Below are a dozen quotes from Barack Obama's Inaugural Address and yesterday’s Shared Vision speech by Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. It’s fair to accept that both were carefully thought through, knowing they’d be judged toughly. (Peggy Noonan insists that you can tell when you’re applauding an "applause line" and not a thought.)
The two speeches are reviewed separately in the media. However, looking at them together offers a striking early clue that the center in Washington is becoming a roomier place.
The audiences and the speakers’ styles are very different. Consequently, we shouldn’t have too much difficulty sorting them out. Further, I didn’t cheat by putting in the references to God, joy, and the “light of freedom” by the liberal or the conservative’s references to inner-city children, a police officer named Vicki, and the city of San Francisco.
Here they are:
“The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob.”
“We will advance proposals aimed at producing results in areas like education, health care, innovation, and job growth. Our solutions will be based on the conservative principles of self reliance, faith in the individual, trust in the family, and accountability in government. Our goal – to ensure every American has a fair shot at earning their success and achieving their dreams.”
“Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, these are constants in our character.”
“Just like parents, Washington must start showing care for the generations ahead while leaving the parenting to the parents.”
“For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class.”
“One of our priorities this year will be to move heaven and earth to fix our education system for the most vulnerable. And when those children graduate from high school, we must expand their choices and college should be a viable option.”
“We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit.”
“But, explaining that rising health care costs are depressing take-home pay is little consolation to a working mom. Her grocery bills are higher, her kids’ school needs are more expensive, rent is up – and now, she’s just trying to get by. And getting by is not the American Dream.”
“Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time – but it does require us to act in our time.”
“There is an appropriate and necessary role for the federal government to ensure funding for basic medical research. Doing all we can to facilitate medical breakthroughs for people like Katie should be a priority. We can and must do better.’
“We must act, we must act knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.”
“This is the kind of common sense legislation that should be non-controversial and moves us in the right direction to help make life work for families.”
Sure, they’re only words. But remember: the trenches in Washington today were dug with words as well.