19 January 2009

President Obama’s Call to Responsibility

I’ve been reading a book that I received from the The President’s Council on Bioethics entitled Human Dignity and Bioethics: Essays Commissioned by the President's Council on Bioethics. One thing that I found from the book was a discussion about the (US) Declaration of Independence that I haven’t thought of before. Namely, the endowment of human rights can be rethought as a call for human duties, or responsibilities. In other words, one can be thought of as not having a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but a duty to uphold the life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of others in society (of individuals around them).

If we took the later approach, more individuals would be supported by others; if the former, only the individual is looking out for numero uno. With the former, social justice as a universal idea would more naturally come to the forefront of our consciousness; with the later, the individual would seek to gain more power to hold onto their rights. If right language were turned into duty and responsibility language, the consequences of our actions would have to be examined more closely.

Consequences come from taking on additional responsibility (ask any manager). There is more for the one with more responsibility to think about. What will I do if I do this? What will someone else have to do if I do that?

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I just read what President Obama’s inaguration speech (at the time after taking the oath of office) will be about:

A top aide says Barack Obama's inauguration address will call on Americans to embrace a new era of responsible behavior — in government and in business.

Rahm Emanuel, Obama's choice for chief of staff, says Obama's speech Tuesday will ask the nation to reject the "culture of anything goes."

Emanuel says Obama will ask Americans to restore a national value system that honors responsibility and accountability. It harkens back to John F. Kennedy's call for personal sacrifice in his 1960 inauguration address.

Yes, he will talk to governmental and business leaders about responsibility, but I’m sure it will also be addressed to the general population.

He may say. “Don’t just do things because you feel like it. You must sacrifice for the good of the country and do your duty! Face the consequences of your actions.”

Yes, I will go there: President Obama must do some self-reflection. He said,

“Look, I got two daughters – 9 years old and 6 years old,” he said. “I am going to teach them first about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby.”

Will President Obama teach his daughters that they must face the consequences of their actions? Will he teach them to despise the life they created? Will he teach them that babies are cruel punishments? Will he teach his daughters that they have a duty to uphold the life of his granddaughter or grandson in their womb after their mistake?

President Obama, please think and pray long and hard about it.

It’s your call to responsibility.

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