Obama enlists us in founders’ mission
President Barack Obama clearly derives inspiration from Abraham Lincoln, who, like Obama, was an underdog Illinois politician elected president during a national crisis. Obama retraced Lincoln’s inauguration train trip from Illinois to Washington, D.C., for his own swearing in, and he placed his hand on the same Bible as Lincoln to take his oath.
But it was an earlier leader — George Washington — whose words from Valley Forge Obama recalled when exorting Americans to continue the drive for liberty that began more than 230 years ago.
“With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents and endure what storms may come,” Obama said in reference to the trials of Washington’s army at Valley Forge. “Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested, we refused to let this journey end, that we ... carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.”
That was one of the most stirring parts of an inaugural address that lacked the soaring rhetoric of some earlier presidents, phrases such as, “Ask not what your country can do for you ...” or “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
And, though Obama talked of the issues facing this nation, from the economy to foreign affairs, he didn’t delve in to the specifics of his plans for dealing with them.
What he did do was remind Americans that this nation was founded and nurtured by people who willingly sacrificed for future generations.
“For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth,” he said.
And he repeatedly called on current Americans to put aside partisan differences, to work hard and make sacrifices of our own for future generations.
“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.”
It was a serious challenge to people for a difficult time. We hope Americans — from Congress to business leaders to average citizens — will respond to his call, put aside their differences and give their all to a difficult task.
For, as President Obama said, doing so, and the satisfaction derived from it, “is the price and the promise of citizenship.”