I did. It came from the address info @ Barackobama.com, and, as you might expect from the President of the United States on the Fourth of July, it had an “Independence Day” theme to it.
Here’s what he wrote to me:
Dear Austin (you know how it is with “me and Barack” - we’re on a first-name basis);
This weekend, our family will join millions of others in celebrating America. We will enjoy the glow of fireworks, the taste of barbeque, and the company of good friends. As we all celebrate this weekend, let's also remember the remarkable story that led to this day.
Two hundred and thirty-three years ago, our nation was born when a courageous group of patriots pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to the proposition that all of us were created equal.
Our country began as a unique experiment in liberty -- a bold, evolving quest to achieve a more perfect union. And in every generation, another courageous group of patriots has taken us one step closer to fully realizing the dream our founders enshrined on that great day.
Today, all Americans have a hard-fought birthright to a freedom which enables each of us, no matter our views or background, to help set our nation's course. America's greatness has always depended on her citizens embracing that freedom -- and fulfilling the duty that comes with it.
As free people, we must each take the challenges and opportunities that face this nation as our own. As long as some Americans still must struggle, none of us can be fully content. And as America comes ever closer to achieving the perfect Union our founders dreamed, that triumph -- that pride -- belongs to all of us.
So today is a day to reflect on our independence, and the sacrifice of our troops standing in harm's way to preserve and protect it. It is a day to celebrate all that America is. And today is a time to aspire toward all we can still become.
With very best wishes,
President Barack Obama
Awesome email, isn’t it?
Let me tell you what went through my mind as I read the second paragraph, where he references the courageous patriots who pledged their “lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor.”
Those patriots were committed to personal liberty, and to being free from the shackles of kings, queens, and other would-be dictators. So committed to these principles were 56 specific men, that they signed the Declaration of Independence despite their knowledge that the penalty for doing so might entail their death (several of the signers did die for their “crime”).
So, given that the freedom we know today was born out of great struggle, why is President Obama so ambivalent towards courageous, freedom-loving people who are struggling for their freedom in other countries? President Obama has said virtually nothing of substance about the Iranian citizens being killed by their government, as they speak out against a rigged election. And when Hondurans sought to uphold their nation’s Constitution and prevent their “President” from becoming a king or dictator, President Obama opposed them. And who could forget the hugging, back-slapping, and “brother” handshakes between President Obama and one of the most notorious dictators of our time, Hugo Chavez? What’s up with that?
And then there’s paragraph five, where the President wrote, “as long as some Americans still must struggle, none of us can be fully content. And as America comes ever closer to achieving the perfect Union our founders dreamed, that triumph -- that pride -- belongs to all of us.”
At the end of the message, the President made a pitch for American volunteerism, and in this paragraph he seems to be building-up to that pitch. But he also seems to be downplaying the significance of “struggle,” and assuming that it’s a bad thing if a person ever has to “struggle.”
I’m not suggesting that poverty is a good thing, or that I should allow myself to ignore my neighbor’s sufferings. But I know “struggle.” And “struggle” - the quest to better one’s self, to face risks, to become upwardly mobile, and so forth - is at the very essence of the American way of life.
Unfortunately, President Obama seems committed to ensuring that we all have a risk-free, struggle-free life. I suppose that’s why we’ve seen some people show up at Obama townhall events and, when given the rare opportunity to speak to the President, they ask Obama for a better job, or a new home, or a better kitchen, and so forth. Obama promises to “give things” to us, and some Americans, quite eager to avoid “struggle,” are ready to receive from him.
President Obama’s email is great, but I wish his policies were consistent with his rhetoric. I wish he understood that America’s “collective good” will not exist unless the liberty of the individual is secured, and that there is no liberty for those individuals who live under the reign of a dictator.