The Highlight of Obama’s Address January 20, 2009

The Highlight of Obama’s Address

Mike Clawson here one more time…

As with my atheist friends here, I too was thrilled when Obama mentioned non-believers, and also when he affirmed the importance of the sciences. However, my absolute favorite part of his address was when he spoke of global poverty, saying:

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 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.

My apologies, since I know this probably has little to do with the kind of religious topics typically covered here at this blog (except in as far as this sort of thing is precisely what I think my own religion is all about), but nonetheless, this was the part that had me cheering, and hoping that he really meant it and will actually follow through. We have it within our power to stamp out extreme poverty in our lifetimes. My hope is that Obama will be the President to finally commit to doing it.

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  • Richard Wade

    My apologies, since I know this probably has little to do with the kind of religious topics typically covered here at this blog…

    No need to apologize, Mike. I think you have your priorities right side up. If we do not put an end to the gross injustice, inequity and misery in the world, we will never have peace, and with the abilities to destroy that we have at our disposal, we’d better do it soon. Without peace there will be no believing or disbelieving; there will be only death.

  • Mike, those sentences were my favorites as well & I’m glad to read your post. I sincerely hope he means all that he said in his inaugural address as well. It would be nice to have an honorable and sincere leader for a change.

  • My hope is that Obama will be the President to finally commit to doing it.

    I hope so, too.

    And there’s something weird about an atheist blog being mostly about religious topics.

  • Ben

    Hooray! It’s about time someone said it. Anyone who lives along our southern border and still hosts a beating heart can’t help a sardonic chuckle at the absurdity of an imaginary line between the richest (by what measure?) country in the world and one of the poorest — and the on-going attempt, futile at best, to stem the ever incoming tide. We all need to come to grips with the unpleasant but inevitable fact that the earth has finite resources and we all gotta share those resources. And access to those resources should NOT be a function of wealth and power. Besides, it’s Physics. Can’t fight it. Artificial borders are like semi-permeable membranes. Wealth, money, resources – they always flow from an area of higher concentration to one of lower concentration. Get used to it.

  • another Mike

    Well put everyone. Too bad though, that even the most thoughtful and decent politicians have to pose as religionists in order to get elected.

  • Hoffy

    I obviously saw the other presidential address, the one filled with religious platitudes and the inference that the good ol US was going to lead everyone into freedom and prosperity, the condescending assumption that somehow the rest of the world needs the US to show it how to live, it’s not a matter of helping other countries, firstly the US needs to get itself sorted out,the overt hi jack of democracy by religious fundamentalists like Rick Warren amongst the many who through Bush’s faith based initiatives have subverted the constitution and made the parliamentary process a farce, and the Hollywood nonsense with all the glitter crowd who have become gods through the US’s cult worship, Tom Hanks with his sickening patriotic sugar coated sentimentality, we thought there was going to be change but we were wrong, Obama is another coconut WASP Brown on the outside but white anglo saxon protestant on the inside, where’s the change ????????

  • Hmm, seems to me we’ve had the power to wipe out extreme, not to mention mild, poverty for the past century or so – it hasn’t happened and it’s not about to happen just because there’s a new guy in charge of America. To do so would involve taking a LOT of money from the top 1% of wealthy people and redistributing it among the poorest 60-70% but what makes you think those rich folk are going to be happy with that? Are they just going to say, “Oh look, a black guy in the White House, guess I don’t really need 10 mansions and a fleet of jets”?

    It’s not going to happen. Some people are addicted to greed and power and will cling to it at all costs. As long as those people are allowed to carry on that way then poverty will always be an issue. Unfortunately it tends to be those very people who are the ones with the power to make the necessary changes.

    So by all means hope for some slight yet positive changes in certain policies. But eradicating poverty? Not a snowball’s chance in hell.

  • Wow.

    The President tossed a bone to us non-believers. I swoon. I faint. Be still, my heart.

    The gushing that has gone on over this man of no accomplishments is just as faith-based as the stuff that excites the born-again crowd. Personally, I like evidence. When Obama shows me some, I’ll say nice things about him. Until then, I will keep emotion out of it.

    So help me, Bob.

  • it’s not a matter of helping other countries, firstly the US needs to get itself sorted out,the overt hi jack of democracy by religious fundamentalists like Rick Warren amongst the many who through Bush’s faith based initiatives have subverted the constitution and made the parliamentary process a farce,

    Just to clarify what I think I hear you saying: is it your opinion that sorting out the conflict between church and state in this country is more important than doing something about the 3 billion+ people in this world who live on less than $2/day? Or the 26,000 kids who die from hunger every day?

  • Gabriel

    Mr. Clawson,

    This is one of the areas that I feel I can work with people of a religous nature. When we work together to actually help people. Then I think we are doing good.

    However, I think we do need to sort out the conflict between church and state or we will not accomplish anything. When the church and the state become intertwined then there seems to be less done. It seems that the government doesn’t bother to try and do anything about poverty et. al. because god will handle it if we just pray hard enough.

  • SarahH

    I think we can work on improving church/state separation, while at the same time working to eradicate poverty. For example, we’ve discussed secular humanitarian groups plenty of times here before – by joining one, donating money, volunteering for them, etc. you both support an organization that doesn’t package religion with its aid and help in the effort to fight poverty.

    I think it’s important that we talk about ending poverty (while at the same time not expecting the unrealistic in a short time) because the death of so many children every day – almost TEN TIMES as many children die from preventable disease and malnutrition every DAY as Americans died in the 9/11 attack!) is something that needs to end completely. I think it’s important that we remember the overall goal, just as we have in working to eradicate polio and AIDS – to end it completely, not just to ease the suffering a bit or curb the numbers here and there.

  • “We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality…
    … and lower its costs.”

    My favourite. Because it says that our President recognizes that science has been de-throned from its rightful place, and he’s going to put it back.

    That said, the entire speech was beautiful. His commitment to poverty, injustice, rebuilding the nation, and (wahoo!) religious pluralism, including us atheists… it was inspiring.

  • Curtis

    I totally agree with this but I bet I disagree with Obama and most of you how to accomplish this. The best way has no cost – support free trade and 3rd world capitalism instead of protecting unions and farmers in developed nations and promoting socialism.

    If you are interested in alternative approaches, I suggest you check out the Copenhagen Consensus. It is a group which gets scientists and other experts to rank the most cost effective way to alleviate poverty and suffering. Their top 10 solutions are:
    1 Micronutrient supplements for children (vitamin A and zinc)
    2 Free Trade – The Doha development agenda
    3 Micronutrient fortification (iron and salt iodization)
    4 Expanded immunization coverage for children
    5 Biofortification – agricultural improvements through research and development
    6 Deworming and other nutrition programs at school
    7 Lowering the price of schooling
    8 Increase and improve girls’ schooling
    9 Community?based nutrition promotion
    10 Provide support for women’s reproductive role


  • Hoffy

    No Mike it isn’t but unless you get your own house in order you won’t be doing any helping anyone, the US does nothing to help the 3rd world now so what’s going to change, the US doesn’t even meet it’s UN obligations and your corporations are out raping the world’s resources every single day, it’s the mind set of the US, that christian Rape and pillage for democracy and more importantly for the almighty dollar, being all high and mighty a bit like you are ………….

  • Be careful about making assumptions Hoffy. You don’t know anything about me. How do you know that I don’t share your concerns?

  • ukfoxfire

    Guys, it’s all very nice to talk about solving the world’s problems, but how about solving your own first eh?

    I’m deeply uneasy any time the US starts to behave like it has a monopoly on concern, and strides cheerfully out to start “fixing things”.

    Poverty is dreadful, to be sure, but be very careful about judging foreign standards of living by your own, extremely privileged and skewed, worldview. Many of the “helpful” things that people are doing in third world countries, while an instinctive & compassionate response to human suffering, are simply deferring a worse problem to the future.

  • I understand your concern uk, but just to clarify, when I talk about “fixing things” I don’t just mean coming in with more charity or a “great white savior” mindset. What I mean is that we Americans (and lets face it, Westerners in general, including you Brits) are the cause of a lot of the problems of poverty, exploitation, and environmental destruction in the first place. It is our legacy of colonialism, our political and economic manipulations, and especially our unrestrained consumerism that is largely responsible for many of the problems we see in the non-Western world – whether we’re talking about sweat shops, human trafficking, extreme poverty, violent unrest, drowning nations, etc. So when I talk about “fixing things” I only do so because we (and again, I mean all Westerners, not just Americans) were the ones who broke them in the first place. It’s our mess to clean up. They’re not just “the world’s” problems, they’re all of our problems.

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