Speech

I know that everyone and their dog has put up a post about Obama and his inaugural speech, but there were a couple of parts I really liked, and I thought I’d add my take on it to the pile. I know not all who read this blog voted for him, and in fact, some are quite fearful/angry/doubtful/choose-your-own-incendiary-adjective over his election. These are just some parts of the speech I found personally inspiring, should he follow through on them (although the fact that someone in his position is saying them at all is partly enough for me).

“Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage. What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long, no longer apply.”

I’ve been receiving a subscription to Ode Magazine for several years now, and their self-proclaimed audience is “intelligient optimists.” It’s story after story of invention, ingenuity, compassion, and reporting on the positive news across the world – people who are finding innovative solutions to overarching, persistent problems, rather than just reporting the problems themselves. That’s what this quote reminds me of – “what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage.”

“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 the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.”

I liked this one because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about globalization, with its pros and cons. What we do on one side of the earth affects people on the other side, be it pollution, conservation, consumption, operation of a free press, black markets, factory farming or sustainable agriculture, etc. I don’t know that I buy into the traditional idea of karma, but I am coming to understand that what we put out into the world, be it positive or negative, really does matter somewhere along the line to someone, be it in a large or small way, and that in turn enhances or detracts from our common experience. When one suffers, we all suffer, and not just in an emotional or spiritual sense. We are all connected, like it or not, and I’m glad this is being recognized and talked about by our new leader.

“For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth. And because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.”

I know that this was written in part by a speech-writer, and I know that there is nothing new under the sun, and that these are career politicians we’re talking about. I put absolute trust in none of it. But I have to say that I am very impressed that these discussions, these ideals, this outlook on our economy and the nature of our country and the way we relate to the rest of the world, are being talked about from day one of this administration, and that much of it has already been set in motion in only a couple of weeks.

As I’ve said before, I’m not a Democrat, and I’m not a Republican. I know very little about economics, taxes, stocks or international finance, although I am trying to learn. I know I have a lot to learn. I know that not everything one promises on the campaign trail will come to pass. But I do find these parts of Obama’s speech encouraging, in that these things I have come to care about over the last few years – economic sustainability, environmental responsibility, and compassionate, active citizenship – are being championed by the President of the United States.

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