January 20, 2013

An Inaugural Address

Tomorrow, President Obama will make his second Inaugural Address. It would be nice if he borrowed a little from President Lincoln, who started of his second Inaugural Address with this: "Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention, and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented."

My guess is that, new or not, a lot will will be presented about where we've been and where we need to go during the next four years. If it was up to me, tomorrow's speech would focus on our Nation's past, specifically on three traditions that shaped this nation from its earliest days. A look back at our past may help guide us during the uncertain future that always seems to lie ahead. The three traditions would be these:
  • We are a nation that pays its debts. After the Revolutionary War, the willingness to pay our just war debts was crucial to gaining early international acceptance.
  • We are a nation that believes in compromise. We would not have our Constitution without it. At critical points in our history, compromise has been the solution, not the problem.
  • The Constitution is a living document, subject to interpretation. No sooner was it approved then we amended it, not once, but ten times. The agreement to consider the Bill of Rights after ratification was a compromise essential to passage of the Constitution.
The debates on debt ceilings, gun control, and spending that lie ahead will be better informed if these three guiding principles are kept at the forefront. The full faith and credit of the United States means something. We believe in the power of compromise. We govern under a Constitution that is read differently by each generation. Stick with those principles and we will get through the next four years. Abandon them and we will face four more years "on a darkling plain, Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, Where ignorant armies clash by night."

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