Hope is still very much alive…
(Since writing this post, I see that the New York Times has put up an excellent “interactive video and transcript of President Obama‘s address, with annotations from New York Times reporters.” It allows you to see the entire speech on your computer and get some background to the issues and specific quotes. Find it here.)
To anyone, like me, who has watched Barack Obama struggle through the first month of his Presidency, with some ill-fated cabinet choices and the complete lack of co-operation from the Republicans over the stimulus package, last night’s speech to Congress was not just reassuring, it was a call to arms. (I would like to use the word “revolutionary” but I wouldn’t want to play into the fears of his opponents.) I heard the speech live, in its entirety, while driving up the Thruway, and absent the visual imagery – though the NPR hosts did interject to announce that some Republicans started cat-calling when Obama outlaid his taxation plans – I was able to focus entirely on the words. My, they were powerful. I have never, in over 20 years of living in the States, heard an American President speak so directly to the primary issues that so affect the average person.
Early on, he expressed his agenda for the evening:
“Now is the time to jump-start job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down….that is what I’d like to talk to you about tonight.”
…And I thought: Energy. Health care. Education. Three absolute cornerstones of our society that were turned into travesties under our previous President (and, to a large extent, those who preceded him). Why shouldn’t we be placing priority on them?
“The only way this century will be another American century is if we confront at last the price of our dependence on oil and the high cost of health care, the schools that aren’t preparing our children and the mountain of debt they stand to inherit. That is our responsibility.”
All three of these issues are absolutely vital. I’m thrilled that Obama has placed a priority on renewable energy, I’m equally ecstatic that there is money in the Stimulus Package for schools, because almost every State Budget in the country has cut funding from education to balance its own books. The money made available in the Stimulus package will, literally, keep teachers in jobs and kids in classrooms. The importance of that alone can not be overstated.
And then there is health care, which in America offers a worst case scenario of what happens when you let free market forces have their way with life and death scenarios. Obama knows that and it looks like he will be keeping to his election promise to do something about it.
“Given these facts, we can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold. We can’t afford to do it…
…So let there be no doubt: Health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.”
God knows he has the toughest job in the world right now. There is no doubt that our country, and probably every other nation in the world, is in fear right now of a global depression. And promises are cheap to make and costly to break. But I slept a lot better last night for knowing that the man at the tiller has his hand firmly on the wheel and that he is doing his damndest to steer this country’s ship in the right direction. I pray that he prevails – and I thank him for such an energizing speech.