I came across this unintentionally funny headline today on The Town Talk:
In fairness, they were referring to this graphic:
And the main event:
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. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works….
The New York Times also picked up on this line:
Mr. Obama also seemed to take issue with Ronald Reagan, who declared when he took office in 1981 that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Mr. Clinton rebutted that in 1997, saying, “government is not the problem and government is not the solution.”
Mr. Obama offered a new formulation (repeating): “The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small but whether it works, whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end.”
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 non-believers. 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.
To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
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 — 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. 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.
This is the price and the promise of citizenship.
This is the source of our confidence— the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.
Think about this language for a moment. Typically, when the words “God” and “destiny” are in the same sentence in a national political speech, it is a statement attempting to affirm a hope or belief in the idea that America is inherently fulfilling God’s will.
I prefer Obama’s perspective. The future is “uncertain,” not something predestined or preordained. And there’s no implication that God somehow endorses Obama’s vision; his understanding is that God calls on “us” (all of us) to “shape” our collective future.
Remember when George W. Bush said:
“I feel like God wants me to run for President. I can’t explain it, but I sense my country is going to need me. Something is going to happen… I know it won’t be easy on me or my family, but God wants me to do it”?
Back to Obama:
This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.
I also was amused by the caption to this photograph affixed to an article on how Obama donors somehow got great seats to the Inauguration:
How, exactly, does Gannett or the AP definitely know that the ONLY reason Denzel Washington got great seats was because he maxed out his donations to Obama?
Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Denzel Washington was the first African-American to win the Oscar for Best Actor since Sidney Portier (and that the Inauguration was, among other things, a seminal and important moment in African-American contemporary history) or perhaps it is because of the roles he played as a presenter at the Inaugural Concert and a host of the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball.
In other words: Don’t make it seem like Denzel Washington didn’t deserve his seat at the event or that he simply paid for his seat in campaign donations. It’s not like he is some fat cat lobbyist trying to buy influence for a nefarious special interest. He’s an actor.
Surely, Gannett has better evidence of a pay-to-sit conspiracy.