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The victory of Barrack Obama in the recent US Elections has not only broken new grounds in a society steeped with racial issues but has also brought hope to Americans who are now in the thick of their economic problems. The inaugural address of Obama was a crucial moment for the well-celebrated President to address a nation that is on a precarious situation. Addressing the nation at a state of turmoil, Obama speaks of “gathering clouds and raging storm,” echoing the past presidential inaugural addresses delivered during a time of crisis (“A Responsibility Era”).
He says that for them to surpass the crisis there must be some measure of commitment and accountability in the part of American citizens. Hence, the press has coined the phrase “Era of Responsibility” referring to Obama’s call to reverse the consequences of “[their] collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age” (“A Responsibility Era”). By pointing the root cause of the present American predicament, Obama is putting the burden of healing the nation on the shoulders of American citizens.
To make the nation rise again and “reaffirm the greatness of [their] nation”, individual responsibility toward the country’s good must be upheld (“A New Era of Responsibility”). In this statement, he echoes President Kennedy’s challenge for Americans to ask what they can do for the country instead asking what the country can do for them. Obama points out that “greed” and the lack of will to do the necessary sacrifices that will keep the nation in shape are the culprits for the nation’s pressing problems.
Will is the operative word in Obama’s call for individual responsibility because it is through the enablement of one’s will that change can really take place. Obama also implies that the authority and the capability to turnaround America’s present situation lie within the people themselves. In short, his message mobilizes each lay person in America to be part of the nation re-building. The call for people to use their inner authority is not merely a way of absolving the government from fixing the problems of the nation because, as Obama points out, the nation is the people.
By tapping into their inner authority, ordinary citizens will be empowered to aid the nation in becoming stronger and better. Inner authority is simply a matter of perspective. The concept relates to what Stephen Covey calls a “proactive attitude” which enables one person to act on the things that he can control in order to widen his area of concern and eventually affect the things or situation which he could not control before (Covey 65).
It is through the power of the will that one person can shift his focus on the things that he can influence and change. Without will and his inner authority, he will waste his energy trying to change the uncontrollable things. Take for instance the problem of the ailing economy of America which has prodded Obama in the first place to invoke the role individual responsibility play in resolving it. It is huge and intimidating crisis for an individual to confront. It seems to be out of one’s control and influence.
As corporations go bankrupt, lay people may feel that they are powerless over the problems that are sweeping the country like a force of nature. However, through the workings of one’s inner authority, a person can shift his energies to the things that he can actually control specifically the way he uses his personal money. Of course, the present economic situation is but a result of individual spending. Obama sees right through the problem and has unapologetically called it greed.
Inner authority is the antidote to personal problems such as greed. Thus, Obama invokes the need for people to tap into this inner strength to be able to rebuild the greatness of their nation.
Covey, Stephen. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lesson in Personal Change. NY: Simon and Schuster, 1990. “Era of Responsibility. ” The Wall Street Journal. 21 January 2009. 25 February 2009 <http://online. wsj. com/article/SB123249757558