President Obama offered a moving tribute to one of America’s great war heroes yesterday, awarding U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Richard L. Etchberger the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry in saving his comrades during an operation in Laos.
Etchenberger paid with his life, and is finally receiving his due some forty years later.
Obama may be growing into his role as commander in chief. The president seemed comfortable surrounded by the brass during the East Room event, and he gave a heartfelt speech about Etchberger’s heroics. The remarks couldn’t have been done much better. And no, TOTUS was not in anywhere in sight.
One of my press corps colleagues noted perceptively that when Obama gets himself out of the way, he reminds everyone of the man who inspired the country to elect him.
Indeed, the fangs-bared politician we’ve seen of late digging his canines into Boehner and the rest of the Republicans is a mistake made by White House image counselors who have set the president loose on the attack. He avoided such rhetoric for much of the campaign – both in the primaries and the general. The sudden appearance of Bad Obama has undermined the chief rationale people had for voting him in, and it makes his earlier image look like a sham.
So let’s take a walk down memory lane. This speech is worth taking a look at. Even if you don’t like the president, he is your president. Our enemies are plotting against us, and we may all one day need the man you see in evidence here to inspire us to confront a great challenge, just as Bush did in 2001.
I was in the East Room and took a few pictures for you. Here, the room is prepared for the ceremony.
The crowd, including Veterans Affairs Secretary Gen. Eric Shinseki, files in and gets seated.
Obama delivers his remarks.
Vice President Biden, left, and Defense Secretary Gates listen in.
Obama and Etchberger’s three sons bow their heads as a prayer is read.