Obama’s list of virtues comes in pairs, and the pairings are mutually illuminating. I will, though, examine them not in the order in which they are listed in the address, but rather according to the depth of their roots, beginning with those anchored most firmly in the ancient classical and, later, the Christian traditions of the West. What emerges when we take this angle of approach, I will argue, is not simple continuity. Neither do we uncover a sharply defined contrast between classical and Christian, or ancient and modern, virtues. Rather, what comes into focus is a continuously unfolding understanding of the virtues, driven on the one hand by socio-historical changes and on the other by efforts to resolve internal tensions in how the virtues are conceived, both singly and in relation to one another.Read the rest of Obama’s living virtues.
Jennifer A. Herdt is Associate Professor of Moral Theology and the History of Christianity at the University of Notre Dame. Her most recent book is Putting On Virtue: The Legacy of the Splendid Vices (Chicago 2008), and she is currently at work on "Imago Dei and the Bildungsroman: Ethical Formation and the Modern Novel."