Thursday, September 10, 2009

Caring for ourselves, our families, and one another

I found the following portion of President Obama's address to Congress last night very moving. I'm often stunned by the many people who rail against government providing people with services and safety nets, yet cash their Social Security checks and use their Medicare insurance and wouldn't give up either benefit. It's important to think about what our country would be like, and what our personal lives would be like, if as a society we didn't collectively care for one another in these ways. For instance, how many of us could truly afford to care for and fully finance our aging parents? (Especially while we're doing the same for young children.)

"... concern and regard for the plight of others ... is not a partisan feeling. It's not a Republican or a Democratic feeling. It, too, is part of the American character—our ability to stand in other people's shoes; a recognition that we are all in this together, and when fortune turns against one of us, others are there to lend a helping hand; a belief that in this country, hard work and responsibility should be rewarded by some measure of security and fair play; and an acknowledgment that sometimes government has to step in to help deliver on that promise.
This has always been the history of our progress. In 1935, when over half of our seniors could not support themselves and millions had seen their savings wiped away, there were those who argued that Social Security would lead to socialism, but the men and women of Congress stood fast, and we are all the better for it. In 1965, when some argued that Medicare represented a government takeover of health care, members of Congress—Democrats and Republicans—did not back down. They joined together so that all of us could enter our golden years with some basic peace of mind.

You see, our predecessors understood that government could not, and should not, solve every problem. They understood that there are instances when the gains in security from government action are not worth the added constraints on our freedom. But they also understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little; that without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, the vulnerable can be exploited. And they knew that when any government measure, no matter how carefully crafted or beneficial, is subject to scorn; when any efforts to help people in need are attacked as un-American; when facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom, and we can no longer even engage in a civil conversation with each other over the things that truly matter—that at that point we don't merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges. We lose something essential about ourselves."

The full text of the speech is available at


Anonymous said...

Yes, that part is very moving. He's so smart, and rational. I don't understand the hysteria (hate?) of those who are against him and health reform. It scares me.

Marta said...

I like that part too. I liked the whole speech. But no matter what President Obama says, the GOP will be against him. If he notes that the Earth is round they'll insist it's flat. As a crazy town haller screamed, "I want my country back!!" from the racists and GOP extremists who care more about undermining the man who defeated their candidate than about our country. And they claim to love America.


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