On Tuesday, 12 January 2016, President Barack Obama delivered his eighth and final State of the Union Address (SOTU). I will be doing two separate posts about it, this one which reviews the highlights and includes, of course, my take on it. And Part II, which will be about the reactions from the current crop of presidential clowns candidates, media, and John Q. Public.
As is typical for a State of the Union address, particularly the final one for a two-term president, President Obama began by reviewing some, though certainly not all, of his accomplishments over the past seven years. At the top of this list was the economic recovery from “the worst economic crisis in generations”. He mentioned the increase in private sector job creation, cutting unemployment in half and cutting the deficit by three-fourths. He noted the reforms in the health care system (Affordable Care Act), restored diplomatic relations with Cuba, “secured freedom in every state to marry the person we love” (Same-sex marriage), and others.
He then moved on to his goals for the coming year, noting that these will also be goals for many years to come. These included making Pre-K available for all children, making college affordable for all students (he proposes two years of free community college for all), medical research (to find break-through cures for cancer, HIV and malaria), and a long-term commitment to development of clean energy sources.
He then proceeded to ask four (4) questions, the answers to which would be the body of his speech:
- First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy?
- Second, how do we make technology work for us, and not against us, especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change?
- Third, how do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman?
- And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?
My goal here is not to cover the details of the president’s address, as you can read the transcript here http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/13/us/politics/obama-2016-sotu-transcript.html Rather, my goal is to point out some of the highlights and give you my take on the best and worst moments.
First, I was pleased that President Obama began with a bit of humour directed at the presidential candidates when he remarked “I’m going to try to make it a little shorter. I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa.” While there were a number of times that he made thinly-veiled references to partisan differences, he was above all professional and did not, at least in my opinion, criticize any individuals or groups, but referred more to the inaccuracies and rhetoric that have been spouted from both parties and he managed to do so in a professional manner.
Some of my favourite comments:
- Food Stamp recipients did not cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did.
- “ … we need to reject any politics — any politics that targets people because of race or religion.” This one is my all-time, absolute favourite!!! And “When politicians insult Muslims, whether abroad, or fellow citizens, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid is called names, that doesn’t make us safer. That’s not telling it what — telling it like it is, it’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world.” (emphasis added)
- “’We the People.’ Our Constitution begins with those three simple words, words we’ve come to recognize mean all the people, not just some.” (emphasis added)
- “But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t — it doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice.”
- “Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise … when only the most extreme voices get all the attention … when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter.”
- “I think we’ve got to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters and not the other way around.”
- “So, my fellow Americans, whatever you may believe, whether you prefer one party or no party, whether you supported my agenda or fought as hard as you could against it, our collective futures depends on your willingness to uphold your duties as a citizen, to vote, to speak out, to stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody somewhere stood up for us.”
- “Voices that help us see ourselves not first and foremost as black or white or Asian or Latino; not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born; not Democrat or Republican; but as Americans first, bound by a common creed. Voices Dr. King believed would have the final word — voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love. And they’re out there, those voices. They don’t get a lot of attention. They don’t seek a lot of fanfare, but they’re busy doing the work this country needs doing.”
And finally, the comment that nearly brought me to silent tears:
- “ … one of the few regrets of my presidency — that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. I have no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.”
To sum up, overall I applaud the President for his calmness, his forthrightness and honesty. Yes, he took a few less-than-subtle jabs at some of his opposition, but he did so with grace and with a purpose, to remind us that all is not as bleak, as dire, as some of the loudest voices would have us believe. To remind us that this is still a nation filled with hope, still a nation of promise and opportunity. My next post, as was suggested by one of my loyal readers, will bring to you the reactions of the current presidential candidates, the media, pundits and others. Oh yes … and you know it will also include some of my … er … astute (read ‘snarky’) comments. So stay tuned …
Disclaimer: I like President Obama and my own opinion is that he has done a good job considering that the deck has been stacked against him both in terms of the mess he inherited from the last administration and the lack of cooperation and support he has had from the other party. Therefore, my take on his speech may not agree with some readers. That is okay. In this nation, we have the right to disagree, and as long as we do so in a calm, non-threatening manner, I welcome any and all discourse. Do not, however, call me names or threaten me in any way. Enough said.
I like him too. 🙂 Thanks for the quotes, they were really good ones. I have to admit, I have not and will not read the whole speech, I just read some summaries in the newspapers here. So your summary gave me something extra. I especially like the part about the need to respect everyone, even your political adversaries. I think there is way too much rancour and polemics in the current political debates (and too much stupidity, but let’s not go down this alley now…). I think the world has enough problems – we can only solve them if we try to work together, not shout at each other. – Looking forward to part II of this post!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Part II is written and will be up within the hour. I had a lot of fun with it … thanks for your suggestion!