forty-fourth, and first

Let’s hear it for good speeches that get me hopeful and excited for the future of our country. The pundits can say what they will about President Obama’s inaugural address, but as for me, I loved it.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: Know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.  We are the keepers of this legacy.

So? I’m an idealist. I like speeches that promise integrity, temperance, and tenacity. I like to believe that President Obama speaks with complete earnestness when he says, “On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.” I think he’s telling the truth. Or… at least I have high hopes that he is.

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 can’t deny that there’s definitely a cynical vein that runs through me. I understand the tendency towards cynicism. It’s true that politicians—yes, even our sparkling new president—will make mistakes and may likely break some promises. But I’ve decided recently that this elevating feeling of hope is far more productive than cynicism, even if the cynics ARE right some of the time, even if I am left disappointed in those moments. I’ve decided to not base my hope in faulty humans, but rather in a belief that we have a greater potential that requires some shade of idealism to be realized. I think this hope is a better choice.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — honesty and hard work, 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.

So I’m sorry if this post makes you roll your eyes. At a different time, it probably would’ve made me roll my eyes too. But for now, I feel happy and hopeful. I feel grateful to be a part of this America.

The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

Amen.

Category: hopes, politics, quotes 2 comments »

2 Responses to “forty-fourth, and first”

  1. Bryant

    Cool. I like what you said about cynicism. You know that being cynical is something that I struggle with, but I think that it’s definitely not the best road.

    Not to distract from your praise of Obama’s speech, but something that’s stuck with me from the campaign is a story that Joe Biden told in the VP debate (and again in his Senate farewell, I think) about not questioning someone else’s motives: “Question his judgment but never his motive.”

    I think that’s a cool idea (which is probably the opposite of most cynical ideas). I think it would be really helpful to the way we approach a lot of controversial subjects if we could disagree with someone while still believing that they were doing what they thought was right.

  2. the narrator

    let me just say that i am so proud of my new president right now.


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