The Right Words

Obama2013Without reading any of the Op Eds regarding Obama’s inaugural speech this past Sunday, I must say I was impressed. Politicians are notorious for saying the right things and Obama is an accomplished public speaker. Watching the nineteen minute speech, I found myself daring to hope that this presidential term will serve to steer the United States in the right direction.

And yes, I know that presidents are not all powerful, that the power they wield is only as strong as it is supported by the other two arms of government. And that the mighty corporations of America are always behind the scenes, insuring more for the big guys and less for the small. And that when I get around to nit picking the speech, I’ll identify crucial phrases that are missing. But still, I have to say “Bravo” to these snippets from Barack Obama’s inaugural speech:

For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity.  We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit.  But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.

We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.

We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.

Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.

That is our generation’s task — to make these words, these rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life. It does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time.

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.