Having won the hearts and minds of the majority of US citizens through intelligent, informed messages of hope and "change we can believe in," President Obama took the next step in heralding in a new era in US history: the Era of Responsibility. President Obama's inaugural speech struck the delicate balance between celebrating US history, values, and identity, while also putting forward a set of difficult yet purposeful imperatives for US citizens. In a statement that addressed the rhetoric of a bygone era in which regulatory- and policy-driven decisions were purportedly at odds with running an efficient government, President Obama reframed the rhetoric and asked:
The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works, whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end.
Carefully avoiding the blame game but asserting accountability, President Obama skillfully pointed to the recent catastrophic failure of the U.S. and, by extension, of the global economy, to "correct itself" in light of financial scandals and mismanagement. For many American, the reality of job layoffs and the rapidly growing outplacement industry has been and continues to be frustrating. Where in fact will all these folks be "outplaced" to?
Financial firms that have opted to increase the outsourcing of IT services offer a short-term though treacherous solution to their grim balance sheets: outsource to India. The recent high-profile fraud scandal at one of the world's largest Indian-based outsourcing companies, Satyam, adds a new layer to the financial risk associated with overseas outsourcing (we have our own in-house scandals; why import them?). Infosys, a Satyam competitor, spoke to the more pervasive security and physical risk inherent in doing business overseas and points to the need for responsible mitigation of risk. But here's where the narrative twists...
In an effort to deal with the global credit crisis, Fidelity Investments, a leading financial firm, recently proposed selling its Indian-based technology support unit. Both Infosys and Satyam are among the potential bidders. So companies like Fidelity are laying off employees in the U.S. while simultaneously feeding the outsourcing industry, either by purchasing services directly or selling off a piece of their own holdings to outsourcing firms. It's hard to see how this process could bode well for the U.S. economy. This is where responsible, long-term industry and governmental leadership is key to moving forward. President Obama's closing remarks reminds us that each of us is, indeed, responsible for the future of the United States:
In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by nine campfires on the shores of an icy river.
The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood.
At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words to be read to the people:
"Let it be told to the future world that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet it."
America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words; with hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come; let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.