If you are fortunate you’ve had individuals in your life that have inspired and motivated you. It may have been a teacher, a religious leader or a parent. But whichever it was, he or she was someone who shared a vision with you; someone who helped you see your place in the future and helped you understand the steps you needed to take to achieve your place in that future. If a nation is fortunate, it has on rare occasion, been lead by an individual who has the capacity to share his or her vision and inspire actions. Most importantly, these actions are based on the values, sometimes long-forgotten, that are the threads of the fabric on which the nation was created. Reminding the nation of those values and motivating its citizens to act is the challenge and the sign of true leadership. Mr. Obama was that inspirational leader in 2008 and after being absent for too long, returned last night as he presented his State of the Union Address before a joint session of Congress.
“…I want this chamber, this city, to reflect the truth—that for all of our blind spots and shortcomings, we are a people with the strength and generosity of spirit to bridge divides, to unite in common effort, and help our neighbors, whether down the street or on the other side of the world.”
“I want our actions to tell every child, in every neighborhood: your life matters, and we are as committed to improving your life chances as we are for our own kids”.
With these words President Obama challenged the members of Congress and those voices of influence around the nation to rise above the petty and self-serving actions that have for too long characterized our political environment. He is asking that despite honest differences, that they work together and develop solutions that are the result of compromise. We have lived too long in a nation of political fundamentalism, where any deviation or compromise is viewed as heresy. It is a nation in which the attainment of political power has been viewed as an end in itself rather than the starting point from which the people can be served. With his words last night, Mr Obama reminded us that our strength is that we are a nation rich in diversity. If we are to uphold the vision of our Forefathers we will see this as a strength and not a point of contention.
However, the optics last night were very telling. While the President was reaching out and trying to motivate us to come together and build a better life for all Americans, Mr. Boehner sat stone-faced along with his Republican colleagues signaling their disinterest in this goal. The five GOP responses following Mr. Obama’s address voiced little interest in working together with the President. Instead they fell back on their old rhetoric committing to dismantle The Affordable Care Act, and basically ignored the economic recovery calling for remedies that are irrelevant. They again accused Obama of coming up with pie-in-the-sky programs with no way of paying for them even as he specifically suggested paying for them through tax reform. In short, they made it clear that they had no interest in working with the President to find compromises. Their focus seems to be instead on undoing anything positive that he has achieved. It is a party of factions that is looking toward 2016 for the ultimate remedy.
The last two years of the Obama Presidency will provide us with the opportunity to work with him to achieve the vision he shared with us last night. To do so we must be active, vocal and most importantly make sure that all who share that vision vote in 2016. The most important lessons of the 2012 election are first Democratic candidates must hold true to their values and second, Democrats must vote. It is clear that the Republican vision is in great contrast to the Democratic vision. The Republicans will fight to the end to maintain the policies that have made the rich richer and have held everyone else down. If you share the vision presented by President Obama you must do everything you can to insure a Democratic victory in 2016.