Earlier in the day yesterday, I tweeted that I’d like to hear Obama admit the truth about the state of our Union. While he couldn’t come out and put it the way I did, I noticed that he avoided the traditional opening of the speech, “The state of our Union is strong.”
Obama opened with a frank assessment of the tough times we’re facing, but put them in a historical context so as to soften the blow of bad news. It was not until the twelfth paragraph of his speech (six minutes into it), as he concluded his introduction and came to specific proposals, that he affirmed the strength of the country.
It’s because of this spirit — this great decency and great strength — that I have never been more hopeful about America’s future than I am tonight. Despite our hardships, our union is strong. We do not give up. We do not quit. We do not allow fear or division to break our spirit. In this new decade, it’s time the American people get a government that matches their decency; that embodies their strength.
I found the speech uplifting, and welcomed the return of Obama the Force. Throughout 2009, it seemed the strong, eloquent man I had voted for was taking a back seat too often, and not standing up for important principles. Despite the power of the speech, I still find fault with his policies on the war, national security, and the prosecution of war crimes which were clearly committed by our government. I will still fight him on that. But this was a welcome return of a strong leader with the right ideas on jobs, energy and education.
One of the high points was when he said we need to reject those who say his program is too ambitious, and “that we should just put things on hold for a while.” Obama’s response channeled Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, where the civil rights leader wrote, “For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ … This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.'”
As the President put it:
For those who make these claims, I have one simple question: How long should we wait? How long should America put its future on hold?
You see, Washington has been telling us to wait for decades, even as the problems have grown worse. Meanwhile, China is not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany is not waiting. India is not waiting. These nations — they’re not standing still. These nations aren’t playing for second place.
I’m looking forward to the ways in which Obama might rally his party to avoid a monstrous November defeat. It will be difficult. But as he said, they still have the largest majority in decades, and we the people expect them to pass some meaningful legislation.
What did you think of the speech?