Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Noisy, Messy and Complicated

Freedom of Speech by Norman Rockwell, from The Four Freedoms

Noisy, messy and complicated could very well describe the barn when I'm late to feed the horses in the morning, but it is also how President Obama characterized democracy in his post election speech.  He said that political campaigns can seem "small, and even silly" and cynics might claim politics are nothing more than "a contest of egos or the domain of special interests."

By the brilliant and astute John Johnik

"Democracy," he said, "in a nation of 300 million can be noisy and messy and complicated.  We have our own opinions, each of us has deeply held beliefs.  And when we go through tough times, when we make big decisions as a country, it necessarily stirs up passions, stirs up controversy." He went on to say that such things would not change after last night, and shouldn't.  

Freedom of Worship by Norman Rockwell, from The Four Freedoms series

"These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty, and we can never forget that as we speak, people in distant nations are risking their lives right now just for a chance to argue about the issues that matter – the chance to cast their ballots like we did today.”

Buzz Aldrin photographed by Neil Armstrong, July 20, 1969

“But despite all our differences, most of us share certain hopes for America’s future.”

Migrant Mother by Dorthea Lange depicts destitute pea pickers in California in 1939

“We want our kids to grow up in a country where they have access to the best schools and the best teachers.  A country that lives up to its legacy as the global leader in technology and discovery and innovation, with all of the good jobs and new businesses that follow.”

"Green" jobs growth, The Brookings Institution:  "Green jobs are real, growing, and highly paid."

“We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”

State Department Civilian Reconstruction Team Leader, Donna Carter and happy Iraqi girls in Ramadi, photographed by Michael Totten

“We want to pass on a country that’s safe and respected and admired around the world, a nation that is defended by the strongest military on earth and the best troops this world has ever known.  

But also a country that moves with confidence beyond this time of war to shape a peace that is built on the promise of freedom and dignity for every human being.”

The girls robotics team at Stewart Middle Magnet School, photgraphed by Carolina Hidalgo for The Tampa Bay Times

“We believe in a generous America, in a compassionate America, in a tolerant America open to the dreams of an immigrant’s daughter who studies in our schools and pledges to our flag.  To the young boy on the south side of Chicago who sees a life beyond the nearest street corner, to the furniture worker’s child in North Carolina who wants to become a doctor or a scientist, an engineer or an entrepreneur, a diplomat or even a president.  That’s the future we hope for.  That’s the vision we share. 

That’s where we need to go -- forward. That’s where we need to go.”

“Now, we will disagree, sometimes fiercely, about how to get there. As it has for more than two centuries, progress will come in fits and starts. It’s not always a straight line. It’s not always a smooth path. By itself, the recognition that we have common hopes and dreams won’t end all the gridlock, resolve all our problems or substitute for the painstaking work of building consensus and making the difficult compromises needed to move this country forward.  But that common bond is where we must begin. 

Our economy is recovering. A decade of war is ending. A long campaign is now over.  And whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you. I have learned from you. And you’ve made me a better president. And with your stories and your struggles, I return to the White House more determined and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do and the future that lies ahead.”

Photographed by Scott Olson

“But that doesn’t mean your work is done. The role of citizens in our democracy does not end with your vote. America has never been about what can be done for us; it’s about what can be done by us together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self- government. That’s the principle we were founded on.”

Second Harvest Food Bank

“This country has more wealth than any nation, but that’s not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military in history, but that’s not what makes us strong.  Our universities, our culture are all the envy of the world, but that’s not what keeps the world coming to our shores.

What makes America exceptional are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on Earth, the belief that our destiny is shared- that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations.

The freedom which so many Americans have fought for and died for comes with responsibilities as well as rights, and among those are love, and charity, and duty, and patriotism. That’s what makes America great.”

Freedom from Want by Norman Rockwell, from The Four Freedoms series

“…And I saw it just the other day in Mentor, Ohio, where a father told the story of his 8-year-old daughter whose long battle with leukemia nearly cost their family everything had it not been for health care reform passing just a few months before the insurance company was about to stop paying for her care. 

I had an opportunity to not just talk to the father but meet this incredible daughter of his- and when he spoke to the crowd, listening to that father’s story, every parent in that room had tears in their eyes because we knew that little girl could be our own.

The Problem We All Live With by Norman Rockwell, 1964.  The painting depicts 6- year old Ruby Bridges as she walks to her first day of school at the William Franz Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Clicking this photo will take you to Ruby Bridge's website...

And I know that every American wants her future to be just as bright. That’s who we are. That’s the country I’m so proud to lead as your president.”

“I’m not talking about blind optimism, the kind of hope that just ignores the enormity of the tasks ahead or the road blocks that stand in our path. I’m not talking about the wishful idealism that allows us to just sit on the sidelines or shirk from a fight. I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting.”

The Golden Rule by Norman Rockwell, 1961

“I believe we can keep the promise of our founding, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or who you love. 

It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight. You can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.”

“I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and forever will be, the United States of America. And together, with your help and God’s grace, we will continue our journey forward and remind the world just why it is that we live in the greatest nation on earth.

To see and hear President Obama's moving full speech click above.


  1. As a now occasional follower of your blog, I must say that this is a truly beautiful posting. After months of campaign fractiousness, your reminding us that their is beauty to be had in fundamental optimism, fairness, and a willingness to commit to the duty of being a good citizen with an eye to the future is spot on. Thank you for the tap on the shoulder. Everything will be AOK.
    Madison Spencer

  2. Beautiful and touching post. I did not vote for him but definitely am going to support him as our president moving forward and pray for this country. I am concerned about the democracy that makes us who we are and losing that spirit that we Americans are known for. Words as we know are cheap, actions are what matter and I am so hoping that better times lie ahead for our great country! Beautifully done!!

  3. Inspiring illustrations for an inspired speech. Love.

    (Sorry I first placed this comment on the wrong post :0 )

  4. it was a brilliant speech.
    Even better reading with your illustrations.


  5. Thanks so much for that! It took me a second to catch on and then warm happy thoughts of how far we've come in these last 4 years crowded my mind so that I had to slow down reading and really enjoy the moment. I worked hard (and not hard enough!) in support of President Obama and it's nice to share that online in one of my favorite blogs (that I now have time for again!). best regards, LA

  6. your display of the president's words and moving images also gave me that tap on the shoulder.
    i could not be prouder of this man and our country

  7. You are brave and correct and I am so proud of you for posting this wonderful post. Your illustrations are indeed so appropriate and touching.
    His speech was the most beautifully spoken and written I have heard. And it isn't just a " good speech"; I believe it came from the heart, and he understands and spoke about real truths in our country. We have so many positives. After that hideous and expensive campaign (6 billion?)

    I hope the spirit of cooperation and compromise will emerge. I am so proud of Americans for electing our President again. And I am so proud of him.

    I love this blog; and I love your values!

  8. I want the same things for our country and agree with most of your thoughts but I think we need many new leaders to get us back on track. I am disappointed in so many of our leaders in both parties. When I think of all the hard working citizens and citizens that would love to be working, I am disgusted hearing all the stupidity of the last few days about the silly emails and affairs. The soldiers sacrifice so much but their leaders are flirting with the Housewives of the Pentagon. So many of our so called leaders are failing us. I pray each day that we remain the ideal we have always strived to be. I know after reading your post of inspiration my posts is so negative but I am trying to change my attitude. Thanks for showing me that I can agree on some of the issues even if we disagree on the solutions.

  9. An impressive post, I just gave this to a colleague who is doing a little analysis on this topic. And he is very happy and thanking me for finding it .Country House PlansBut all thanks to you for writing in such simple words. Big thumb up for this blog post!

  10. Who is this amazing Norman Rockwell? I have to go and research him now, my goodness that work is good. And the cartoon - oh that is just as appropriate for Britain and for here in Australia too. (Probably lots of other countries as well, but I have only lived in these 2.)

    An absolute wonderful post - thank you for it. Really, really interesting to read, especially as an outsider. xx

  11. I love this blog; and I love your values! As a now occasional follower of your blog, I must say that this is a truly beautiful posting.

  12. What a great idea! I love it. Simple and lovely.


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