Last week saw the swearing in of the 44th leader of the United States of America as Barack Obama officially began his role as president.
President Obama's inauguration and speech can be viewed on You Tube by clicking here. A full transcript of his address is available from the New York Times web site (click here).
Not everyone likes Obama. There are concerns about his policies on a number of important issues, including abortion (see Jim Wallace's recent article on this). President Obama is not perfect. He is not the messiah. He needs our prayers and God's wisdom. He plays a crucial role at this important time in world history.
Overall, I thought President Obama's inauguration speech was very inspiring. Here are some of the things I really liked about it ...
- Obama addresses the crucial issues head on - war, the economy, health care, education, the environment, energy, nuclear threat, terrorism, and world poverty. He names the challenges and refuses to ignore them. He brings them right out into the open where they can be discussed and where decisions can be made. Leaders must always clearly define the current reality.
- Obama offers hope over fear. He said, "... the challenges are real, they are serious, and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time ... but .. they will be met." People need hope and leaders need to be dispensers of hope. See the music video 'Yes We Can' for an example of hope-filled words.
- Obama has an global interest and perspective, which is essential for a leader of one of the most powerful nations of earth. No doubt, his Kenyan father and the number of years he lived in Indonesia have helped this. Although I love America and spent 10 very enjoyable years of my life there, there is a still a tendency in American culture to be somewhat insular and to think that America is the world. The fact that they call their national baseball finals the 'World Series' is a classic illustration of this. The fact that fewer than 10% of Americans have a passport or have traveled outside of the US also doesn't help (a statistic from the book The Extreme Futureby James Canton, PhD). I believe that Obama will help to change this.
- Obama calls people to a spirit of service - "a willingness to find meaning in something greater than ourselves." It's a call to kindness, selflessness, honesty, hard work, loyalty, tolerance, courage, and responsibility. Government and leaders can only do so much. People must rise to the challenges of their time and be the kind of people that make the world a great place to live.
- Obama seeks to lead for the 'common good'. He said, "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this earth." As the president of an entire nation, his role is to create an environment where diversity is valued, where religious freedom is preserved, and where open dialog can take place. Christians currently living in places where there is no freedom of religion would love to hear this said by national leaders.
- Finally, Obama speaks with confidence but without arrogance. He models a graciousness and a humility that is important for all leaders. He honours the past. He acknowledges God. He makes it clear that government exists to serve the people and not the other way around.
If you'd like to know more about who Barack Obama is, where he has come from, what makes him tick, and what his policies are, then I'd recommend his book The Audacity of Hope.
P.S. Pastor Rick Warren from California's Saddleback Church prayed at President Obama's inauguration. For responses to his prayer, click here.