January 21, 2009

The Scale of Our Ambitions

Photo via The White House

"...The challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met." --Barack Obama, January 20th, 2009.

I know not everyone was fortunate enough to be able to interrupt a busy workday in order to catch President Obama's inaugural address. But for those of us who saw it: did anyone else find it moving and inspiring?

Politicians are in the business of stringing pretty words together. They tell us flattering things about ourselves and make far-reaching promises for a bright and noble future. Mostly, I don't pay much attention.

This time felt different.

What? Crabby McSlacker, known for her laziness, skepticism, and whining, felt inspired, moved, and energized by a politician's speech? What's this world coming to?

I have to confess, I heard the inaugural address through a partisan filter. Overcome with euphoria at the long-awaited end of the Bush era, I might have cheered the words of an incoming President SpongeBob SquarePants if that's who we'd voted into office.

But re-reading Obama's speech, I'm pretty sure that at least part of my reaction had to do with his eloquent and stirring call to action, and not just my excitement to see the old administration come to a close.

I Needed A Boost

I spend a fair amount of time on the internet reading about health and fitness. Which sounds wholesome and all, but it's frankly sometimes discouraging. We're an unhealthy nation, yet we obsess about flat stomachs and worship anorexic fashion models and act like a bacon cheeseburger, extra large fries and a 64 ounce soft drink is a normal healthy meal.

But aren't there larger, more important issues than the vanity-inspired quest to fit into our skinniest pair of jeans? Yes, I believe there are. First the Fit Bottomed Girls reminded me with a great MLK-themed post, and then Obama came along and gave me another reason to feel like bigger things were at stake.

His speech was not made to Crabby McSlacker about her little health and fitness blog. But... let's pretend it was, shall we? So here, addressing the direction of Cranky Fitness instead of speaking to a troubled world in dire need of hope and new solutions, is President Barack Obama. (And my goodness is that fun to type! President Barack Obama!)

1. On Finding Common Ground

"On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord... We come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas..."

Wait, we're supposed to all get along?

In the health and fitness world, we all have our favorite theories about food and fitness. The Atkins people and the Vegans and Weight Watchers and Cronies and Primal folks and the marathoners and the weight lifters and even the Skinny Bitches all take different approaches. And gosh is it fun to argue about it!

Yet all these different camps share some universal goals: to encourage everyone to have a fit, healthy, strong body and a fulfilling and active life.

So why do we spend so much time emphasizing our differences? The vast majority of folks out there are still eating Twinkies and need our encouragement eating any sort of healthy food and getting any sort of exercise.

I know I spend a lot of time poking fun at people who say things I don't agree with. So in the future, instead of mocking others for taking points of view different from mine, I'll ...

Yeah, so I'm lying. I'm gonna keep right on making fun of things I think are dumb. This is Cranky Fitness after all.

However, I'll try to mention a few more positives! And I'll also remember to poke equal fun at myself too, for all the dumb things I fall for. Thanks, Barack!

2. On Acting Like Adults

"The time has come to set aside childish things..."

So many of our personal health and fitness challenges could be easily met if we did a better job of acting like grownups. I'm incredibly fortunate: I can afford healthy food; I have enough spare time to exercise, and I have a safe, non-violent, non-toxic place to live and work and thrive. Yet all too often I sabotage my own health with childish decisions and poison myself with nasty chemicals just because they taste good!

So many people don't even have healthy options; how can I just waste mine?

There is something about having a smart, serious, self-disciplined adult leading our nation that makes me want to try harder not to conduct myself like a selfish infant. For example, if President Obama isn't too busy leading the free world to work out regularly... um, just what the heck is my excuse???

So sure, Mr. President, I'll set aside those childish things... er, just as soon as I finish this cupcake.

3. On Earning Achievements (Uh Oh).

"In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame."

No short cuts? No preferring leisure over work?

Sorry, Barack, I'm gonna have to think this one over a bit and get back to you. I'm not sure I'm ready to change my name to Crabby McDiligent. In fact, "the pleasures of riches and fame" sound kinda cool. Is there any way I could have some of that without any actual effort on my part?

Sigh. You're right, though. I'll try, I promise, to be a little less Slacky.

Oh, unless you were just talking to the One Rule For a Flat Stomach folks?

You weren't, were you. Darn.

4. On Helping Others

"For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate."

These examples, like the "Dreams" post I mentioned above over at FBG, remind me that so many people are in need. There are families all over the world who are caught in wars, suffer horrible abuse, and don't even have the basics in terms of sanitation, food, and drinking water. And there are plenty closer to home who are suffering as well. Whether it be money, time, or even a kind or encouraging word at just the right moment... there will always be a need for whatever we can spare. There may be scary times ahead before things get better.

So no smartass asides here, Mr. President... this is good stuff.

5. On The Power of Big Plans

"Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage."

I tend to focus on the Cranky part of Cranky Fitness--how hard it all seems sometimes to forego the easy road; to do the work necessary and battle the seductive temptations of a self-indulgent lifestyle.

But I often forget to mention, let alone celebrate, the amazing victories ordinary folks have achieved through determination and hard work! And not just for themselves, but for their families and communities.

Words have power to inspire, and with inspiration comes action, and with action comes change.

President Barack Obama, if the power of your words could inspire me, Crabby McSlacker, into wanting to make changes in my own life... then wow, words must be powerful motivators! Perhaps I should remember to use that power for good occasionally and not just snarkiness.

"What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them."

Has it? Did I just feel something quiver? That would be wonderful indeed.

Does anyone else feel hopeful or inspired despite the hard times that loom ahead? What helps you feel more energized and less discouraged?


  1. Great post, Crabby.

    I too was inspired by yesterday's speech. I think reminding myself of how far I've come in my own journey, how good I have it compared to so many others in this world and how much I truly want to make a positive impact on others will help push me along. But there has to be some snarkiness too. I wouldn't be me if there wasn't.

    And that comment you made about our Prez having time to exercise with his busy schedule? So using that to keep me from slacking off from now on. ;)

  2. I was not necessarily an Obama supporter (not that I was a mccain girl either) - I have a difficult time with politicians doing whatever they want regardless of promises. But, he has a way of charming the socks off of people! And, yes it did feel sincere and gave people the hope we so desperately need after Bush's terms. I was 100% impressed and moved by his words. I hope he lives up to just a quarter of what he says he'll do and his potential. We will be a great country if he can pull that off.

  3. Your new President's speech even moved me, and I'm not American. Our two countries are so closely linked, though, that what happens to you affects us, too.

    He is charismatic, charming, and, most importantly, seems so much more selfless and grown up than the previous administration.

    He is going to need the support of the American people to follow through with his plans, but, judging from the millions of people who flocked to the inauguration, he's got that.....

  4. I pledge to not give lipservice to working and changing my real life community.

    to step up and step OUT of my comfortzone in service and say not a word to my daughter but lead by example.

  5. I watched the inauguration at the gym, natch;) But I have to say that watching it happen live in a big group of people was one of the best political experiences of my life. When he took the oath of office, everyone cheered and clapped. I got downright teary:) It was a beautiful moment and made me grateful that I voted for him. Great post, Crabby!

  6. Fab Post and I congratulate you on your desire to grab a hold of your inspiration and apply it towards constructive efforts!

    I'll take a piece of that!

  7. Wonderful post, Crabby!!

    It's nice for people to be optimistic and hopeful for a change.

  8. Excellent post Crabby!

    Crabby McDiligent made me choke on my coffee!! So funny! =)

  9. Yeah, it was good for me, too; I could feel the positive vibes crackling in the air all the way out here in California.

    Would it be disrespectful for me to call him the Big O?

  10. This post was so very clever! I, ever the skeptic, found it fun/interesting to read excerpts from his speech when tied to something I care about in a cute way! :)

    Our office turned it on all over the place so we were able to see it - it was GREAT - he is such a motivational speaker and you can just feel that he wants what's best and will try to do the right thing.

  11. Whoo hoo! Listen the man can talk...(and yes I felt inspired and hopeful) and I'm sure hoping that he's going to be allowed to walk his talk. Now that would be a great exercise program!

    Me? Sorry but I'm afraid I'm still going to be poking holes into diets that don't work!

  12. Clever post Crabby! Love the tie ins.

    I'm in the same camp as Diana. I too have a hard time with Politicians although I follow politics and I vote in every election, I just want them to get down to business and do what the people want. It's too soon to say anything about his presidency since he just was sworn in yesterday but I too am hopeful and want the best for my country. His speech was excellent.

  13. I'm sad I missed his speech yesterday, but I am so very inspired by the bits of speech you included in this post.
    I truly hope that society will make a change back towards community and working together to improve...it's a sincere change in attitude that we need for things to get better.

  14. It really was a great speech and I love how you broke it down.

    All the naysayers give him hell for repeatedly using the words hope and change but after years of Bush, I think we need a president that inspires us to hope again and to change our world. That's not something he can do alone, he will do his part but that includes inspiring us to do our part.

  15. And now, we need to remember both for ourselves and for Obama that change is hard, and change does not come overnight, but change does come if we stay on the right path.

    My greatest fear on the political front is that the weight of expectations are too much; that if miracles don't occur overnight, the nation will think it's all more of the same.

    It's pretty easy to think that way about fitness goals, too, especially when progress is slow or hard to measure.

  16. Everyone has a fav quote - glad to see I'm not the only one applying his speech to the challenges in my own life rather than the mind-bending ones that face a nation.

    I liked, "...there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task." - Barack Obama

  17. Great post. I'm holding off on watching the speech, because I'm not feeling well, and tend to spew venom at uplifting things when I'm sick, and want to wait until I can think about what he's saying.

  18. Go ahead and watch it, Tricia. Put your hand on the screen, feel the power and be HEALED, hallelujah!

    OK, I'm exaggerating, but it was a damn fine speech.

    I recently read Dreams From My Father, which is Obama's first book he wrote back in 1994, before he was even nominated for Senator. I highly recommend it to everyone who wants to get a glimpse of the heart and soul of our new leader.

  19. The ability to inspire is a true gift that not many can accomplish. When all else around you is falling, but there is one shred of hope we gravitate to it. I think this may be one of those times.

    Very good post Crabby.

  20. Yep, I'm full of hope. Great speech! Don't let us down, Mr. President!

  21. I have to admit, I cried. I was watching the speech with so much relief and hope filling my heart that I just busted out crying.

    He is an inspiring speaker, and he knew what we all needed to hear.

    It's going to be hard, but we can do it.

    Just like loosing weight and getting fit ^_^

  22. Excellent post! I admit that I had tears in my eyes as he was taking the oath. He definitely inspired me, and your post inspired me too. :)

  23. I consider myself a practical optimist, so I was very inspired and relieved by Obama's speech. He called on all of us to grow up, work together, and look beyond just our own convenience. How refreshing!

    I love your fitness take on acting like adults. I've struggled in the last few weeks with finding motivation to get my butt out of bed on cold dark mornings. (I live in Houston! Cold and dark is unnatural!) But I'm reminded of the many examples I see every day of people making silly excuses for why the don't do the healthy thing.

    My own husband is forever re-starting his running program, but he layers so many conditions on it that he ends up running maybe once every other week, at best. Hey, if your goal is to start a running program, you can't say you'll only run at this one place at this particular time in these particular weather conditions.

    The same holds true for any goal. Do we want the goal or do we want to nit-pick the conditions all day long? Choosing the goal means choosing to make some sacrifices. Time to put away childish things!

  24. Oh gosh, I loved it (though I too would have cheered for Sponge Bob if it meant no more Bush).


  25. Crabby,

    Beautiful post. You really outdid yourself. Number 4 made me a little teary eyed.

    I DO feel hopeful and inspired. We all have challenges that need to be dealt with, both individually and collectively. But challenges have a wonderful way of gifting us with a more healthy perspective, if we choose to accept the present.

  26. (HaHaHaHa--"Sponge Bob!")

    Me too, me too, me too. I got up today and felt like a million bucks! When I should have had a champagne hangover! I feel like THIS is really the start of the New Year. After New Year's Day I was just a slacker...now I realize I was just slogging/sleeping through the end of the Bush Era.

    Now I'm FIRED UP and READY TO GO!

  27. I too was very moved by his speech. What made me sad however was the commentary of one of the CNN pundits who exclaimed that there was no one sentence in his address that resonated... much like "nothing to fear but fear itself" or "ask not what your country can do for you...." What I think that commentator missed was that Obama's speech was not about writing a line for all time, it was about writing a stirring for the moment-- it was not about textbook rememberances, it was about motivating, quelling fear at home and abroad, and very much about addressing right here, right now. I think the reason his speech really does resonate with people is that he did exactly that.

    its funny to me how so many people were calling for him to speak to the ages and he refused to do that. and while we define great presidents in terms of speaking to the ages, i think his greatness will come from just being in the moment.

    great post, per usual, Crabby McDiligent.

  28. Loved the idea of President Spongebob.

    I feel inspired. I am hopeful.

    I like Prez Obama who seems like he's not intentionally deluding the public (or himself). Someone who speaks of responsibility, and real challenges (and those challenges aren't manufactured by the government already in place). I am not inspired by someone who creates a problem and then, out of the other side of his butt, tells the taxpayers that we have to hurry and give money to help with the problem they created or else.

    I am ready for a government that is done bullshitting and talking to us as if we don't have a clue that they are bullshitting.

  29. I like your interpretation of President Obama's speech. I also feel very honored and excited to have a new boss (I'm a federal employee)!

  30. Crabby,

    This post is so great that I had to comment. (I read every day without fail, but fail to comment most days.) The speech was beautiful and just right for the times.

    You have Obama's insightfulness and practicality, and the ability to coax and inspire. He just gave the speech yesterday, and already you've written this post! You really are much more McDiligent than McSlacker.

    Welcome to a new era, everybody!

    P.S. Does anyone think Chief Justice Roberts messed up the oath on purpose?

  31. Crabby,
    Hell yes there are other people who found that speech moving and inspiring! I wiped away more than a few tears while listening to it. I love how you applied the speech to all your Crabbiness! Fabulous! I am feeling so hopeful and that is such a nice change of pace. :)

  32. LOVE him. (Morack Borama as my kids would say)

    Loved the speech. Definitely feeling the unity. It's crazy how America just feels like a different place...after one day!

  33. I love Obama and the rest of his family. Michelle is fabulous and the girls are adorable. As a future social worker and as an American, I was so proud yesterday!! (And still am today!)

    Finally, a president who's smarter than I am ....

  34. I celebrated too, the US’s civil transition of power, the demonstration that being black is often more an asset in public life rather than a detriment, and that the evil of bigoted limits on people are truly in the past. Yet, I don’t hold the feelings that President Obama’s administration through unspecified means is going to make improvements in every aspect of life or even the general economy. All his proposals take money out of the hands of the individual and expand government when all history’s real economic expansions have been via free market investment, not government spending; even China has embraced more capitalism and demonstrated how it has grown its economy at an increasing rate. Yet, the new President’s words sound as calls to personal action and responsibility. The onus is on us to turn this around and those words are true, but the actions he’s taken so far are not. The stimulus package if it can make 3 to 4 million jobs will do so at a cost of 200 to 300 thousand dollars each. If you were to be offered a $40,000 dollar a year construction job or $250,000 what would you choose? The congress and Pres. Obama are choosing to create the jobs at the expense of a huge amount of debt. True the money will come from the rich, but they will not be able to invest into growing businesses thus it will take more out of the US economy than it will put in. I’m sorry, but I get excited about reality not some blind (or should I say deceptive) hope. God knows there are plenty of opportunities to improve what government is involved in and elimination of quasi-government Corporations like the Fanny and Freddy are sorely needed, but so far all we have from Pres. Obama is an expansion of debt to supposedly solve a debt crisis. My hope is that it’s not just another bubble that will pop, but that the economy can grow despite the extra weight of the debt burden even if Pres. Obama wrongly gets the credit.

  35. Ah yes, he is a wonderful man, so eloquent . . . I cried through the entire speech while my youngest daughter looked at me like I'd stuffed peanut butter up my nose. I'm reading the book Dreams From my Father Now and its pretty mesmerizing. I love your take on the speech, by the way! Great post!

  36. Wonder full Crabby, Being fit and fabulous is a business which is mostly accompanied with numerous large promotional campaigns and centering on the idea of having a gorgeous and healthy body.

  37. I think that he is the man for the moment, but my God, he has his work cut out for him. It will be an achievement if he can hold this at a 5 year recession.


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