Wednesday, January 27, 2010

State of The Union


President Obama just finished delivering his State of the Union speech about 30 minutes ago. It was a rather interesting speech that seemed to somewhat measure the pulse of the nation.

At times, he was very honest about his own troubles as President, and, yet, he also took a few swipes at the GOP exhibiting the confidence he showed on the campaign trail over a year ago.

You can read the entire text of the speech here.

Personally, I thought President Obama was at his best in two specific parts of the speech. I thought he did a tremendous job arguing against the gridlock that has become so very prevalent in Washington. He took the fight to both Democrats and Republicans who feel that partisan rancor between the two major parties is not helpful to the country.

"Of course, none of these reforms will even happen if we don't also reform how we work with one another.

Now, I am not naïve. I never thought the mere fact of my election would usher in peace, harmony, and some post-partisan era. I knew that both parties have fed divisions that are deeply entrenched. And on some issues, there are simply philosophical differences that will always cause us to part ways. These disagreements, about the role of government in our lives, about our national priorities and our national security, have been taking place for over two hundred years. They are the very essence of our democracy.

But what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day. We cannot wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about their opponent - a belief that if you lose, I win. Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can. The confirmation of well-qualified public servants should not be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual Senators. Washington may think that saying anything about the other side, no matter how false, is just part of the game. But it is precisely such politics that has stopped either party from helping the American people. Worse yet, it is sowing further division among our citizens and further distrust in our government.

So no, I will not give up on changing the tone of our politics. I know it's an election year. And after last week, it is clear that campaign fever has come even earlier than usual. But we still need to govern. To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve some problems, not run for the hills. And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that sixty votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it's not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions. So let's show the American people that we can do it together. This week, I'll be addressing a meeting of the House Republicans. And I would like to begin monthly meetings with both the Democratic and Republican leadership. I know you can't wait."


I thought President Obama also took time in the speech to address those people that turned out at the polls to win him the election in 2008. His message was that, while there have been some failures, that he is still on the job, and he will not back down just because things have not gone well.

"Unfortunately, too many of our citizens have lost faith that our biggest institutions - our corporations, our media, and yes, our government - still reflect these same values. Each of these institutions are full of honorable men and women doing important work that helps our country prosper. But each time a CEO rewards himself for failure, or a banker puts the rest of us at risk for his own selfish gain, people's doubts grow. Each time lobbyists game the system or politicians tear each other down instead of lifting this country up, we lose faith. The more that TV pundits reduce serious debates into silly arguments, and big issues into sound bites, our citizens turn away.

No wonder there's so much cynicism out there.

No wonder there's so much disappointment.

I campaigned on the promise of change - change we can believe in, the slogan went. And right now, I know there are many Americans who aren't sure if they still believe we can change - or at least, that I can deliver it.

But remember this - I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I can do it alone. Democracy in a nation of three hundred million people can be noisy and messy and complicated. And when you try to do big things and make big changes, it stirs passions and controversy. That's just how it is.

Those of us in public office can respond to this reality by playing it safe and avoid telling hard truths. We can do what's necessary to keep our poll numbers high, and get through the next election instead of doing what's best for the next generation.

But I also know this: if people had made that decision fifty years ago or one hundred years ago or two hundred years ago, we wouldn't be here tonight. The only reason we are is because generations of Americans were unafraid to do what was hard; to do what was needed even when success was uncertain; to do what it took to keep the dream of this nation alive for their children and grandchildren.

Our administration has had some political setbacks this year, and some of them were deserved. But I wake up every day knowing that they are nothing compared to the setbacks that families all across this country have faced this year. And what keeps me going - what keeps me fighting - is that despite all these setbacks, that spirit of determination and optimism - that fundamental decency that has always been at the core of the American people - lives on.

It lives on in the struggling small business owner who wrote to me of his company, "None of us," he said, "...are willing to consider, even slightly, that we might fail."

It lives on in the woman who said that even though she and her neighbors have felt the pain of recession, "We are strong. We are resilient. We are American."

It lives on in the 8-year old boy in Louisiana, who just sent me his allowance and asked if I would give it to the people of Haiti. And it lives on in all the Americans who've dropped everything to go some place they've never been and pull people they've never known from rubble, prompting chants of "U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A!" when another life was saved.

The spirit that has sustained this nation for more than two centuries lives on in you, its people.

We have finished a difficult year. We have come through a difficult decade. But a new year has come. A new decade stretches before us. We don't quit. I don't quit. Let's seize this moment - to start anew, to carry the dream forward, and to strengthen our union once more."


President Obama also made some news tonight by saying, in no uncertain terms, that he would work with the military and the Congress to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the next year. All-in-all, it was a strong nuts-and-bolts speech with a soaring finish.

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