Sunday, February 1, 2009

Tough Love, Tough Not To Love

The initial reaction to Obama's speech was that it was exceptionally tough. Gone was the "soaring" rhetoric, the "Yes We Cans" of Nov. 4, reporters lamented. Obama's opening line was, "I stand here today, humbled by the task before us". In other words, no more Mr. Nice Guy. Or so it was reported.

But what the reporters seemed to miss, and what was clear to me standing on the mall, was how brilliantly Obama's speech diverted the sheer energy of the inaugural crowd and worldwide audience into forward motion.

Barack Obama is a Democrat and an expected practitioner of the center-left politics of his party. But his speech also brought to light ideas that had yet to be given voice in the political arena. When Obama said, "The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good", he indicated what could be a paradigmatic shift in social thinking. He follows with this brilliant line of thought "To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect." It is my sincere hope that someday we will look back to this speech and recognize it as the beginning of an era in which humans abandoned mindless consumption and structured their society around something more meaningful. And I was touched that Obama would include "nonbelievers" in his speech - it was a much needed acknowledgment that one of America's most maligned groups are actually caring individuals and an integral part of our society.

However, as brilliant as the explicit message of Obama's speech was, the implied message was more pointed: there is work to be done, and that includes you. American government used to be above and unaccountable to the people, now it is again by and for the people. If the American people have gained power through the election of a worthy executive, that power is bound to the Spiderman axiom that "with great power comes great responsibility". But this is not a bad thing, it deserves to be celebrated along side everything at the inauguration. We will become a better nation, but only we all work together to make it happen.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Obamathon Man,
    Conserving energy and creating new energy sources will be America's gift to the world if the country chooses to focus its attention to this urgent cause. I think Obama will keep his eyes on that prize.