Friday, July 24, 2009

Obama's Proclamation Hardly Captivating

Last weekend, President Obama delivered his version of the Captive Nations Week proclamation. The original Captives Nation Week resolution, signed into law by President Eisenhower in 1959, not only decried oppression world-wide, but also mandated that the United States, as “the citadel of human freedom,” provide “leadership in bringing about [Captive Nations’] liberation and independence.” However, although the President spoke to the value of “fundamental freedoms” and “universal principles,” his words lacked the passion and conviction needed to demonstrate America’s commitment to advancing freedom to all corners of the earth.

For instance, President Obama’s proclamation was completely devoid of any mention of democracy. This should come as no surprise. In the president’s first half year in office, he has all but abandoned supporting democracy abroad, even in places where the foundations have already been laid.

Furthermore, the President refrained from mentioning any oppressive regime by name, in fact, choosing not even to address the concept at all. Compare this meager approach to President Bush’s 2008 Captives Nation proclamation, which unabashedly acknowledged the existence of ruthless governments “who murder the innocent and seek to subject millions to their violent, totalitarian rule.” Bush went on to pointedly call out eight freedom-stifling regimes by name, while also firmly stating a need to support the fledgling democracies of Afghanistan and Iraq.

In his remarks, President Obama declared that advancing freedom is in America’s interests, “not only because it is right, but also because our Nation’s fate is connected to that of other nations.” While Obama claims to understand the significance of championing liberty and human rights globally, his inaction and passionless words to this point don’t back him up.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Restoration of Quito Culture

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal this past weekend about the cleaning up of the city of Quito (San Francisco de Quito) in Ecuador, which has, in the recent past, been known for the danger lurking in its streets, especially after dark. According to the article, Quito is quickly gaining the attention of more tourists as it re-orients itself to its rich cultural history and establishes a safer environment for visitors and natives alike.

The city was founded in 1534 when the Spanish conquered the Quitu tribe. Almost immediately, the victors began the construction of the oldest Catholic Church in the city, Iglesia de San Francisco, and planted the seeds of Catholicism there, allowing for the establishment of the Diocese of Quito in 1545 and the archdiocese in 1849. The city was a colony of Spain up until the early 19th century, when it finally gained independence from Spain in 1822 and was annexed to the Republic of Gran Columbia. In 1830, it was named the capital city of the Republic of Ecuador, and during its independent existence has been the site of numerous periods of civil discord.

Now in an effort to attract more tuorists, the city is taking advantage of its cultural gems, such as the Church of San Francisco (Iglesia de San Francisco) that is currently undergoing a renovation, and officials are working to drive out the rampant prostitution and theft. The Journal article did not report on any activity of the Church in pushing these reforms, but I hope that the renovation of the oldest church is more than just a facelift for the building and instead also indicates a commitment to the continual rejuvenation of the faith life among the Ecuadorian people. True cultural revival of the city would be impossible if such an element were to be neglected!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Today in History

Today marks the 40th anniversary of man's first successful space landing on the moon. As we celebrate not only this feat, but also how far astronautical exploration has come since 1969, we should also keep in mind other great things that happened on this day in history. Here is the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (In no particular order)...

1773 - Clement XIV issued the brief, 'Dominus ac redemptor noster,' officially dissolving the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). The Society was restored in 1814 by Pius VII.

1861 - First battle of the American Civil War (Battle of Bull Run) ends, the South is victorious giving rise to the Confederate Army.

1873 - Jesse James exercises his first train robbery.

1898 - Spain cedes Guam to the United States.

1899 - Ernest Hemingway is born.

1925 - The "Monkey Trial," as known as "The Trial of the Century," ends. John Scopes convicted of violating state law for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution in the classroom. (Conviction later overturned).

1930 - The US Veterans Administration is established.

1938 - Janet Reno, first US attorney general, is born.

1949 - US Senate ratify the North Atlantic Treaty (NATO).

1954 - France surrenders Vietnam (North and South) to the Communists.

1960 - In Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) Sirima Bandaranaike becomes the world's first woman Prime Minister.

1972 - 57 murders occur within a 24-hour time span in New York City.

1978 - World's strongest dog, 80-kg St Bernard, pulls 2909-kg load 27 m.

2007 - "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," the final volume of the wizard series by J.K. Rowling, goes on sale.

2009 - Mary Daly writes this post.