Solve all problems before celebrating
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is one of the highest awards a civilian can receive in the United States. President Barack Obama handed out fifteen of them yesterday, to an eclectic mix of people, ranging from former President George W. Bush to baseball legend Stan Musial. While we think it's great that Obama saw it fit to publicly honor people who deserve praise, we cannot help but think that this awards ceremony serves as little more than a feel-good moment — a publicity stunt meant to bolster American self-confidence.
Obama said that the winners of the medal this year are people who "reveal the best of who we are and who we aspire to be." Rhetoric such as this — even though it was most likely issued with the best of intentions — is reminiscent of the sort of speeches most people's elementary school teachers used to make in class about aiming high, shooting for the stars, dreaming big and so forth. Of course, there is often room for such encouragement, and people should always strive to achieve their grandest dreams, but when Obama stands in front of a crowd and talks about the aspirations of Americans to be like these people, it can feel kind of empty and almost patronizing.
Let's not forget that the United States is currently in turmoil — it may not be turmoil similar to that which is spreading through the Middle East, but it is turmoil nonetheless. The opposite sides of the political spectrum are constantly warring with each other, sometimes over the most trivial of matters. The gap between the rich and the poor seems an unbridgeable chasm. Some are warning of a possible oncoming federal government shutdown because of fierce budget debates in Congress. The point is, the United States has a lot on its plate right now and watching a group of successful, talented and brave people lineup to receive medals is not doing anything to address the mess we are currently in.
Now is not the time for victory laps. Now is the time to face the challenges plaguing the nation. Americans should be aspiring to repair their nation. Once that's all taken care of, there will be plenty of time to bask in the accomplishments of great Americans. It isn't that we do not appreciate what the recipients of the Medal of Freedom have done — on the contrary, we thoroughly applaud them. Rather, we feel that there are some very pressing matters that need be taken care of, and an awards ceremony such as this only serves to highlight those problems.