Hello Everyone,

President Obama’s second inauguration was a memorable affair in my estimation, somewhat to my surprise. It was obviously a less historic occasion than the first, which I attended. But, I found this one, which I didn’t attend, to be remarkably coherent and moving – and the inaugural address may come to be seen as historic.

To my ear, the President made yet another, albeit more full-throated and unapologetic, case for communitarianism while recognizing its limits. I think there is now ample evidence that this notion is central to both his personal and governing philosophy.

In his address, the President used the words we, our, us, or together more than 155 times, and the word I just 3. Like the basketball he favors, the President views life as a team sport.

He also brilliantly sought to reclaim the founding fathers and our founding documents, just like he has reclaimed the American-flag lapel pin. And, he embraced the notion of “American exceptionalism,” but in a more nuanced and modern way.

Communitarianism
Over the past three years, I have written about President Obama’s belief in the “communitarian” or in “communitarianism” on five separate occasions – in Obamagrams #49, 50, 62, 67, and 77. www.obamagrams.com

In #50, for instance, I wrote about the apparent influence that Reinhold Niebuhr has had on the President’s philosophy. In it, I cited two excerpts, among others, from Niebuhr’s The Irony of American History:

Excessive Individualism. “…our exaltation of the individual involves us in some very ironic contradictions. On the one hand, our culture does not really value the individual as much as it pretends; on the other hand, if justice is to be maintained and our survival assured, we cannot make individual liberty as unqualifiedly the end of life as our ideology asserts.”

Communitarianism. “The concept of ‘the value and dignity of the individual’ of which our modern culture has made so much …is constantly threatened by the same culture which wants to guarantee it. It is threatened whenever it is assumed that individual desires, hopes and ideals can be fitted with frictionless harmony into the collective purposes of man.”

In #67, I wrote:

Last month, I attended a talk [by] my friend Danielle Allen, [from] the Institute for Advanced Study. It was about her careful reading of the Declaration of Independence …Obviously, the Declaration is a cry for freedom. But, to Danielle’s eyes…it is also a communitarian treatise, grounded in shared aspirations, mutual responsibilities and claims of equality.

In #77, I wrote:

In his [re-election victory] speech, the President continued to talk about the importance of communitarianism, in stark contrast to the libertarian, Ayn-Rand-influenced philosophy of Paul Ryan and, derivatively, Mitt Romney. At the same time, the President recognized its limits.

The Speech
As always, I encourage you to also read what you have heard. President Obama’s inaugural speech makes clear his steadfast, long-held belief in action for the common good. Here are some excerpts. I urge you to read it carefully in its entirety (see Attachment 1).

Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution…What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…

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…The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few…

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, these are constants in our character.

But we have always understood…that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action…Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.

…we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together.

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal…

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…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.

My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today…was an oath to God and country, not party or faction…

You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time – not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.

Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history…

The Poem
“One Today,” written by Richard Blanco, perfectly amplified the President’s theme in a most eloquent way. One sun. One light. One ground. One sky. One moon. Together. I urge you to read it again (see Attachment 2).

 

Tuesday was a day I will long remember for I, too, cherish the communitarian.

 Please, as always, pass it on. And, remember that previous Obamagrams are stored on www.obamagrams.com

Chuck

adobe pdf fileAttachment 1 – 2013 Inaugural Speech

 

adobe pdf fileAttachment 2 – 2013 Inaugural Poem

 

 

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