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Obama Understands There's More to a Country Than Politics -- Values Matter Too

Posted: 01/24/2013 5:28 pm

On January 21, 2012, President Barack Obama's words took the nation back to its founders:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

And forward into the present.

"Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing.

"But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action."

Unlike the Glen Becks, Rick Santorums, and Paul Ryans of the world, who espouse a mythological individualism -- or the more "modern" incarnation of Ayn Rand's "dog eat dog" world, a far right interpretation of Darwin's" survival of the fittest" -- President Obama is aware of Darwin's understanding of survival of the fittest as it applies to societies. As Darwin wrote in Descent of Man, "There can be no doubt that a tribe including many members who from possessing in a high degree the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage and sympathy were always ready to give aid to each other and to sacrifice themselves for the common would be victorious over most other tribes and this would be natural selection."

President Obama is trying to lead the United States back to the true meaning of its foundational documents based on ethical monotheism that promotes freedom and equality.

"We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths -- that all of us are created equal -- is the star that guides us still."

His repetition of "We, the people" speaks to his desire to remind the country that democracy is based on a living social contract that in modern times began with what Hobbes, Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau described as an agreement that makes it possible for citizens to "give up certain of their rights and freedoms, handing them over to a central authority, which in return, will ensure the rule of law within the society and the defence of the realm against external enemies." The social contract refers to the practical aspects of government, the infrastructure that promotes democracy and freedom and equality for all.

But there is more to a country than politics. There are also the values of the society. The social contract and the values of the society must be self-reflective if the nation is to flourish. This was recognized by Alexis de Tocqueville. He was traveling to America at the same time that Darwin was surveying the Galapagos, studying the flora and fauna. De Tocqueville discovered that the separation of Church and State allowed religion to be more influential than one would have thought. Religion was influential in America because of the separation of Church and state: because religion never got involved in politics. De Tocqueville discovered that religious leaders in the 1830s were involved in strengthening families, building communities and starting charities. They inspired people to a sense of the common good, educating them in "habits of the heart," and giving them what he called "their apprenticeship in liberty." He wrote, "In the United States religion exercises but little influence on the laws and the details of public opinion but it directs the customs of the community and by regulating domestic life it regulates the state."

The state and the clergy have two different purposes, but they are not at cross purposes. They both participate in forming a country that continues to develop shared stories, beliefs, values and priorities. History shows that these are the nations that thrive: ones that care for the stranger, the other, the weak and the poor, the widow and the orphan. Nations that thrive include religion in the public square.

As President Obama said, "while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth." And that can only happen when citizens remember that rights come with obligations, responsibilities and duties to others. The President reminded the people that competition and altruism must come together to bring about compassionate action to repair the world. To accomplish this vision, he must bring together under the same canopy, the far right social conservatism of individualism and the far left fundamentalism of entitlement to a middle ground, back to ethical monotheism, the underpinnings of all western culture.

Barack Obama in his "Call to Renewal Keynote Address," June 28, 2006, in Washington D.C. said:

"Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King -- indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history -- were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religion to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition."

This article came about after I read The Ebor Lecturs 2011 given by The Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Rabbi Sacks.

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  • Mr. President

    U.S. President Barack Obama waves as the presidential inaugural parade winds through the nation's capital January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

  • Mr. Vice President

    U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden walk along Pennsylvania Avenue during the parade following Obama's second inauguration as the 44th U.S. president on January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • The First Couple

    President and Michelle Obama wave to onlookers as the presidential inaugural parade winds through the nation's capital January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

  • Right In Our Backyard

    U.S. President Barack Obama and First lady Michelle Obama walk past the reviewing stand as the presidential inaugural parade winds through the nation's capital January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

  • Parade Pandemonium

    U.S. President Barack Obama drives down Pennsylvania avenue in his vehicle during the Inauguration Parade on January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • Secret Service Security

    A U.S. Secret Service vehicle escorts President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama's motorcade during the inauguration parade on January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

  • Obama's Wheels

    WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 21: U.S. President Barack Obama drives down Pennsylvania avenue in his vehicle during the Inauguration Parade on January 21, 2013 in Washington, DC. The President was sworn in for second term. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • Awaiting Obama's Arrival

    People watch as the presidential inaugural parade winds through the nation's capital January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

  • Showtime

    U.S. President Barack Obama exits his limousine to walk during a portion of the presidential inaugural parade in the nation's capital January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

  • A Walk Back In Time

    Men in traditional colonial garb perform as U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk along Pennsylvania Avenue during the parade following Obama's second inauguration as the 44th US president on January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C.(MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A Hearty Thank You

    President Barack Obama waves after taking the oath of office during the 57th Presidential Inauguration ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol on January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

  • The President's Pen

    U.S. President Barack Obama (4R) is surrounded by (L-R) Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) and House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) while signing a proclamation to commemorate the inauguration, entitled a National Day of Hope and Resolve, directly after swearing-in ceremonies in the U.S. Capitol on January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty Images)

  • Putting It In Writing

    President Barack Obama (2L) signs a proclamation to commemorate the inauguration, entitled a National Day of Hope and Resolve, as (L-R) Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), and House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) look on directly after swearing-in ceremonies in the U.S Capitol on January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty Images)

  • It's Official

    President Barack Obama is sworn by Chief Justice John Roberts at the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013.

  • The National Anthem

    President Barack Obama, surrounded by members of his family, listens to the National Anthem during the 57th Presidential Inauguration ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol on January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

  • The Winning Ticket

    U.S. President Barack Obama (L) talks with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on the reviewing stand as the presidential inaugural parade winds through the nation's capital January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

  • Husband And Wife

    President Barack Obama takes the oath of office during the 57th Presidential Inauguration ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol on January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Father And Daughters

    President Barack Obama is greeted by daughter Sasha as Malia looks on at the beginning of the 57th Presidential Inauguration ceremonial swearing-in at the US Capitol on January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Sister, Sister

    First daughters Sasha (L) and Malia arrive for the 57th Presidential Inauguration ceremonial swearing-in of President Barack Obama at the U.S. Capitol on January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

  • The Second Family

    Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden attend the Inaugural Luncheon in Statuary Hall on Inauguration day at the U.S. Capitol building January 21, 2013 in Washington D.C. (Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images)

  • Bill & Hillary

    Former president Bill Clinton and the current U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrive for the 57th Presidential Inauguration ceremonial swearing-in of President Barack Obama at the U.S. Capitol on January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Hillary & Harry

    Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, applaud during the Inaugural Luncheon in Statuary Hall on inauguration day at the U.S. Capitol building January 21, 2013 in Washington D.C. (Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images)

  • The Supreme Court

    U.S. Supreme Court Justices (L-R) Anthony Kennedy, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor Elena Kegan, Samuel A. Alito, and Stephen G. Breyer attend the presidential inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

  • Let's Do Lunch

    President Barack Obama shakes hands as he and first lady Michelle Obama arrive at the Inaugural Luncheon in Statuary Hall on Inauguration day at the U.S. Capitol building January 21, 2013 in Washington D.C. (Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images)

  • Fine Dining

    The place card for U.S. President Barack Obama sits ready for the Inaugural Luncheon in Statuary Hall on inauguration day at the U.S. Capitol building January 21, 2013 in Washington D.C. (Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images)

  • Neatly-Folded Napkins

    Rocio Saucedo of Design Cuisine folds napkins in preparation for the Inaugural Luncheon in Statuary Hall on Inauguration day at the U.S. Capitol building January 21, 2013 in Washington D.C. (Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images)

  • Time To Eat

    Caterers set up for the Inaugural Luncheon in Statuary Hall on Inauguration day at the U.S. Capitol building January 21, 2013 in Washington D.C. (Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images)

  • Crystal Clear

    U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, holds a crystal vase during a media briefing at the U.S. Capitol January 18, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

  • A Toast

    U.S. Vice President Joe Biden toasts with Sen. Charles Schumer, Chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, at the Inaugural Luncheon in Statuary Hall on inauguration day at the U.S. Capitol building January 21, 2013 in Washington D.C. (Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images)

  • Capitol Pomp And Circumstance

    President Barack Obama gives his speech after taking the oath of office during the 57th Presidential Inauguration ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol on January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

  • The National Mall

    People crowd the National Mall to view U.S. President Barack Obama taking the oath of office during the 57th Presidential Inauguration ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol on January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

  • The Presidential Motorcade

    The presidential motorcade travels down Pennsylvania Ave. during the presidential inauguration January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

  • Take Your Seats

    Reserved seats for guests to view U.S. President Barack Obama taking the oath of office during the 57th Presidential Inauguration ceremonial swearing-in at the US Capitol on January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

  • The Podium

    Placemarks are set for the Obama and Biden families before the presidential inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

  • Places, Please!

    Placemarks are set for the Obama and Biden families before the presidential inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

  • A Special Sunrise

    American flags are waved as people gather near the U.S. Capitol building on the National Mall for the Inauguration ceremony on January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • The Gingrich Family

    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and wife Callista Gingrich arrive during the presidential inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

  • You Go, Joe

    President Barack Obama, center and Beau Biden, Attorney of Deleware, right, watch as his father Joe Biden is sworn in at the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013.

  • Any Minute Now

    President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden look behind them on the West Front of the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, before their ceremonial swearing-in ceremony during the 57th Presidential Inauguration.

  • A Room With A View

    Vice President Joe Biden, left and President Barack Obama wait for their ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013.

  • I'm Here

    Caption contest, Anyone? Vice President Joe Biden, followed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., arrives on the West Front of the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, for the Presidential Barack Obama's ceremonial swearing-in ceremony during the 57th Presidential Inauguration.

  • All Smiles

    Flanked by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden arrive at the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013.

  • The Team

    President Barack Obama greets Vice President Joe Biden at the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013.

  • Hillary Greets President Obama

    President Barack Obama is greeted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton for his ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013.

  • The President Arrives

    President Barack Obama arrives for his ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013.

  • Bill 'Photo Bombs' Joe

    Vice President Joe Biden arrives at the ceremonial swearing-in of President Barack Obama at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013. Right is former President Bill Clinton.

  • Thumbs Up

    President Barack Obama flashes a thumbs up at the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013.

  • President Obama Salutes

    This handout photo provided by NASA shows President Barack Obama saluting as he and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, depart the White House for Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, and Obama's ceremonial swearing-in ceremony during the 57th Presidential Inauguration.

  • Hillary & Bill Arrive On The West Front

    Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former President Bill Clinton arrive on the West Front of the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, for the Presidential Barack Obama's ceremonial swearing-in ceremony during the 57th Presidential Inauguration.

  • Even McCain Is Fired Up

    Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. arrives on the West Front of the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, for the Presidential Barack Obama's ceremonial swearing-in ceremony during the 57th Presidential Inauguration.

  • Leon Panetta Arrives

    Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood arrive on the West Front of the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, for the Presidential Barack Obama's ceremonial swearing-in ceremony during the 57th Presidential Inauguration.

 
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