Today President Obama delivered what many are calling a notably progressive inaugural speech. It was a speech that some on the Right may find partisan, but if you understand the history of this nation’s founding you will find a parallel between Obama’s address and the preamble to the constitution.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Excerpt from President Obama’s second inaugural speech:
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.
In a speech delivered to hundreds of thousands on the National Mall and to tens of millions via television, President Obama delivered a broad-reaching progressive vision, a vision most social liberals, and for that matter, many Americans should applaud.
Obama said of our social safety-net, “The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us.” With an understated but obvious jab at Republican Paul Ryan, the president continued, “They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”
President Obama also cited the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing.
I like to refer to the “freedom isn’t free” refrain that many Americans use in reference to our military, but I also say “freedom isn’t free” because it requires constant maintenance, diligence, and sacrifice in many areas, not just military, to maintain a free country. A citizenry that becomes complacent with rights that previous generations fought hard to upon is a citizenry ripe to lose those rights.
Obama made it clear that the “go it alone” mentality and absolutist belief in an unregulated free market espoused by the Right is incompatible with our history, and stands in the way of a prosperous future for all.
Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.
Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.
Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.
While saying we never lost our “skepticism of central authority,” Obama further drove home the idea of collectivism when he said:
But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores.
In a country of over 300 million citizens, and a world of over 7 billion human beings, the idea that we can all go it alone is simply untenable.
Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.
Whether it’s advancing human rights, including gay rights or collectively addressing issues that affect the entire globe, including climate change, we need to find a way to work together.
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