Pray for the President
A number of blogs have already highlighted the pro-abortion and contraception messages on his new website. So its appropriate then, I think, to urge everyone to join in prayers for his conversion, and for good decisions from the new administration. One such is a perpetual rosary being offered for the next thirty days - you can sign up for a slot over at Catholic Culture.
Another (hopefully) big event planned is tomorrow's March for Life in Washington - a number of schools and Universities, including the excellent Christendom College, have actually shown their catholic colours and closed down for the day in order to allow staff and students to participate.
Just why we need to pray however is illustrated in the whole inauguration ceremony - a notable absence of Catholic bishops invited; a blessing by an openly homosexual episcopalian bishop, and much more. The President's speech too is a curious mixture of the good and the bad, and I think an important read, so here are some of the highlights (and lowlights) with my headings and comments ...
President Obama's inauguration speech
The beginning bit is the usual political platitudes about humility, thanking Bush, and the great American heritage, so I'll skip over them:
"....That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some but also our collective failure to make hard choices [true enough] and prepare the nation for a new age.
On the economic crisis
Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly, our schools fail too many, and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.
These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable, but no less profound, is a sapping of confidence across our land; a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, that the next generation must lower its sights. [hmmm, surely no bad thing - remember the greed and consumerism referred to above...]
Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this America: They will be met.
A new discourse?
On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.
On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.
We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness. [All sounds wonderful. The problem being of course how we realise that happiness and freedom - not through the false promises of consumerism, or liberal notions of rights, but through God our ultimate good!]
American valuesIn reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less.
It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those who prefer leisure over work [OK here is a real Americanism/Protestantism. Leisure does not necessarily mean laziness! Hard work is of course a virtue. But so too is the leisure dedicated to the contemplation of God] , or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.
Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things [Again these are all virtues in proper context - but ti sounds awfully like an exultation the life of this world over the next; of 'doing' over 'being'] -- some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor -- who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom...."
Then continues a lot more of the same ilk, until:
"Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.
The state of our economy calls for action: bold and swift. And we will act not only to create new jobs but to lay a new foundation for growth.
We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.
We will restore science to its rightful place [Code for whatever science provides us with the means to do - including creating monsters, or destroying our children even before they are able to be born in order to seek unproven medical cures - should be done?] and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its costs.
We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.
All this we can do. All this we will do.
Can he do it?
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 [I actually do think this is a reasonable approach in principle. The difficulty with evidence based approach however is what you include as the evidence, and the unintended consequences of policies which aren't known until you change them!], 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.
And those of us who manage the public's knowledge will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.
Government and the market
Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched.
But this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control. The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart -- not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.
On security vs liberty
As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. [Thank goodness. This is one of the reasons so many Catholics actually supported Obama despite his culture of death policies.] Our founding fathers faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so, to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.
They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use. Our security emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint. [Good stuff]
We are the keepers of this legacy, guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort, even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We'll begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard- earned peace in Afghanistan.
With old friends and former foes, we'll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat and roll back the specter of a warming planet.
We will not apologize for our way of life nor will we waver in its defense.
And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that, "Our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. [Hmm, a matter of debate, but it clearly can be a source of strength]. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers. [But oh dear, not when pluralism rules without acknowledgement of God...] 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.
Commitment to international aid
To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.
And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders, nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.
American values: service and more
As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages.
We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service: a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment, a moment that will define a generation, it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.
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....."
All up, a speech that could have been a lot worse....