It was the conclusion of President Obama's address on health care that truly moved me. I heard strong echoes of Catholic social justice teaching, in both the words of Sen. Ted Kennedy, and in Obama's own embrace of the philosophy of the "common good."
Obama quoted a letter written in May by Sen. Kennedy reminding him that health care "concerns more than material things." "What we face," he wrote, "is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country."
"Social justice!" How long has it been since we've heard a president utter that phrase? Too long.
Obama continued on that theme as he laid out, almost professorially, a mini-history of the competing philosophies that have shaped our political history … rugged individualism and self-reliance with its skepticism of government vs. a concern for the other and a realization that justice and fair play demand a positive role for government. And then, he came down squarely in favor of the latter:
Explore Pope Francis' environmental encyclical: Get this free readers' guide when you sign up for the weekly Eco Catholic email.
As I heard those words, I wondered if Obama's own experience as a community organizer, working with Catholic Charities on the south side of Chicago, had more influence on him than we knew.
PS: Read Tom Fox's earlier blog post for an extended excerpt of this part of the president's speech: Obama's moral case for health care
Just $5 a month supports NCR's independent Catholic journalism.
We are committed to keeping our online journalism open and available to as many readers as possible. To do that, we need your help. Join NCR Forward, our new membership program.
Looking for comments?
We've suspended comments on NCRonline.org for a while. If you missed that announcement, learn more about our decision here.