Wednesday, January 21, 2009

President Obama

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
America, this is one of those moments.

I believe that as hard as it will be, the change we need is coming. Because I’ve seen it. Because I’ve lived it. I’ve seen it in Illinois, when we provided health care to more children and moved more families from welfare to work. I’ve seen it in Washington, when we worked across party lines to open up government and hold lobbyists more accountable, to give better care for our veterans and keep nuclear weapons out of terrorist hands.

And I’ve seen it in this campaign. In the young people who voted for the first time, and in those who got involved again after a very long time. In the Republicans who never thought they’d pick up a Democratic ballot, but did. I’ve seen it in the workers who would rather cut their hours back a day than see their friends lose their jobs, in the soldiers who re-enlist after losing a limb, in the good neighbors who take a stranger in when a hurricane strikes and the floodwaters rise.

This country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that’s not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that’s not what makes us strong. Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that’s not what keeps the world coming to our shores.

Instead, it is that American spirit – that American promise – that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.


Diane Warth said...

It sounds like the great one wants WalMart greeters to share work hours as his accountants save SS, natural disaster survivors to rely upon the kindness of neighbours, and amputees to reenlist as the U.S. continues to liberate deserts and mountains in far away lands.

Sandwichman said...

I don't read it that way, Diane. If that's what he really wanted, he's smart enough that he would have said nothing about workers, hurricane survivors or grunts. This is an oration about the value of the human spirit. Things that don't ring up on the cash register. Words are empty if they're not backed up by actions, but the way to back them up is to listen to them as if they are genuine and press for the action, not to dismiss them as they are uttered. That's called dialog.

Diane Warth said...

An oration on human spirit or "the American spirit"?

Oppression and poverty enforced by "the most powerful military on Earth" is not what "keeps the world coming to our shores." It's the great American promise...

Fired up? Ready to go...but not to 10 invitation-only, inaugural balls where party goers danced the night away, dialog likely centered on the new hire and whether he's the charisma to keep the grunts on the job and off their Jimmy Choo's. said...

This sort of thing works much better in worker-owned cooperatives, where it is a regular practice.

Anonymous said...

Never happen, not in a contry that give percentage raises to public employees, which means that the top dogs get a huge raise while the bottom dawgs get a pittance.

Obama overestimates the brotherhood of the America spirit and ignores the fact that most of us work in a dog eat dog environment.

Sandwichman said...

Folks, President Obama is an orator. He is using rhetoric and the purpose of the rhetoric is to persuade, not necessarily to convince. Exactly what he wants to persuade people to do is not entirely clear. If it was clear it wouldn't be rhetoric and it probably wouldn't be as persuasive.

I think it is safe to say, though, that what President Obama wants is some room to maneuver. In that context, the politic thing to do is to map out for him areas of maneuverability that would both be advantageous to President Obama and to the constituency that one represents. Assuming that Obama is the arch-enemy of the working class would be as naive and futile as assuming that he is the redeemer incarnate.

Hasn't anyone here ever read Machiavelli?

Diane Warth said...

He's been crystal clear on the core issue negatively impacting workers worldwide. He promotes the war machine and supports privatising occupation forces; the "areas of maneuverability" map has been unfolded and he matter-of-factly defends its borders ad nauseum.

The progressive border of the new prince's "new morality" is a retrofit of the hysterical notion that liberals sanction then bomb and occupy the defenceless for altruistic reasons so the bloodletting is forgivable and conservatives murder for corporate profit which is monstrous and criminal.

Sandwichman said...

Even if you're right, Diane, I don't see how one constructs a political strategy from pure negativity. Is the strategy to wait until the masses become disillusioned and they tell them, "I told you so!"? Well, that won't work. And when it doesn't, I won't bother telling you I told you so.

Myrtle Blackwood said...

Finally had a chance to watch the inauguration pop concert and a few words from Obama. His lips moved and his face stayed still.....

And there was John Mellencamp:

"Well there's people and more people
What do they know know know
Go to work in some high rise
And vacation down at the Gulf of Mexico
Ooh yeah
And ther's winners and there's losers
But they ain't no big deal
'Cause the simple man baby pays for the thrills, the bills,
the pills that kill

but ain't that America for you and me
Ain't that America somethin' to see baby
Ain't that American home of the free
Little pink houses for you and me.