Progressive Revival

The build up to President Obama’s speech was more moving than I expected.  To see the energy in the house chamber as the new cabinet, and the first lady entered provided the reminder I needed that we have a new administration caring for our country.  As the President walked down the aisle, it was remarkable that he spent as much or more time on the republican side, greeting, shaking hands and smiling.  Alone in my living room  I found myself clapping with the rest of them – before a word was said, I was already re-energized.


By the end of the President’s first paragraph we had heard the broad outline of the entire speech.  The President started with the very stark reality of the present moment, followed by reassurance that something can be done about it, and ending by offering hope by promising that we will will solve this crisis because in times of great peril there are great opportunities.


A lot of ground was covered in this speech.  For those who had a mind to listen, some complex economic realities were broken down to explain the motivations behind the legislation that has been passed or will be proposed.   But most were probably more inspired by perhaps a couple of specific lines that were aimed more at the heart than the head.  At one point the President said about the suffering and hardship that is occurring in America – “I get it.  My job, our job is to solve the problem.” This was reinforced by the insistent words of the young student from South Carolina who was quoted by Obama, and became a new mantra for America – “We are not quitters.”


The major applause line of the night came when Obama insisted on personal responsibly and declared that dropping out of high school was no longer an option because it was “not just quitting on yourself it was quitting on your country.”  I would have liked more of that.  What are the concrete actions (aside from shopping!) that people can be doing right now to help our country?  Enlisting every American in some kind of service is an idea whose time has come. 


For a speech that dealt with the hard times that are facing the country, the spirit of the hall seemed rowdy, and by the end – the Yes We Can spirit of the campaign was back and this time it wasn’t about an election but about our country. While the joint session of congress is divided up by sides, only once or twice did the Republicans sit the major applause moments out.  That is pretty amazing given that the speech called for a lot of actions including: healthcare reform, ending the war in Iraq, tax increases for the rich, the closing of Guantanamo, increased funding for education and the proclamation of ending torture.   These are all progressive causes and yet they were presented in a way that both sides of the aisle were up and applauding.  For tonight, we have a feeling that we are all in this together as Americans.  And that is what I consider a successful speech. 

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