Obama and the Covenant

British Rabbi Sir Jonathon Sacks astutely observed in his Times column this week that President Barack Obama’s speech was consistent with the very American concept that we are a covenanted nation:

Virtually every US president since Washington in 1789 has renewed the covenant in his inaugural address, often in biblical terms. Obama’s was a textbook example. There was the reference to the Exodus, a journey through the wilderness that involved crossing a sea: “They packed up their few worldly possessions and travelled across oceans.” There was the covenant itself: “Our Founding Fathers . . . drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man.”

There was the key covenantal virtue, faithfulness: “We the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears and true to our founding documents.” There was the idea, central to covenant, of a commitment handed on by parents to children: “That noble idea, passed on from generation to generation.” There was the principle that nations flourish not by the power of the state but by the duty and dedication of their citizens: “It is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies.”

Obama’s ending was little less than biblical: “Let it be said by our children’s children . . . that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.”

. . .

What Barack Obama has understood is that covenant creates the politics of hope. Never has the future of freedom needed it more.

Read it all here.

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