I watched the formal part of the inauguration ceremonies at the Lexington Library where a happy group gathered around a large screen. After the formalities, anyone that so desired added a one-minute request or suggestion to a videotape that was to be sent to the new President. Lexington is where the first shots for freedom were fired. I had an uncanny sensation that I was hearing a modern version of the first shots, but aimed at new targets.
What did all this have to do with sustainability? I believe a great deal. Sustainability is always, first, a possibility of realizing something good. In the broadest sense, as I develop in my book, that something is flourishing, a word that envelops so many human aspirations as well as those that might be voiced by the natural world, if, by magic, it could speak to us.
Possibility lives in language, but is constrained by realities in the world out there. As far as we know an apple can fall only down from a tree, no matter how much we might wish it to soar into the sky. One cannot be completely free until freedom comes to everyone on the planet. President Obama spoke of the possibility that has driven my country forward since is founding.
Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.
This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
This small piece of his address casts a hopeful light, and a willingness to deal with the realities of today’s world, in the United States and elsewhere on the globe. The more we understand the reality of today’s social and natural world, the larger is the space from which possibility springs.