.

Could there not have been an element to this moment that was evocative of time and place? In that way, a decade from now, when the Obama Library is opened and the history books are written, we can be reminded that the president didn’t make this speech in front of a small gathering in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Instead, he journeyed to the place where the issue hits home every day.

Barack Obama will continue his journey as president for another four years. Each day in office is an opportunity put another page in the coffee table book of history. But all pages can’t look the same.


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