The special importance of one phrase from the President’s inaugural speech

January 31, 2013

“From Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall”—the Importance of Recognition.
Writing in The Nation, Melissa Harris-Perry has given us this thoughtful and moving essay about President Obama’s second inaugural speech. She calls attention especially to this statement: “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths—that all of us are created equal—is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall. . . .” Harris-Perry says that “when the president name-checked the watershed moments of the women’s rights, civil rights, and LGBT equality movements, he offered a powerful moment of official recognition,” and she goes on to tell why fair and accurate recognition of the humanity and unique identity of any social group is not only meaningful but crucial (a point she also made in her recent book, Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America). “All presidents use inaugural addresses to reflect on the American people” she says, “But naming citizens solely by their national identity ignores how identities like gender, race, class, and sexual orientation profoundly shape what it means to be an American.”

Letha Dawson Scanzoni
Letha Dawson Scanzoni is an independent scholar, writer, and editor. In 1978, she and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott wrote Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?, one of the earliest books urging evangelical Christians to rethink their views on homosexuality (updated edition, 1994, HarperOne). More recently, Letha coauthored (with social psychologist David G. Myers) What God Has Joined Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage (HarperOne, 2005 and 2006). Another of Letha’s most well-known books is All We’re Meant to Be: Biblical Feminism for Today, coauthored with Nancy A. Hardesty (Word Books, 1974; revised edition, Abingdon, 1986; updated and expanded edition, Eerdmans, 1992).

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