Thursday, September 02, 2010

The President's Ringed Rug

The Oval Office in the White House has been redecorated. One decorator dubbed it ‘the audacity of taupe’, due to the preponderance of browns and subdued yellow in the walls and the furniture. The look is low-key, missing in any primary reds or blues – but calming, nonetheless.

The center rug is ringed with quotes selected by the President. One wag called such a decorative touch something a fifth grader would think of doing. But the selections are indicative of Obama’s view of government, and role that a chief executive of the citizenry should play:

  • Government of the people, by the people and for the people (Lincoln).
  • No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. (Kennedy)
  • The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally on the welfare of all of us.(Teddy Roosevelt)
  • The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. (Martin Luther King)
  • The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. (FDRoosevelt)

These are words selected by someone who believes government is a positive force for society – who views government not as an institution separate from society, but as an integral part of society. Government is us, not them.

This is the core difference between the philosophy of the current President, and the philosophy of someone like Sarah Palin. Palin believes that government should be a minimalist institution that only provides groundwork or framework for society – a set of common rules and limits, primarily – and then lets the other institutions operate, whether the consequences be positive or negative.

As a country, we can do better than that. As a society, we can write the strength of Obama’s selective quotes into poetry:

No problem of human destiny

is beyond us; together we can shoulder

the welfare of the many.

The arc of the moral universe is long

and bends toward justice;

all we have to fear

is the loss of its direction.

We hold the brush, we decide the colors,

We paint the canvass.

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