President Barack Obama’s second inaugural address was remarkable, in both its content and its call to action. He urged the nation, as citizens, to get involved to continue the journey of making the country fulfill our ideals.
What makes us exceptional, what makes us America is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago. 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, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 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’ve never been self-executing. That while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by his people here on earth.
The headlines on specific issues were more on the hints to a second term agenda–immigration, gun control, climate change, etc–but health care was invoked in a section more broadly on the need for a social safety net–both to honor the dignity of those with the least, to provide help from the trials and tribulations of life for any of us who fall on tough times, to providing risk-takers the freedom to fail that is crucial in a vibrant economy and society.
Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.
Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character…
We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm.
The commitments we make to each other — through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security — these things do not sap our initiative. They strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers. They free us to take the risks that make this country great.
It’s great that the President mentioned Medicaid alongside Medicare and Social Security. In a few years, it will not be out of place to cite the Affordable Care Act in that litany.