I suppose by now, if you read any other posts on this blog, that you might now where I stand politically. I believe that each of us, and our society as a whole, has a responsibility to care for the most vulnerable and marginalized members of our society. I try to live this ethic as much as possible, and I try to give of my time and skills to those who could benefit from them.
I also believe that we need to look beyond our borders to care for poor and marginalized peoples in other nations. Poverty and need exist in our country and cannot be denied and should not be accepted. At the same time, the poverty and need found in developed nations often exceeds the worst cases found in our nation.
When President Obama spoke at the Nobel Prize acceptance ceremony, his speech expressed many ideas that I feel are key aspects of being human: caring for others, striving to improve the conditions of the neediest in our society and our world, and always keeping those goals in mind as guiding forces in our lives. The speech is well worth reading.
Some of the parts of the speech that resonated most deeply for me:
"[T]rue peace is not just freedom from fear, but freedom from want.
It is undoubtedly true that development rarely takes root without security; it is also true that security does not exist where human beings do not have access to enough food, or clean water, or the medicine and shelter they need to survive. It does not exist where children can't aspire to a decent education or a job that supports a family. The absence of hope can rot a society from within."
"[T]he one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
Adhering to this law of love has always been the core struggle of human nature. For we are fallible. We make mistakes, and fall victim to the temptations of pride, and power, and sometimes evil. Even those of us with the best of intentions will at times fail to right the wrongs before us.
But we do not have to think that human nature is perfect for us to still believe that the human condition can be perfected. We do not have to live in an idealized world to still reach for those ideals that will make it a better place. The non-violence practiced by men like Gandhi and King may not have been practical or possible in every circumstance, but the love that they preached -- their fundamental faith in human progress -- that must always be the North Star that guides us on our journey."
"As Dr. King said at this occasion so many years ago, 'I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the 'isness' of man's present condition makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal 'oughtness' that forever confronts him.'
Let us reach for the world that ought to be -- that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls."
I'm sure that the President's detractors will find many ways to cut down his comments and minimize their importance. I hope that we can look past the naysayers and embrace his word and his vision as key elements of our own.