In his inaugural address Monday, President Barack Obama did many things to set the stage — and the tone — for the way he will govern and the legacy he will leave behind.
Pundits, critics and defenders are already weighing in on what the president meant by his words or how those words will now define his presidency, what battles will be fought and which ones will ultimately be won, and how it all will impact we, the people.
While we don’t agree with the president on every issue, his remarks strike a chord that we should all pick up on, the same chord that has been preached from pulpits, service organization podiums and these, as well as similar, pages for many years — the belief this country was founded upon: that all people should be treated equal and that it is incumbent upon those of us who have received much to give much in return.
We all say we want people to be treated equally, but do we treat them that way, or do we only want those who think like us, look like us, act like us and have beliefs like ours to be treated that way, while castigating others?
It’s time we looked inwardly and answered that question for ourselves.
But the president is right. This country was founded on equality for all and it is time all were given that equality.
Just as true is our responsibility to our fellow man. The Bible remind us that to those much is given, much is expected. Sometimes it seems as if we’ve forgotten our charge as we work to get ahead, quick to criticize those we don’t believe have earned the same right.
But who are we to determine what someone else has earned, or what circumstances have left them needing assistance that we, ourselves, might someday need?
While there is truth in the argument that many people abuse government programs designed to help people who have found themselves down on their luck but, over time, have contributed much to society as a whole, does that really mean we should neglect those who truly need the assistance.
And what, really, is the difference between what some consider a government handout and the government subsidies that others receive.
How often has government, through the years, been there to assist. Consider the GI Bill, an government act established in 1944 that provided a range of benefits for returning World War II veterans (commonly referred to as G.I.s). Benefits included low-cost mortgages, low-interest loans to start a business or farm, cash payments of tuition and living expenses to attend college, high school or vocational education, as well as one year of unemployment compensation.
What about Rural Electric Service, something many in Sampson County continue to benefit from today.
That service, which traces its roots to the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), one of the New Deal agencies created under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt,was created in 1935 with the primary goal of providing electricity to areas that power companies were unwilling to service in rural America.
Both provided government assistance to those who greatly needed the hand up to help them succeed.
How are they, really, so different from assistance programs of today?
They aren’t. But perhaps our thinking is.
Hear the president’s words: “…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. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. … 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….”
We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity.
It’s something to think about.