Jeff Mikels » January 30, 2008

Daily Archives: January 30, 2008

Front Page Leadership

2008 State of the Union Address

I just read the transcript for President Bush’s State of the Union Address before Congress and I must say that I was rather impressed.

I have never known the man to deliver a riveting speech, but the text of this address is profound nonetheless. He of course reports on the various successes that his programs and policies have brought about over the past 7 years and he encourages Congress to simply continue all they have been doing. He proposes one or two new concepts, but by and large, it’s all about continuing to do what has already been done.

However, there was an obviously strong theme running through the entire speech: Trust.

Here’s the key paragraph:

In the work ahead, we must be guided by the philosophy that made our nation great. As Americans, we believe in the power of individuals to determine their destiny and shape the course of history. We believe that the most reliable guide for our country is the collective wisdom of ordinary citizens. So in all we do, we must trust in the ability of free people to make wise decisions, and empower them to improve their lives and their futures.

The beginning of every following theme was a statement on what we should trust.

  • …trust the people with their own money…
  • …earn their trust by spending tax dollars wisely… (with a clear challenge to congressional earmarks)
  • …trust patients and doctors to make medical decisions…
  • …trust students to learn if given the chance…

One of my favorite parts was in his discussion of making the tax relief permanent.

We have other work to do on taxes. Unless the Congress acts, most of the tax relief we have delivered over the past 7 years will be taken away. Some in Washington argue that letting tax relief expire is not a tax increase. Try explaining that to 116 million American taxpayers who would see their taxes rise by an average of $1,800. Others have said they would personally be happy to pay higher taxes. I welcome their enthusiasm, and I am pleased to report that the IRS accepts both checks and money orders.

He had a pretty good “I told you so” moment when talking about scientific research over stem cells.

On matters of science and life, we must trust in the innovative spirit of medical researchers and empower them to discover new treatments while respecting moral boundaries. In November, we witnessed a landmark achievement when scientists discovered a way to reprogram adult skin cells to act like embryonic stem cells. This breakthrough has the potential to move us beyond the divisive debates of the past by extending the frontiers of medicine without the destruction of human life. So we are expanding funding for this type of ethical medical research. And as we explore promising avenues of research, we must also ensure that all life is treated with the dignity it deserves. So I call on the Congress to pass legislation that bans unethical practices such as the buying, selling, patenting, or cloning of human life.

Whom should we trust?

Of course, as a pastor, I am always thinking of the deeper implications of our culture and our words, and I’m thinking especially about the philosophy quoted at the beginning of the speech.

We believe that the most reliable guide for our country is the collective wisdom of ordinary citizens.

There is no doubt that this philosophy has been the most powerfully successful governmental philosophy of the last 1000 years, economically speaking. But the question I have is whether this has been the best philosophy morally and spiritually. Don’t get me wrong! I’m glad this is the philosophy of our country. This very thought gives me the freedom to follow God fully with my life, and I would not change it for the world.

Nevertheless, this philosophy is based upon the notion that collective humanity is inherently good and wise, and we should remember that humans are still deeply scarred with sin. I am grateful to God that He has given us his grace enough so that despite the ravaging effects of sin, our reason and our conscience remain relatively able to deal with issues of governance.

But what about the moral issues? I find it interesting that were it not for a single individual at the top level of our government, the concept of using human embryos for stem cells would have been considered a “no-brainer” “done-deal” issue. However, the moral fiber of a single man put a ban on that kind of research which forced new kinds of research and the discovery of new ways to develop stem cells. That’s just an example.

So here’s the $64,000 question. Concerning which issues can the collective wisdom of the people be trusted? As a sideline question, who gets to determine which issues are “collective” issues and which issues are “moral leader” issues?

If you have 20 minutes, I encourage you to read through it all and leave your comments here on what you think.

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