In The Politico, Andie Coller suggests that President-elect Obama’s rhetoric stems from his enlightened ideas about fatherhood:
The “change we can believe in,” it turns out, shares a lot with the revolution in thinking about child-rearing sprung from the work of Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler, which centers on principles such as mutual respect — or what the president-elect has called “the presumption of good faith” — fostering independence (“Team of Rivals,” anyone?), and encouragement (“Yes we can!”).
This passage from Obama’s victory speech, for example, is a family meeting waiting to happen, complete with attempts to acknowledge his own limits, make room for dissent, make sure the listeners feel heard, and stress the importance of everyone’s contribution:
“There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as president, and we know that government can’t solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years — block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.”
The implication is that such rhetoric is something new. But one can find similar themes and language in the first inaugural address of another president:
When we listen to “the better angels of our nature,” we find that they celebrate the simple things, the basic things–such as goodness, decency, love, kindness. Greatness comes in simple trappings. The simple things are the ones most needed today if we are to surmount what divides us, and cement what unites us.
To lower our voices would be a simple thing.Those who have been left out, we will try to bring in. Those left behind, we will help to catch up. For all of our people, we will set as our goal the decent order that makes progress possible and our lives secure. As we reach toward our hopes, our task is to build on what has gone before–not turning away from the old, but turning toward the new.
In these difficult years, America has suffered from a fever of words; from inflated rhetoric that promises more than it can deliver; from angry rhetoric that fans discontents into hatreds; from bombastic rhetoric that postures instead of persuading. We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another–until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices. For its part, government will listen. We will strive to listen in new ways–to the voices of quiet anguish, the voices that speak without words, the voices of the heart–to the injured voices, the anxious voices, the voices that have despaired of being heard.
From the setting of this blog post, you have probably guessed that the speaker was Richard M. Nixon.