Noblesse oblige.

Noblesse oblige.

no-blay soh-BLEEZH. Click below to hear this.*

Nobility carries obligations.

That’s the closest we can get to a concise, accurate translation. Saying nobility obliges in English just begs the question: who is obliging whom to do what? Are nobles obliging the common rest of us to serve them, for example.

Quite the opposite. The phrase is generally used to say that holding a title requires you to behave with inner nobility–honor, generosity, kindness, for example–and not just exercise the trappings of rank.

France no longer has a noble class, and the United States never has had one, but we do expect a higher standard of behavior from those whom we elect or appoint to office. And we are disappointed when these individuals fail to deliver. Our two nations may have somewhat different cultural expectations as to what constitutes “good behavior”, but we know its lack when we see it.

In this season of politics, let’s make sure we exercise our right to vote…a right that raises us to a sort of nobility because it carries responsibilities with it. We are called to understand the issues to the best of our ability, to vote our convictions and not according to labels, to vote for and not against. Are you in?

*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file:


2 responses to “Noblesse oblige.

  1. Pingback: “Crise de l’euro oblige…” | Spk Frnch

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