Monday, January 21, 2013

Together -- A Commentary on The Inaugural Address

Being as 1) this is my blog, 2) I happen to love President Barack Hussein Obama, and 3) I was almost in DC for the Inauguration, I have decided to write a commentary on his Inaugural Address on 21 January 2013. 

If you don't like that, don't read the post. Otherwise, deal with it. 

Let me start by saying what already may be self-evident -- I can be somewhat outspoken when it comes to my liberal identity and ideology. This is especially true in Utah. Some find this offsetting; others find it amusing. Regardless, I am a liberal, and a proud one. I believe that economic problems will be solved as we seek comprehensive solutions to issues of education and income inequality. When you educate a nation effectively, progress has a solid foothold. When people have equal opportunity in every aspect of their lives, then perhaps we can begin to realize the potential to be a great nation of equals, or as Reagan put it, a "shining city on a hill."

The President's address was not at all similar to his first address. This address came after a vicious and contentious previous four years and a vitriolic election. Nonetheless, the President emerged as the clear victor, speaking to America's changing demography, hopes, aspirations, and expectations. The nation did not, my dear friends, choose wickedness. It chose progress. After the election, my Facebook feed was covered in quotes from the Book of Mormon about the voice of the people choosing wickedness. Dear friends, I could have easily pointed to several more scriptures demonstrating how the Lord would have been pleased with the outcome of the election. Deal with it. In the words of one wise Seminary teacher (prior to the election...oh the irony), "The person who wins the election will be the person the Lord wanted." 

Side Note: I don't know that God really cares about outcomes of elections. He respects a nifty little thing called agency.

Enough of a tangent. To the speech. 

The President outlined his vision for the next four years, a vision that is both progressive and controversial. It is a vision that has echoed across generations, and one that we have yet to fully realize. His speech was the continuation of the dream of patriots and revolutionaries from "Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall." 

Yes. Stonewall -- a flashpoint in the gays rights movement -- was included by the President of the United States. It is, perhaps, one of the greatest civil rights issues of our time. In my mind, it is on par with the right of every child to receive a quality education, regardless of his ZIP code -- another issue the President addressed. 

"Our journey is not complete until..." 

Until peace is achieved through evaluation and compromise, not through explosion and conflict.

"We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully –- not because we are na├»ve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear." 

Until each child has the opportunity for an education that prepares him for college. 

Until, regardless of your race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or religious affiliation (or lack thereof) you have the opportunity to realize the American dream. 

"We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American; she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own."

Until you cannot be denied care because of your medical history. Until mental health is adequate for a nation struggling to cope with anxiety, depression, and all other mental illnesses. 

Until the threat of violence does not echo in either the halls of suburban schools or the streets of the inner city. 

"Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm."

Contrary to most Inaugural rhetoric, the President did not choose the path of least resistance. He spoke, yes, of American hope and idealism, but he also spoke of hard things. He did not speak of "a collection of Red States and Blue States." He did not attempt a JFK address, choosing instead a line of rhetoric similar to FDR. Our generation is no longer a generation of war, but a generation driven towards peace and progress. We are a generation open to finding solutions for the social issues and problems of our day. No longer do we turn a blind eye to the problems surrounding us, choosing instead to dream of Camelot. The issues the President has chosen to take on are not easy, but that in no way makes them wrong. The process of change is never easy. Mr. Obama seems to have learned that in his first term, with substantial help from Congress. 

"We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years and 40 years and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall."

And so, it is with faith that the President has taken upon him the task ahead. It is the recognition both of imperfection and responsibility that has inspired a nation to believe in change, to believe in moving forward, so that the next four, 40, and 400 years can be better than the last. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the purpose of life. It is to hope for a better future and then act in accordance with that hope. That's what you can expect in the next four years. The wheels of progress have begun to move again. 

This is our generation's task. Together.