GBC’s Fry: Obama’s ‘new era of responsibility’

Don Fry Commentary on WYPR

Anyone expecting eloquent, triumphant oratory from President Barack Obama’s inauguration speech may have been slightly disappointed.

There was no soaring rhetoric rivaling John Kennedy’s “ask not what your country can do for you” nor an inspiring metaphor comparable to Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on a hill.”

What Americans got from President Obama instead was something we needed more – a sobering sermon.

He got to the point immediately — our country faces challenges that threaten our economy, our safety, and our way of life. He reminded us of the sacrifices made by men and women who have gone before us to build and protect our nation. He chided us for, as he put it, “our collective failure to make hard choices” and asked us to pledge ourselves to a “new era of responsibility.”

It occurs to me that this is precisely the message for our time. The implications of such a pledge are far reaching for government.

On Capitol Hill, it would mean squarely confronting issues such as social security, health care, and the nation’s deteriorating infrastructure.

In Maryland’s State House, a “new era of responsibility” would translate into maintaining an institutional mindset that would include, among other things, focusing on long-term strategic priorities rather than short-term tactical patches, steering clear of enacting budgets with unfunded mandates, and making an unrelenting commitment to accountability – measuring what works and what doesn’t.

But an “era of responsibility” is not just about government. It’s about government’s constituents – us. For the business community it’s about staying informed about government policies not just after they are enacted, but while they are being considered. It’s also about communication – taking the time to make sure our elected representatives hear from business in meaningful ways.

President Obama is challenging us all, as a nation of diverse interests but one future together, to break out of our “business as usual” rut to get our country back on track. It’s a difficult challenge, to be sure, but one well worth pursuing with vigor.

For the Regional Business Report, this is Don Fry, President and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, for 88.1 WYPR, your NPR news station.

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