Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Renewing An Old Debate

Today, the theme at the DNC is Renewing America's Promise:

DENVER--With millions of Americans struggling to get by, the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) and the Obama for America Campaign announced today that some of America's strongest leaders on the economy and energy will speak about how to renew America's promise on Tuesday night of the Convention. America's top Governors, Senators and a former Secretary of Energy and Transportation will echo Barack Obama's call for a new economy with new energy.

We discussed this a few week's ago on the radio show and when Saint Paul mentioned this theme, it seemed very familiar to me. It took me a few minutes to realize how close it was to the title of a book of policy prescriptions as well as theme of the convention acceptance speech by a recent presidential candidate.

GOP Convention: Gov. George W. Bush -- August 3, 2000

Mr. Chairman, delegates, and my fellow citizens ... I accept your nomination. Thank you for this honor. Together, we will renew America's purpose.

Our founders first defined that purpose here in Philadelphia ... Ben Franklin was here. Thomas Jefferson. And, of course, George Washington -- or, as his friends called him, "George W."

Gotta love the humor, don't ya? Yes friends, it was only eight short years ago that George W. Bush ran on the theme "Renewing America's Purpose." I have a copy of the book by that name that was distributed at the 2000 RNC in Philadelphia.

As similar as the themes sound, there are differentiated by a key word. And as Saint Paul also noted a few weeks ago on the radio, there is world of difference between "purpose" and "promise."

definition of purpose by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.

pur·pose (pĂ»rps)
1. The object toward which one strives or for which something exists; an aim or a goal: "And ever those, who would enjoyment gain/Must find it in the purpose they pursue" Sarah Josepha Hale.
2. A result or effect that is intended or desired; an intention. See Synonyms at intention.
3. Determination; resolution: He was a man of purpose.
4. The matter at hand; the point at issue.
tr.v. pur·posed, pur·pos·ing, pur·pos·es
To intend or resolve to perform or accomplish.

Note the words used. Strong, clear words of action. When used with America, the word purpose focuses on the why. This is why we do what we do. While there is an aim or goal toward which we strive, their isn't an expectation of what that will mean. There is also a sense of duty in this why. The scope of purpose is defined and therefore limited.

And then you have the definition of promise by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.

prom·ise (prms)
a. A declaration assuring that one will or will not do something; a vow.
b. Something promised.
2. Indication of something favorable to come; expectation: a promise of spring in the air.
3. Indication of future excellence or success: a player of great promise.
v. prom·ised, prom·is·ing, prom·is·es
1. To commit oneself by a promise to do or give; pledge: left but promised to return.
2. To afford a basis for expecting: thunderclouds that promise rain.
1. To make a declaration assuring that something will or will not be done.
2. To afford a basis for expectation: an enterprise that promises well.

While there are some strong words with promise, there's also more passivity. An expectation, an indication of something. The focus with America now isn't on the why but on the what. What is our expectation of America? What have we been promised? There's a connotation of being owed. But what this is can be vague and open to interpretation. It can almost be unlimited.

At times, one word can make all the difference.

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