Last Saturday, while I was at the beautiful Palomar Christian Conference Center, President Obama addressed the graduating class of the University of Michigan. He was there, not a little nauseatingly, awarded an honorary doctorate degree for, well, nothing really. And while his transparent attempt at this address to reposition himself as a centrist will probably fail (since, as he has been President for over a year, we have seen him in action) he did nonetheless make one statement that bears repeating. Said the President,
Still, if you’re someone who only reads the editorial page of The New York Times, try glancing at the page of The Wall Street Journal once in awhile. If you’re a fan of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, try reading a few columns on the Huffington Post website. It may make your blood boil; your mind may not be changed. But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for effective citizenship.
Whether the President practices what he preaches here is irrelevant. What he said is good and true, and he’s got me.
Now, I’ve got a lot to say about Obama’s gross exaltation of government and his attempt to preempt criticism. But I do appreciate what he said about interacting civilly with a diversity of people and opinions. I also appreciate his comments about participation in public life and politics, including staying informed, paying attention, and contributing to the system.
Our freedoms, he concluded, did not come easy, “none of it was preordained.” He said,
The men and women who sat in your chairs ten years ago and fifty years ago and one hundred years ago – they made America possible. And there is no guarantee that the graduates who will sit here in ten or fifty or one hundred years from now will enjoy the same freedoms and opportunities that we do. America’s success has never been a given. Our nation’s destiny has never been certain.
Amen. And if we as Americans take this to heart, we will, I think, find the motivation to care about politics. Looking back at the birth of the United States, and the freedoms and form of government the Founders believed in, should give us the spirit to contend for the long life of “the greatest, the noblest and, in its original founding principles, the only moral country in the history of the world” (Ayn Rand).