This editorial appeared in The Sacramento Bee.
Not since President Franklin D. Roosevelt's inaugural in the depths of the Great Depression have Americans heard such a ringing call for an activist government and an activist citizenry.
In his first speech as president, Barack Obama said the issue is not "whether our government is too big or too small," a stale debate, "but whether it works." And meeting the difficulties of our time, he said, is not just about the "skill or vision of those in high office" but about "we, the people" remaining "faithful to the ideals of our forebears and true to our founding documents."
Just as President Abraham Lincoln in his first inaugural called upon the "better angels of our nature," Obama called upon Americans to "choose our better history."
His speech was more about character – virtue and duty – than about policies.
Obama described the economic crisis as a "consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some" but, more important, as "our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age."
In essence, he declared that the era of something for nothing is over. American greatness, he said, "must be earned" – no "shortcuts or settling for less." He called for a return of old values – "hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism" – to launch a "new era of responsibility."
To read the complete editorial, visit The Sacramento Bee.