Naïve idealism / bitter realism

As we enter a new era, I think it is worth noting our new President’s concise summary of the writings of American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. As I’ve mentioned here before, I read Niebuhr’s Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic a couple months ago and really liked his ideas and musings. New York Times conservative columnist David Brooks, also a fan of Niebuhr’s writings, asked Obama almost two years ago if he was familiar with Niebuhr. Obama immediately responded that Niebuhr is one of his favorite philosophers, and when asked what he takes away from his writing, said the following:

“I take away,” Obama answered in a rush of words, “the compelling idea that there’s serious evil in the world, and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. I take away … the sense we have to make these efforts knowing they are hard, and not swinging from naïve idealism to bitter realism.”

You can read Brooks’ NTY article here. And here’s looking forward to the next four years.

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