Glenn Beck, President Obama & the Hunger for Purpose in Times of Transition
This is a time of great transition for the country.
The way we have long approached our lives is no longer viable -- and what will replace it is still not clear. And with virtually every institution that once provided stability to American life now in question, millions are being thrust into a new, much harsher reality.
A few weekends ago -- which included the fifth anniversary of the needless tragedy of Katrina, a presidential visit to
He really struck a chord in me when he spoke of the "emerging burden of citizenship," and of responsibilities beyond "self-gratification and personal advancement." He urged the next generation to "raise the level of public discourse."
Great advice for college freshmen, but equally useful for Americans at any stage of life. As I detail in my forthcoming book, "Third World America," our democracy is failing us, and making it more effective is only going to happen from the bottom up, not as a result of those in
Millions of Americans are being forced to go outside the range of their experience by the staggering decline of the middle class. And discussions of what it means to have a good life, of what's really valuable in life, are no longer confined to the classroom.
In our discussion, as well as in his brilliant book "Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?," Sandel presents his vision of a "more robust and engaged civic life than the one to which we've become accustomed." In explaining how we get there, he quoted
But, by and large, since taking office, the president has failed to feed the hunger for a larger purpose in public life, and left the moral and spiritual aspiration on the backburner. This is all the more problematic now that the crises facing America are much deeper than when Sen. Obama spoke on the Call to Renewal in 2006 or on the 2008 campaign trail.
The large turnout at Glenn Beck's rally on the anniversary of
In 2006, Sen. Obama warned that if progressives didn't "reach out to evangelical Christians and other religious Americans and tell them what we stand for," others would "fill the vacuum." In 2010, the president's stepping back from his promise to call us to a higher form of civic engagement means that a vacuum has been left during this historic moment of transition.
And in this time of economic turmoil, it's time to reevaluate how we value things. "A just society can't be achieved simply by maximizing utility or by securing freedom of choice," writes Sandel. "To achieve a just society we have to reason together about the meaning of the good life."
What were thought by many to be the ingredients of the "good life" just a short time ago -- a job, a home, a secure retirement, a college education for your kids and prospects for a brighter future for them -- are no longer attainable simply by hard work and playing by the rules.
It's becoming clearer by the day that whatever "good life" the country is going to have in the future, it's not going to be delivered by consumption -- and, in the foreseeable future, it is unlikely to be delivered by
Hard truths and big ideas. A narrative arc to our lives. The emerging burden of citizenship. Now that "the better life" is beyond the reach of so many, Americans are hungrier than ever for a new definition of "the good life." While
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