Have You Done Your ‘State of the Union’ Homework?

Tonight, President Obama is slated to “go populist” on America in his third State of the Union address. Insiders say he’s going to lay out a “blueprint for an economy that’s built to last.”

The speech will continue a theme President Obama laid out in Kansas last month – that in today’s economy the game has been rigged against the nation’s middle class.

On December 6, Obama gave an important and revealing speech in Osawatomie, Kansas — the best we’ve heard from him since the campaign trail. Building on Theodore Roosevelt’s New Nationalism language from Roosevelt’s Aug. 31, 1910, speech in Osawatomie honoring abolitionist John Brown, Obama reprises his platform of populist economics. But Obama is not yet Roosevelt. (See The Osawatomie Speech: Obama and Roosevelt.)

“We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used. It is not even enough that it should have gained without doing damage to the community,” Roosevelt said in his speech. “We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community.”

Before watching tonight’s State of the Union address, read up on its historical context. Read Roosevelt’s original speech and President Obama’s December address. Here are some quotes from both:

“One of the chief factors in progress is the destruction of special privilege. The essence of any struggle for healthy liberty has always been, and must always be, to take from some one man or class of men the right to enjoy power, or wealth, or position, or immunity, which has not been earned by service to his or their fellows.”–President Theodore Roosevelt

“Long before the recession hit, hard work stopped paying off for too many people. Fewer and fewer of the folks who contributed to the success of our economy actually benefited from that success. Those at the very top grew wealthier from their incomes and their investments – wealthier than ever before. But everybody else struggled with costs that were growing and paycheques that weren’t – and too many families found themselves racking up more and more debt just to keep up.”–President Barack Obama

Continue reading “Have You Done Your ‘State of the Union’ Homework?”

Thomas Merton: Abyss of Solitude

“However, the truest solitude is not something outside you, not an absence of humans or of sound around you; it is an abyss opening up in the center of your own soul.

And this abyss of interior solitude is a hunger that will never be satisfied with any created thing.” —Thomas Merton

New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton (New Directions Books 1961, p. 80- 81)

Tielhard de Chardin: A Morning Offering

teilhard-de-chardinI finally picked up a copy of Hymn of the Universe by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955).  I’ve been poking around de Chardin for years, but never actually reading him. He was a French Jesuit, paleontologist, biologist, philosopher, mystic and poet. All the stuff I like!

Here’s a quote from the opening section titled “The Mass on the World,” written while de Chardin was on a scientific expedition in the Ordos desert in Inner Mongolia and celebrates Mass alone at dawn:

One by one, Lord, I see and I love all those whom you have given me to sustain and charm my life. One by one also I number all those who make up that other beloved family which has gradually surrounded me, its unity fashioned out of the most disparate elements, with affinities of the heart, of scientific research and of thought. And again one by one–more vaguely it is true, yet all-inclusively–I call before me the whole vast anonymous army of living humanity; those who surround me and support me though I do not know them; those who come, and those who go; above all, those who in office, laboratory, and factory, through their vision of truth or despite their error, truly believe in the progress of earthly reality and who today will take up again their impassioned pursuit of the light.

Annie Dillard also has a wonderful book called For the Time Being that plays with excerpts from de Chardin’s diaries and writings.