I watched the majority of the speech last night, but not all of it. My overall impression was favorable.
I thought President Obama did a very good job of not mincing words and speaking plainly and intelligently. He did not vilify the previous administration but did note that the current administration did inherit a difficult situation.
I did manage to hear him say some things that I've been waiting for a President to say for some time. First and foremost, President Obama stated in no uncertain terms that the United States does not torture. This is key to maintaining our way of life as well as our standing in the international community. This stands in stark contrast to the previous administration's hair-splitting (e.g. what is "torture," Extraordinary rendition, etc.). The next step is to show it - call for hearings, investigations into what may have been illegally done in the past.
The next key statement President Obama made was that education requires the family, "there is no program or policy that can substitute for a mother or father." This is subtly eloquent as it notes that the government is going to continue to work on education while reminding the American People that they cannot rely on the government alone to make it work. This is in stark contrast to the position of the Previous Administration and the way NCLB was originally sold - that the teachers and schools are failing the students, with little to no mention of the need for home support. The President not only made this statement, but he coupled it with a challenge to the students of today, "Dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country." Again, this is an outstanding statement. It connects a personal obligation with a patriotic one, showing that we are all part of a greater equation, but that all are important individually. Brilliant.
The President made some very ambitious statements. I'm not convinced that he will be successful in all he hopes to accomplish, but he strikes me as sincere in wanting to achieve what he sets out to do.
Andrew Sullivan live-blogged the speech. His assessment can be found here.
DB compares President Obama with Gov. Jindal here.
Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice asks if the speech put the President Left of Center?