Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Vision; A Road Map

Halfway through our new president's speech yesterday I looked over at my wife and said, "This speech is pretty wonky." "What do you mean?", she asked. What I meant was that Obama, one of the greatest orators of our time and who can easily move people to tears, took a pass on the opportunity to do so in his moment of glory and, instead, laid out his vision of America and a road map for getting there. In my opinion his speech is a mark of the man, his character and integrity, and what he brings to the table. As a person who is committed to the principles of goal setting, I am always thinking, when setting a new goal, where do I want to go? What is the end point of my effort going to be? Obama's speech, in my judgment, set forth his road map to achieve the goals of our nation. Wonky? Yes. Terric also? Yes. In fulfilling the purpose of this blog site (letting my grand kids know a little about how their grandfather thinks) I take the liberty of putting Obama's speech in its entirety.


January 20, 2009
Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address
Following is the transcript of President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address, as transcribed by CQ Transcriptions:

PRESIDENT BARACK Thank you. Thank you.

CROWD: Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama!

My fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors.

I thank President Bush for his service to our nation...


... as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.

The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.

Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly, our schools fail too many, and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable, but no less profound, is a sapping of confidence across our land; a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this America: They will be met.


On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.


In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less.

It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.

Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor -- who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life. For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West, endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died in places Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed.

Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.


For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.

The state of our economy calls for action: bold and swift. And we will act not only to create new jobs but to lay a new foundation for growth.

We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.

We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality...


... and lower its costs.

We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.

All this we can do. All this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long, no longer apply.

MR. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works, whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.

Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end.

And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched.

But this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control. The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.

The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart -- not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.


As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.

Our founding fathers faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations.

Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake.

And so, to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.


Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.

They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use. Our security emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy, guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort, even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We'll begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard- earned peace in Afghanistan.

With old friends and former foes, we'll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat and roll back the specter of a warming planet.

We will not apologize for our way of life nor will we waver in its defense.

And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that, "Our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."


For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness.

We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth.

And because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.

To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.

To those...


To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.


To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.

And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders, nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages.

We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service: a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves.

And yet, at this moment, a moment that will define a generation, it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies.

It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break; the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours.

It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new, the instruments with which we meet them may be new, but those values upon which our success depends, honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old.

These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.

What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence: the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall. And why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.


So let us mark this day in remembrance of who we are and how far we have traveled.

In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by nine campfires on the shores of an icy river.

The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood.

At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet it."

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words; with hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come; let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you.


And God bless the United States of America.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Numb With Worry

Today is a defining moment in the history of the United States. Today a black man will be inaugurated as the 44th president of this country; a first unimaginable for most of us who grew up in the homes of the 1950s and 60s when the N word was part of the common lexicon. Based upon my observations during and since the presidential campaign, there are a lot of white folks who still cannot or will not let go of their smoldering distrusts and ambiguous hatred of persons of color. I characterize this hatred as ambiguous because most of the people in this country have become accustomed to the superiority of various black athletes who have become legends in their respective sports; e.g., Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. The public generally reveres these men, but most of us white folk don't have a single black friend or acquaintance with whom we would feel comfortable sharing our dinner table. I received a hateful e-mail just yesterday of a picture of an older and heavy black woman in a bathing suit standing on a beach. She had obviously put her bathing suit on backwards and the caption accompanying the picture said "We know which party she voted for." I play golf on occasion with a Detroit lawyer who uses the term "Democrats" for black people. These types of incidents arouse within me on this wonderful day a protective parental-like instinct that diminishes my ability to fully enjoy the moment in time; a feeling akin to the first day a sixteen year old drives a car alone, or a young child swims in water over her head.

What is it about all this that makes me numb with worry? I read an article this morning that will help make my point. The author stated that one of the reasons that Obama has been so widely received (with an 83% approval rating) is that most Americans "play inside the forty yard lines" when it comes to politics. Continuing the metaphor based on my observations, I would say that most white people "play inside the twenty yard lines" when it comes to the issue of acceptance of blacks. What I worry about, however, is not those people inside these boundaries, but the crazies outside these zones who carry ideas and beliefs which will never be amenable to change. To be specific, there are plenty of people in our country who would kill Obama if the opportunity was presented. For reasons real or imagined, there is a lunatic fringe within our society that the added factor of Obama's race is the clincher. I am numb with worry that one of these nut cases will destroy one of the finest moments in American history.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Shell Shocked

I remember it well; the days following the release of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 by the New York Times and the hubbub that followed. To put it mildly, all hell broke out as these papers described with particularity the waste, incompetence, fixated ideology and corruption that cost American taxpayers billions upon billions of dollars because of the Vietnam war. In large part, the response that followed the release of these papers led to the resignation, albeit indirectly, of Nixon. One of the many tragedies of that war turned out to be the significant number of vital young men who returned home with a glazed look on their face that belied the horrors they had seen and experienced. A fanciful name has been given to this altogether too-frequent reaction; post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It was formerly known as "shell shock" and carried with it a bias that suggested somehow that the sufferer had a predisposed weakness for this condition when placed under the stress of battle. As an aside, this condition made the papers this past week as the concept that warriors who suffered this real and crippling disorder would not be considered as candidates for Purple Heart awards, presumably because someone in the Bush administration bought this "weakness" bias.

However, I digress. I would submit that the American public is at this very moment in history exhibiting a mass form of PTSD in its lack of response to the Iraq version of the Pentagon Papers which makes the Vietnam version appear like child's play. A near-final draft of an as-yet-unpublished 513-page federal history of the Iraq nation-building fiasco assembled by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction was reported in this past week's New York Times. This report describes the loss of 50 billions of taxpayer dollars of the 117 billion dollars spent on Iraq reconstruction. The loss, described with particularity, occurred because of incompetence, cronyism, lying and fraud and was spearheaded by those same people who brought us the Katrina response and the current financial crisis. The report was prepared by a Bush appointee and pinpoints, among other transgressions, "a governmental Ponzi scheme concocted to bamboozle Americans into believing they were accruing steady dividends on their investment in a 'new' Iraq." The report quotes Colin Powell on how the scam worked. Back in 2003, Powell said, the Defense Department just “kept inventing numbers of Iraqi security forces — the number would jump 20,000 a week! ‘We now have 80,000, we now have 100,000, we now have 120,000,’” all manufactured into duping the American public into thinking they were getting something for their investment of young American lives and money.

Our collective lack of response to this information illustrates just how deeply we have all been wounded by the last eight years. We have become so accustomed to incompetence and fraud that we just sit and look off into the distance with a glaze in our collective eyes. No protest, however feeble, is heard.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Pay To Study

A sense of dismay arises from within me as I read about the burgeoning number of Americans who are unemployed or underemployed. The New York Times this morning estimates the current number at 21 million and increasing monthly. After reading this I sat and thought for a while about those who are caught in the headlights of this national dilemma. What is a person to do if his/her job has simply disappeared? What is the possibility/likelihood that another job opportunity will come along, one that offers advancements with pay increments so that one currently faced with this dilemma can eventually resume life with a sense of satisfaction and achievement? The key, as I see it, is re-training and re-education. In order to bring the nation's abilities up to snuff we, of course, must allow each individual in the nation the oopportunity to start over. This would cost money, lots of it. Not only would schools and training programs need to be expanded, people would/should be paid to attend and obtain new training. This is the educational and training equivalent of the bailout billions given to our greedy financial sector with one exception; the unemployed and underemployed did not create the mess we are in.

Friday, January 2, 2009


At first, what I need to do is explain what I mean by 'levels'. It is simply this; in the understanding of issues, complex or simple, there are levels of understanding and insight that must be considered. Most of us, all of us, may not possess the necessary fount of knowledge to understand some of the complex financial instruments that are wreaking havoc to the American way of life. Most of us may not possess the necessary expertise to run a hedge fund or manage a huge bank with billions of dollars of assets. Most of us cannot perform delicate brain surgery in the correction of a ruptured intracranial aneurysm. Most of us cannot hit a golf ball 320 yards or play sub-par golf under the rigors of a professional golf tournament. But most of us do know the difference between right and wrong. Bankers lending money to people when they know that those people cannot possibly meet the required payments have violated the basics of right and wrong. Traders selling bundled mortgages to others knowing full well that they are passing on a risky instrument that they themselves don't want to hold are simply wrong at the basic level of honesty/dishonesty. A brain surgeon who does know how to repair a ruptured aneurysm also knows that time is the essence in doing so and is wrong at the most basic level when he decides not to interrupt his weekend by delaying such a surgical procedure. A golf pro who constantly acts like an [expletive] surely realizes at the basic level that his actions are wrong and no amount of denial or rationalization is going to change that fundamental reality. These are but a few examples of a sickness that has spread like a plague throughout America. The majority of people are good and do recognize the difference between right and wrong. However, move one step away from this basic level and most people become forgetful. Rather than incorporate their own considerable personal morality into their conduct at a professional or business level, some mechanism kicks in to result in a 'me first' approach with all of the attendant negative results. In my previous life as a trial lawyer, I once hired a physician to testify in a large series of birth defect cases. Thousands of children were born with missing or defective limbs after their mothers had taken a specific prescription drug during the critical period of limb development during their respective pregnancies. This particular physician was known worldwide for discoveries that saved the lives of untold numbers of children. He was knighted by the queen of England for his work. At our initial meeting, he explained carefully to me that his basic philosophy could be summed up in one phrase; What's in it for me? This physician was ultimately exposed as a fraud for conducting sham scientific studies that were fabricated to bolster his opinions to the ultimate detriment of the thousands of children that I represented. I was shocked at the time, but since then on an informal basis, I have noticed that this characteristic seems to be the basic philosophy of many high achievers. Winning, according to this precept, carries a tag line that implies that winning at all costs, or any cost, is proper. Forget what is right or wrong, seize the moment, is how it goes. Our current economic crisis is the net result of a series of seize the moment ruinous decisions that abandoned the basic level of which I write. Exhibit number one; a man named Madoff. I rest my case.