Quaker Dave has kindly organized a Alternative Invocation blogswarm for Inauguration Day. It's a great exercise. With a formal occasion in D.C. in mind, I'm afraid my imagination runs to the, ahem, flowery. In any case, while the following might not exactly be an invocation, here's my entry:
In 1776, in Philadelphia, our Founding Fathers stated in the Declaration of Independence that:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
In 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, not far from here, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of a beautiful dream, and also said:
In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
America was founded on wonderful ideals, but our reality has not always matched them. We can forget the freedom, fairness, justice and generosity that have formed our best moments. In the past several years, we — and the world — have not always seen America at its best. Once again, it is time to change that.
Faced with great challenges, we cannot afford to be less than our best selves. We cannot afford fear or selfishness. It will require great courage to look at what we have done, great wisdom and spirited discussion to chart a new course, great industry and patience to effect meaningful change, and great kindness and listening to rebuild and re-energize our communities. We must all think not only of ourselves and our well-being, but also of our neighbors. We must all of us — citizen, politician, influential, unheard, rich, poor and all those in-between — all of us think of the public good and how we can better honor it. Helping the least of us helps us all. Helping the country as a whole helps ourselves. To lead is to serve.
Over the years, America has made progress, and ours is a nation of striving, of improvement, of ingenuity and optimism. It is time to remember the national ideals of our Founding Fathers, to honor that promise spoken of by Dr. King, and to celebrate and share that enduring dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all women and men. Going forward, may we remember the wisdom of the past, ponder and discuss the future we would like to see, and form new friendships as we work together to build a better America for us all. Thank you.
(Cross-posted at Blue Herald)