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A Return to Virtue?
Alain Lacroix
As President Obama approaches the halfway point of his first 100 days in office many Americans are continuing to experience job and home losses in what some analysts are terming the worst financial and credit crisis since the 1930s. Those who heard Obama’s powerful inaugural address are doubtless wondering how the 44th president of the United States is incorporating into his political and economic strategies the values he has so strongly invoked. As the president deals with this economic crisis, does he have the bravery to act in accordance with the virtues he has extolled? Will honesty, restraint and responsibility characterize his administration?

According to Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, Obama’s response to the negotiations in conference committees over the next few weeks could define his presidency. In fact, the true test of his presidency may reside, not with the details of his economic stimulus package, but with his ability to create unity and inspire hope, two of his major campaign themes.

Regardless of Obama’s performance, in this “new era of responsibility” to which he frequently refers, it will ultimately be the character of the American people upon which the nation rises or falls. “What is demanded,” Obama has said, is a return to the old virtues and values—“hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism.”


Perhaps “unselfishness” should be at the top of that list, due to the fact that some analysts are now claiming that the current problem with the economy is not a lack of money; it’s the lack of a spirit of service, the lack of willingness to find meaning in something greater than pleasing oneself. On the most basic level, it seems that the root problem is simply greed—which has led to grossly irresponsible behavior on the part of many people, lenders and investors alike.

And what can the government do to control this plague of greed? Very little. If this economic crisis is reversed, it will not be due to brilliant strategies or billion-dollar bailouts. It will be because people choose to base their actions on one of the oldest virtues of all—self discipline.

As the president has said, this is indeed “a moment that will define a generation.” Will we rise to the challenge so that it may be “said by our children’s children that when we were tested…we did not turn back nor did we falter”? By God’s grace, may it be so.

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By Brenda Dickerson. Copyright © 2009 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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