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35 posts from January 2009

January 31, 2009

Psychology journal focuses on new lgbt-related reseaarch

The current issue of the American Pyschological Association Journal of Counseling Psychology is devoted to new research regarding sexual minorities. Information here

Davos not a place to meet girls

Let's hope that the about-to-be new Prime Minister of Iceland, the world's Johannafirst openly gay head of state, is not looking forward to the World Economic Forum as one of the perks of the  job. From The Guardian, which gets cred for noticing:

Why are there so few women at Davos – and why do the organisers seem so unconcerned? An organisation that is supposed to draw from all the world's talent overlooks half of it.

 Flicking through the fat white book that lists everyone here, I counted only two female names in the first 50 – and the first of those is HH Princess Inaara, the Begum Aga Khan. No doubt talented, active in excellent philanthropic work – but hardly typical.

For the most part, this conference is a sea of middle-aged men in ties. Many sessions only involve male speakers. This afternoon's debate on development, chaired by Barbara Stocking of Oxfam, may be a Davos first, with an all-female panel.

The excuse, of course, is that Davos represents the world as it is. If most governments and businesses are run by men, then that it is not the fault of the World Economic Forum. But an organisation whose motto is "committed to improving the state of the world" should do better than that.

At a small dinner in an out of the way hotel last night, it took Africa to make a stand. A discussion of the "unknown Africa" (think growth and good government, not war) not only had two women speakers out of four, but one of them was a prime minister, Luisa Dias Diogo, who has run Mozambique since February 2004.

January 30, 2009

The double standard lives

Yesterday, a 24-year-old college student was sentenced to six months in prison for managing the prostitution business that former NY Governor Eliot Spitzer patronized, the exposure of which led to his resignation.  Spitzer was not prosecuted for any crime, in light of the fact that he used no public funds to pay for his visits to prostitutes.

Cecil Suwal was not so lucky.  Apparently, the six month sentence she received was something of a compromise between the two years of imprisonment sought by the prosecution and the recommendation  from the court's probation office of a suspended sentence plus time on probation.

Katherine Franke nailed what was going on here:

One way to understand this is that Michael Garcia, the U.S. Attorney in New York, has decided that when Eliot Spitzer paid to have sex with the women who worked at Emperor’s Club V.I.P, he had sex and they committed a crime. In fact, it is the policy of most federal prosecutors to charge sellers, but not buyers, of sex with a crime. Last I checked, the federal government hesitates not in the least to prosecute both the buyers and the sellers of illegal drugs, and both the givers and the receivers of bribes. Yet sex, it seems, is different.


January 29, 2009

Stunning ruling by Colombia's highest court

Colombia's Constitutional Court has held that government benefits must be equalized between heterosexual and same-sex couples.  (Caveat: the opinion is in Spanish, so this post is based entirely on news reports.)  The court upheld a lower court opinion that ruled that same-sex couples must be accorded the same benefits as heterosexual couples in common-law marriages. This ruling, together with one in 2007, means that same-sex couples will have equal pension, survivor, immigration and property rights. The court reportedly relied on equality and autonomy grounds, and cited both the national constitution and international law.

Following is the statement issued by Colombia Diversa, the nation's largest lgbt rights organization (translation from Blabbeando, where there is more commentary on the decision):

Today, January 27, 2009, the Constitutional Court brought the country one step forward - a fundamental one - in matters of human rights. The High Tribunal acknowledged that a number of civil, political, social, economic, criminal and immigration rights, among others - previously reserved for heterosexual couples, also apply to same-sex couples.

In this way, Colombia has made progress in fulfilling its international commitment to incorporate Equality into its domestic legal norms, on behalf of a population that has historically been vulnerable due to their sexual orientation. Eighteen years after the enactment of the 1991 Constitution, [promoting] equality between all people, this principle has effectively been by lifting a series of limitations in Colombia that weighed down on rights, depending to the sexual orientation of individuals.

It was confirmed that equal rights cannot allow qualifications, nor exceptions nor mitigating circumstances that depend on sexual orientation.

Plaintiffs

The path that led to the Court's recent ruling began with a lawsuit. On April 28, 2008, Colombia Diversa, The Law, Justice and Society Study Center (Dejusticia), and The Public Interest Rights Group of the University of Los Andes, filed a lawsuit seeking equal rights between permanent partners, heterosexual and homosexual, and thus eliminate all forms of discrimination.

The lawsuit was actively supported by a diverse group of 32 human rights organizations, most of which do not represent an exclusive advocacy for LGBT rights. Such was the case with Human Rights Watch, the Colombian Commission of Jurists and Sisma Woman among many others (see list). Their primary interest was to bring domestic legislation in Colombia closer to a genuine concept of Equality.

Rights and responsibilities recognized

Specifically, it was a claim of unconstitutionality en masse against a series of laws that guarantee these rights and responsibilities to unmarried heterosexual couples, so that same-sex couples could be included as beneficiaries.

The plaintiffs asked the Court to extend the protections inherent in all rights afforded to heterosexual partners in a common-law union, to same sex-couples. At the same time, there was a request for the same order of duties and responsibilities for both types of couples.

In short, the rights and responsibilities that were demanded and recognized by the Court are related to:

  • Civil rights norms which establish limitations to the access and exercise of civil service and the establishment of contracts with the State.
  • Civil and political rights, such as housing protections, so that the so-called 'family patrimony' cannot be seized and [establishes] joint family housing rights [la afectación de vivienda familiar].
  • Access to a Colombian nationality, and residence in the department of San Andres and Providencia.
  • The right to benefits, allowances and compensation measures of a social nature in favor of same-sex couples.
  • This is the case with the special social security norms that apply to public law enforcement, family allowance, family allowance for housing, subsidies for rural access to property, and indemnity coverage for death in a traffic accident of a permanent partner.
  • Crime punishment and prevention norms, misconduct and the guarantee not to incriminate a partner.
  • Rights for permanent partners of victims of heinous crimes.

This new decision makes me even more excited about the upcoming Global Arc of Justice Conference at UCLA (March 11-14), where the primary focus will be on Latin America. One of the speakers will be Colombia human rights lawyer German Rincon Perfetti, who has been involved with relationship recognition issues there for many years.

An exercise in the creation of new political norms, New York style

As reported in The New York Observer, Kirsten Gillibrand's appointment as the new junior senator from New York was in effect conditioned on her endorsement of same-sex marriage. Ironically, according to this report, had she not switched political gears from her previously weak record on lgbt rights issues to take that position, Governor Paterson's alternate choice was teachers union president Randi Weingarten, who would have become the first openly gay member of the Senate.

Hours before Governor David Paterson called Gillibrand to inform her that she would replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate in the early morning hours of Jan 23, a member of the governor's camp reached out to Gillibrand to inform her that she needed to improve her lackluster standing with gay groups before she could win Paterson's appointment, according to one Democratic source.

"There are two key leadership points that could provide the cover that you need," Gillibrand was told by a Paterson ally, according to the source. The “leadership points” in question were Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle and Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

At around 5 p.m., Gillibrand and Van Capelle started playing phone tag. They finally connected at around 8 p.m. "I want to start off by saying that I'm in favor of marriage equality," Gillibrand began the call, according to Van Capelle.

Van Capelle said that position was news to him, as she had held a more conservative stance during their last discussion years earlier. But Van Capelle said he was confident that her position had evolved over time, and not just in the hours before their conversation. "She did not suddenly have her come-to-Jesus moment overnight," he said.

Asked if he reported his conversation with Gillibrand back to anyone in the Governor's office, Van Capelle declined to comment. According to Quinn's spokeswoman, Maria Alvarado, Gillibrand and Quinn also had a "productive conversation."

Paterson's advocacy for gay marriage has helped secure his popularity with progressives downstate. But with gay marriage legislation unlikely to pass this year, Paterson apparently worried that appointing a senator with a weak record on gay issues would further erode his record and threaten that support.

Gillibrand would seem to have been far from ideal in that respect. As late as the day before her selection, she had the lowest rating of all of New York's Democratic representatives from the LGBT advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign, which gave her dismal marks for her opposition to gay marriage, the repealing of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and legislation to grant same-sex partners of U.S. citizens and permanent residents the same immigration benefits of married couples.

As  Gillibrand called Quinn and Van Capelle, Paterson went about the business of delivering bad news to the other candidates. But he kept one candidate as an alternate. Even after midnight, Randi Weingarten, the openly gay teacher's union leader, had still not been told by the governor that she was out of the running. While Weingarten, whose mother is very ill, waited to hear if she would be the next Senator, Van Capelle and Quinn had apparently extracted enough guarantees from Gillibrand to give their support. With that obstacle cleared, Paterson could pick Gillibrand. He called her at around 2 a.m.

The morning of Gillibrand's selection, Van Capelle released the following statement. "After talking to Kirsten Gillibrand, I am very happy to say that New York is poised to have its first U.S. Senator who supports marriage equality for same-sex couples," said Van Capelle. "She also supports the full repeal of the federal DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) law, repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) and passage of legislation outlawing discrimination against transgender people. While we had a productive discussion about a whole range of LGBT concerns, I was particularly happy to hear where she stands on these issues."

Hours later, during a press conference to introduce herself as the state's next senator, Gillibrand stood on a stage with many of the state's elected officials and, to reporters and television cameras, stated a position on gay issues that seemed to go further than Clinton before her and Chuck Schumer, standing next to her. "I will strive for marriage equality," she said.

January 28, 2009

Impact of affirmative action quotas for women as political candidates

The authors of this online essay conclude that while they don't change deep-seated norms, quotas for women in politics work to achieve greater numbers of elected women officials:

While women have the legal right to equal participation in politics in almost every country around the world, they remain vastly underrepresented in local and national politics. As of July 2006, women accounted for only 17% of parliamentarians worldwide, and a woman headed the government in only seven countries (UNICEF, 2007). These numbers vary dramatically by region. In 2004, the highest share of female parliamentarians was found in the Nordic countries (39.7%), while the lowest was in the Arab States (6%).1

Can public policy alter this? Over a hundred countries around the world have introduced some sort of affirmative action policies for women in public office (Dahlerup, 2006). Many European countries, in particular, have such policies, although usually, the only requirement is that women make up half of the candidates. A study of France (Frechette, Maniquet and Morelli, 2007) suggested such policies may not help women gain seats (today, there are only 18% of women in the national assembly in France). In contrast, Rwanda, where a 30% gender quota has been mandated since 2003, has just become the first country in 2008 where female parliamentarians make up the majority of the legislative assembly.

How might quotas work?

One reason to expect quotas to have a long-term impact on the electoral outcomes for women is that they force voters to observe women in political leadership positions. If women, on average, perform better than anticipated by voters, then voters will be more willing to elect women candidates in future elections, even in the absence of quotas.

Work in social psychology (mainly based on laboratory experiments in the US) suggests that group stereotypes affect individual perceptions of the effectiveness of women as leaders (Huddy and Terkildsen, 1993; Eagly and Karau, 2002). In the field of politics, it would suggest that pre-existing social norms that associate leadership with men may make it harder for women to enter the political arena. The lack of exposure to female leaders would, in turn, perpetuate biased perceptions of female leader effectiveness. Regardless of competence, if women leaders are presumed to be ineffective, their chance of successfully participating in politics is slim.

Overall, little is known about the long-run impact of quota on women’s future electoral successes. This is an important question, since reservation policies are keenly debated in many countries. Showing that quotas durably level the political playing field would provide a strong argument in favour of such laws. Alternatively, if quotas were shown to provoke a backlash amongst voter and thus limit females’ electoral chances, the wisdom of such laws would be in doubt.

There is already evidence that female leaders make different policy choices once in office, specifically ones that better reflect women’s preferences (Chattopadhyay and Duflo, 2004). But how do voters and the pool of potential female candidates respond to seeing women in office?

Continue reading "Impact of affirmative action quotas for women as political candidates" »

January 27, 2009

Reflections on Prop 8 - candid, smart and funny


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Eva Jefferson Paterson, president of the Equal Justice Society in San Francisco, gave the keynote speech  at the recent Equality Summit in LA, the post-Prop 8 gathering that was - I gather- a mix of catharsis, criticism and strategizing.  Eva was fabulous when she and I were undergrads together, and she's still fabulous. 

Enjoy --  Watch this excerpt from Eva on 8


January 26, 2009

Policing procreation: what if the law followed science?

In the midst of heated debates over same-sex marriage, we tend to forget (I certainly do) another threshold eligibility term for marriage that varies among the states: the prohibition in many, but not all, states of marriage between cousins. Following is a provocative review by William Saletan, writing in Slate, of a new study that calls into question the grounds for outlawing cousin marriages. His conclusion: if we are going to police procreation by the scientific risks involved, shouldn't we follow where the data lead us?

Does science support our laws against cousin marriage? If so, does it also support other laws that would restrict sexual or procreative freedom in the name of genetic health?

[B]iologist Hamish Spencer and political scientist Diane Paul, writing in PLOS Biology, have reviewed the history of U.S. laws against cousin marriage, along with their scientific basis. [T[he evidence raises unsettling implications.

They start with the statistical case against restricting cousin marriages:

"[T]he National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) convened a group of experts to review existing studies on risks to offspring and issue recommendations for clinical practice. Their report concluded that the risks of a first-cousin union were generally much smaller than assumed—about 1.7%-2% above the background risk for congenital defects and 4.4% for pre-reproductive mortality—and did not warrant any special preconception testing. In the authors' view, neither the stigma that attaches to such unions in North America nor the laws that bar them were scientifically well-grounded."

But Paul and Spencer point out that the data aren't clear-cut. First, "statistics on the risks associated with cousin marriage are necessarily averages across many traits, and they are likely to be different for different populations." And second, it's

"inappropriate to extrapolate findings from largely outbred populations with occasional first-cousin marriages to populations with high coefficients of inbreeding and vice-versa. Standard calculations, such as the commonly cited 3% additional risk, examine a pedigree in which the ancestors (usually grandparents) are assumed to be unrelated. In North America, marriages between consanguineal kin are strongly discouraged. But such an assumption is unwarranted in the case of UK Pakistanis, who have emigrated from a country where such marriage is traditional and for whom it is estimated that roughly 55%-59% of marriages continue to be between first cousins. Thus, the usual risk estimates are misleading: data from the English West Midlands suggest that British Pakistanis account for only ~4.1% of births, but about 33% of the autosomal recessive metabolic errors recorded at birth."

In other words, the American calculations understate the risk for an already inbred population such as British Pakistanis. And calculations based on British Pakistanis overstate the risk for most American cousin couples. You can't draw a uniform line against cousin marriages based on science.

Continue reading "Policing procreation: what if the law followed science?" »

Openly gay British judge describes inquisitorial vetting process

From The Times of London:

Britain's first openly gay judge has spoken out for the first time about his "bizarre and depressing" experience of applying for judicial appointment. Sir Adrian Fulford, a High Court judge who handles terrorism cases, said that his first application to be an assistant recorder (part-time judge) in 1994 "caused real consternation".

He told a meeting on diversity hosted by the Bar's south-eastern circuit that he believed his application to be the "first time the Lord Chancellor's Department had had to deal with someone who was applying for a judicial position as an openly gay man or a lesbian, someone who made no secret of the fact".

Sir Adrian said that the normal interviewing process in the early 1990s was completely "set aside" and a "special tribunal of men in grey suits whose names I think I never knew was convened". 

"What followed was somewhat bizarre and depressing. The underlying theme was that I should simply withdraw my application. This was presented by questions to the effect of: Do you really have to pursue this?"

When he insisted that "I would not be putting myself through this rather unpleasant process unless I really wanted to be a judge, they then directed their focus, in a somewhat dramatic way, on what may or may not happen behind my closed bedroom door".

Sir Adrian was asked whether his role as junior counsel to Ann Mallalieu, QC, in the House of Lords' "sado-masochists" appeal [the Spanner case], meant that he was a "sado-masochist or had some kind of unspeakable sexual interest".

"I protested that the briefs barristers accept have nothing to do with who they are (think of all those murder trials) and that in any event, I was conventional to the point of innocence under the duvet, but it seems extraordinary that such a question could be put without any possible foundation."

Continue reading "Openly gay British judge describes inquisitorial vetting process" »

January 25, 2009

Note to 1Ls: first semester grades really DON'T end your life

This is the moment, early in the second semester, when I always tell first-year law students that they are in the roughest time in law school. Many first year law students are coping with the disappointment of their first semester grades, which have probably all been posted by now. To exacerbate the harshness of having worked extremely hard (in most cases) only to have fallen short of the top stratum of grades, students often hear that their entire law school career - indeed, their entire professional career - is determined by their first semester grades.

It's not true. Yes, high first semester grades are great, but they are not definitive. You can bring up mediocre grades. If you need any further encouragement, consider this story of a law student who went from a B- in torts to the deanship at Harvard Law and soon to be Solicitor General (from BLT) ---

In a folder in Box 571 of the Thurgood Marshall papers at the Library of Congress, one can find Elena Kagan's 1986 application to be Marshall's law clerk, along with recommendations from five Harvard Law professors, as well as her resume and even her law school transcript. That transcript indicates, interestingly, that Kagan got something of a slow start at the law school, with no A's in her first semester 1L courses. 

Kagan's Feb. 19, 1986 application letter to Marshall was straightforward and brief, ending with the sentence, "I would be honored to serve as your clerk."

In a letter of recommendation, professor Charles Nesson, who worked with Kagan as she edited an article of his for the Harvard Law Review in 1985 (she was a supervising editor,) said of her, "She understood my arguments very well, pointed out weaknesses with precision and tact, suggested specific ways to remedy them, pushed me to say what I wanted to express, and helped me express it... Indeed, I thought she was fabulous in every aspect of writing right down to spelling. I cannot give her a higher recommendation."

Abram Chayes, who taught Kagain civil procedure and then supervised her as a teaching assistant, was similarly enthusiastic. "I have no hesitation in saying she is one of the very finest students I have ever had -- not in her class alone, but among the handful of outstanding people in a decade." Confidently he added, "I believe she will number among your finest law clerks."

Kagan was also a research assistant to professor Richard Fallon, who wrote to Marshall, "Her work has been superb. She has a tough-minded lawyer's sense for the extraneous and the relevant; her critical faculties are good; and she writes clearly and well."

Randall Kennedy, himself a former Marshall clerk, reported to the justice that in his class on race and constitutional law, he had given her an A+. "Her examination paper was among the finest in a large class of highly motivated students.... I recommend her unreservedly."

Not all of Kagan's grades were A's, and one of her recommenders dealt with that fact. According to Kagan's transcript, in her first semester at the law school in 1984 she got a B- in torts and a B in criminal law. Her mark in Legal Methods is listed as "Cr." and there's a dash in the column that lists how many credits she received. She recovered in the spring semester, getting all A's except for one A-.

Frank Michelman, her property prof, said in his letter, "I am looking at her transcript as I write, and there's just no doubt that her first-year spring-term grades... not the fall-term ones, are the true reflection of her capacity and her learning. Whatever was in her way on those fall term exams, it wasn't affecting her class performance even during the fall, and evidently was gone by exam time in May."

Michelman also wrote, "From the very first exchange through the rest of that first year, Elena struck me as a student of outstanding calibre... She has about her the qualities both of seriousness and warmth, genuine and evident though not ebullient or obtrusive."

January 24, 2009

Profile of newly-appointed Justice Cameron

The NY Times today (finally) reported the selection of openly gay judge Edwin Cameron as a justice of South Africa's highest court, in a feature story that highlights his history as a fighter for the rights of other people with AIDS to gain the access he has had to life-saving drugs. (My eariler post on his work is here.)

Not to belabor the point, but ... one thing that the new administration must step up to the plate on, soon, is remedlying the total absence of openly lgbt appellate judges in the federal system. They haven't shown much concern yet with lgbt representation in other appointments, so I hope someone in the judicial nominations process is heeding Lambda's letter about the importance of judicial selection.

Sweden sets the date

An English language web site on Swedish news reports that same-sex marriage is on track to become legal in Sweden on May 1.  As noted earlier, Sweden's highest court recently rejected a claim that the country should recognize Canadian marriages between same-sex partners.  

Three of the parties in the four-party governing coalition have tabled a motion, [a procedural move] that is expected to pave the way for gay marriage in Sweden beginning May 1st this year.

The Alliance government has been split on the issue, with the junior partner Christian Democrats opposed to the use of the word "marriage" for homosexual unions. However the three other parties - the conservative Moderates, the Liberals and the Centre Party - are in favour of a gender neutral law that eliminates the current reference to marriage as something between a man and a woman. The Social Democrats, the country's biggest party, also support such a law, and together the parties would garner enough support to adopt new legislation.

Civil unions granting gays and lesbians the same legal status as married couples have been allowed in Sweden since 1995. While heterosexuals in Sweden can choose to marry in either a civil ceremony or a church ceremony, homosexuals are only allowed to register their partnerships in a civil ceremony.

HT to UK Gay News

January 23, 2009

Let's emulate this stimulus: retraining grants for caretakers

A new program in Britain, described in The Guardian:

Parents who take long career breaks to look after their children are to be rewarded with £500 in training grants to coax them back into work. The grants will be made to every person who has taken more than five years off work to care for a child or sick relative.

They are to help parents retrain after a spell out of the workforce and to ensure that those who have sacrificed some of their career to caring duties do not slip down the career ladder. Ministers want to reward people - mostly women - for the contribution their caring duties have made to society and make sure they are not disadvantaged when they return to work. The grant will be universal.

The plan, from John Denham's Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Dius), will be piloted to test the best way to allocate the grants. It is a feature of the New Opportunities white paper due next week to improve social mobility.

The money will be paid into a skills account rather than in cash and may be used for IT courses, sales and marketing or project and financial training. The funding comes after widespread concerns that women's earnings and careers are damaged after having children. On average women earn 17% less an hour full-time and 41% less part-time than men.

January 22, 2009

New polls show widespread support for every lgbt right except one, except among young

Two new polls - one of attitudes in Florida for Quinnipiac and one commissioned by Equality Utah - both show a vast gap in public support between lgbt civil rights, including a right to adopt children, and a right to marry. Meanwhile, the annual study of attitudes among college freshmen shows two out of three first year college students support marriage equality, yet another confirmation of its seeming inevitability.

From 365 News:

In Florida, the poll by Quinnipiac University found that 55 percent favor  abolishing the state law that prohibits gays from adopting, while 39 percent said the law should be maintained.

When it came to same-sex relationships, 62 percent favor some sort of recognition, with 27 percent supporting marriage and 35 percent favoring civil unions. Only 31 percent said there should be no legal recognition of gay unions.

Democrats and independent voters were most gay-supportive while Republicans and white evangelical Christians were most negative.

Florida voters in November amended the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. A legal challenge to the state ban on gays adopting children is expected to be heard by the Florida Supreme Court later this year.

In Utah, a poll commissioned by Equality Utah found that 63 percent support gay legal protections including some rights for same-sex couples.

Utah bans same-sex marriage. Bills to bar discrimination against gays in employment and housing and to provide for domestic partnerships and guarantee partner hospital visitation rights are expected to be considered this year by the legislature.

The survey found that 62 percent believe it should be illegal to fire someone for being gay and 57 percent said it should be illegal to deny housing to someone for being gay.

On the issue of partner rights, 73 percent said they would support health insurance coverage for a partner or other designated adult for state employees. Utahans, however, are not ready for same-sex marriage.  Only 20 percent said they supported gay marriage.

I wonder if this gap is widening and what impact, if any, the Prop 8 vote will have on it.

Polls on mar, CU This chart mapping poll results from the Pew Foundation shows a sharp uptick in support for marriage equality from 2004 to 2005, and a slower increase in support since then. (These numbers pre-date the 2008 election.) Support for gay marriage in California - 48% in the Prop 8 vote - runs about 10% above the national average.














January 20, 2009

Happy new era

 

My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

Continue reading "Happy new era" »