President Obama: Address the Decline of Values

January 29, 2013 12:31 am 1 comment

President Barack Obama delivered his second inaugural address Jan. 21, 2013. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

What was most telling about President Obama’s inaugural speech was not what he said but what he failed to say. He supported gay marriage but said nothing of shoring up the crumbling institution of heterosexual marriage. He spoke of the need to address gun violence but said nothing of gang youth in America who are raised mostly without fathers and perpetrate a large part of that violence. He spoke of women earning equal pay but declined to address the rot of values that reduces women in media offerings and advertising to little more than the sexual man’s plaything, with women’s bodies being used to sell cars and beer.

Over four years a man who was raised without his father has been reluctant to address the out of wedlock birthrate that is seventy percent in the African-American community, sixty percent among Latinos,, and forty percent among whites. This leaves so many women with the burden of raising their children alone. A man who is a loving and devoted husband has never once, to my knowledge, spoken of the fifty percent American divorce rate that has ravaged American marital commitment. And a man who celebrates his Christianity has yet to call on all his fellow citizens to rediscover the spiritual bond that unites all of God’s children and to heed the call of service that is the obligation of every American.

My point is not to be critical. President Obama has a right to his agenda and there are many aspects of that agenda that I support. But what America needs more than anything else is a values renaissance that will shore up the rotting parts of our culture and in this regard a man of considerable eloquence has mostly been silent.

Having run as a Republican for Congress, it is unlikely that I will be invited to serve as a Presidential speechwriter. But that shouldn’t stop me from suggesting the speech the President ought to give, and here it is:

“My fellow Americans, on our streets kids who should be in junior high are mowing each other down with high powered assault weapons. And I think we can all agree that they shouldn’t have access to guns and I therefore will propose strict new gun measures. But even I understand that this is treating the symptom rather than the underling cause. In my book, Dreams of My Father, I speak of the pain of not having my Dad around when I grew up. It’s something I’ve tried to correct by always being there, amid a hectic schedule, for Sasha and Malia. But a father is not a luxury that should be the blessing of only certain families. Men in families are not superfluous. They are an absolute necessity. When dads are not at home it’s often the police who have to raise these kids on the streets. And an absent dad puts an unfair strain on single moms – who are already heroes in our communities – to support and raise these kids by themselves, all while nursing the pain of aloneness.

“Then you have all the marriages where a Mom and a Dad pledged undying love to one another, had children, but then saw their relationship fragment and the marriage end in divorce, which today accounts for one in two marriages.

“I know what that’s like. I was raised by a single Mom after my own parents’ marriage ended in divorce. And I did not get the opportunity to grow up around my Dad.

“So I’m calling on all men in our society to shoulder the responsibility of raising their children. You are not a hero to the world unless you’re a hero first and foremost to your own children. And you are not a man of significance unless you make your children feel that they have infinite worth.

I believe in marriage equality for same sex couples. But I also believe in the continuity of opposite sex couples. And here in America, men and women in relationships are not faring all that well. I plan, therefore, to introduce stronger legislation that offers further financial incentives for couples to marry and stay married, and stiffer penalties to deadbeat dads who abandon their kids.

“And speaking of kids, I am the proud father of two daughters. I want my girls to be raised in a country that values their minds more than their appearance, their productive capacity as much as their reproductive role. I therefore want women to be paid equally to men. But I also want to my daughters to grow up in a culture where they are respected and valued by men. I am therefore calling on American corporations and media organizations to be sensitive to their depiction of women in the culture. When you highlight stick-thin women to our teenage girls, or supermodels to our women at home, you’re sending the message that a woman’s body is much more important than her intelligence. Men are also affected by that depiction, and it gives us the kinds of problems I referred to above: men who are drawn to women for what they can provide sensually but not emotionally.

“Which leads me to my finale. Unlike other nations that were born of geography, America was born of an idea. As President Lincoln said, our country is based on the proposition that all men are created equal. We have fought long and hard to see the full realization of that proposition. Men and women have marched, fought, and died so that they can be treated as equals in America. But the highest realization of that American ideal of equality is not found in material but in spiritual terms. By equality we don’t mean that all people are the same height, the same color, or possessed of the same gifts. Rather, we mean that they are possessed of the same spark of the divine. That’s why Lincoln said that we were ‘created equal.’ I call today for a new dawn of American soulfulness. Let’s together create a society where the gay man and the black woman, the Jewish boy and the Islamic girl, the stay-at-home Mom and the professional woman, all find relevance in a nation that values their contribution and cannot prosper without their gift.

“I am calling today, therefore, for a mandatory year of national service, to commence upon graduation from High School, for every American man and woman, to both reverse the growing culture of narcissism and to teach us that America is a nation of givers and not takers.”

Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” has just published his newest best-seller, “The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering.” He is the Founder of This World: The Values Network, which promotes universal values. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

1 Comment

  • Yoel Nitzarim

    Rabbi Boteach, I respect you as a man, a husband, a father, a rabbi, a leader, a man of principel, a fine writer. Yet, Rabbi, values. . .you know, morality and ethics. Really? I agree that values are important. I am a college professor of English in a local community college in northern Illinois. But, Rabbi, you would like the President of the United States to address some of the most important signs of devaluation in American society? Really? Rabbi, you would like a politician to address values in society? Really? Rabbi, you would like a man who raised millions of dollars to be re-elected President of the United States to raise values as an issue of great importance? Rabbi, really? You would like a man who addressed AIPAC and declared that an undivided Jerusalem is the capital of Israel one day, and the next day declared that Jerusalem’s status is a final status issue? Really? Rabbi, you would like a man who has declared that Israel must live within the ’67 borders and some land swaps to discuss what? Oh yes, values! You would like a man who has dismissed the deaths of four American citizens, including the ambassador to Libya, to a past event without any culpability as the Commander-in-chief because everyone knows that ambassadors in dangerous places understand that they risk their lives everyday? Really? Rabbi, you would like this president who has selected Susan Rice as a Secretary of State nominee. . .the same Susan Rice who declared to the world on five Sunday morning programs that the miserable play denigrating Muhammad was the reason behind the protest that turned sour and ultimately led to the deaths of four Americans in the American Embassy in Benghazi and Chuck Hagel, the former senator from Nebraska, who voted against Israel with a penchant for many years, as the Obama nominee for Secretary of Defense? Really? Oy, Rabbi Boteach, where are this president’s values? How can he lead the nation with such a set of values? Really!! (Remember Rabbi, this country does protect Freedom of Speech.)

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