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Greenfield: Obama's Address Was Conversational Not Oratorical

For a man whose campaign speeches often soared to great rhetorical heights, President Barack Obama's inaugural address was conversational and very straightforward, according to CBS News Senior Political Correspondent Jeff Greenfield.

"It was a deliberate effort not to be flowery, the times did not demand that, in fact demanded something else," Greenfield told Katie Couric. "The words were tough. The words were simple. The sentences were short. The tone was very conversational, not oratorical."

Greenfield identified three points of special significance from the speech, even if they were not the most memorable lines.

The first was Mr. Obama's non-ideological approach to the role of government.

"Instead of saying as Reagan did that government is the problem, or as others might have said that government is the solution, he said the question is not whether government is good or bad but what works," Greenfield said. "If it works we'll keep it, if it doesn't we'll end it. That's a very kind of pragmatic message."

Greenfield also picked out the president's effort to put himself in squarely in the center of American experience by invoking timeless virtues of charity and kindness.

"He said these are old and they are true," Greenfield noted. "And I really think the message there is, I may be, as he once called himself, a skinny black kid with a funny name, but I am in the mainstream of American thought."

The final message of the speech that struck a chord was the understated way that Mr. Obama addressed the racial issue.

"The one real reference to race was when he simply said to toward the end that let's make it clear that someone whose father might not have been served at a local restaurant 60 years ago is now taking the oath of office," Greenfield said. "That was a very personal way of embodying what all of us have been talking about so far."