President Barack Obama’s second State of the Union address last week offered us a glowing reminder of why we elected him the 44th President of these dis-United States. In a remarkable display of reason, logic, results and, yes, hope, all wrapped up into one, President Obama disarmed a cynical Congress even with its new hostile majority in the House.
In the aftermath of the Gabrielle Giffords assassination attempt, and emboldened by the landslide shift that included radical Tea-Partiers, the expectation was that civility would be less than gallant. Rationality is rarely able to check irrationality. But the president’s posture and precision made even the Republicans grow up, at least for a few minutes. But they were back at it in the post-address responses.
The point here, though, is that President Obama went in with a swagger that was hard for the Republicans to match. Every silly rationalization on both of the rights–Republicans and Tea-Partiers– used to suggest that the country wasn’t on the road to recovery was dismissed. And every reason they have used to rationalize why government spending should not be used to reinvent in our economy and infrastructure was rebutted by the president’s vision for our future (our “Sputnik moment,” as Obama called it).
We couldn’t help but glow as the president nailed one point after the other on why our hope is in our future, not in our past.
On education, immigration, the green environment, and of course, jobs, President Obama helped even Republicans understand that the only way the country was going to move ahead was together. We are handcuffed to one another in this economy. Yet the Republicans insist on pulling away from him. It makes them look more foolish than rational, more like followers than leaders. The results speak for themselves. Rhetoric has to take a bow to the progress he is making, and that the American people are seeing.
I think I was more impressed that he kept us looking forward rather than backward. The Republicans insist on looking backward in a selective kind of way to that late 20th-century political methodology we call Reaganomics (where it all began for them, including the deficit building), a budget-slashing disaster that turned the economy around after millions of jobs were lost, $700 billion was cut from the budget (mostly from social programming) and a snarly arrogance that ignored the damage it was doing.
Reagan’s successor, George H.W. Bush, couldn’t sustain Reaganomics and had to break his campaign promise of “Read my lips. No new taxes,” causing him to become a one-term president.
Obama reminded the nation that our technological innovation was once the best, but that was then and this is now. He pointed out that it is no longer the best, and what we once were is what we can be again, but it is not what we currently are. The Republicans have been so busy looking back they couldn’t see the future. That’s why they missed the coming of Obama. Now they are about to miss the second coming of Obama.
Every time you see Obama, we have to remind ourselves that this is our time. We can’t let the old ideas of yesterday, and the stale voices of the past be our guide to the future. We have to remind the “old heads” that we have ideas, too. We’ve tried yours; now let’s try ours.
Even new faces rooted in old ideology are a threat to our future. That’s what the Tea-Partiers are, new faces rooted in a dated ideology. It’s a terrible thing when you watch leaders waste the future on old ideas that didn’t work, even in the past. I was driving down Crenshaw last weekend and saw our community’s past trying to convince us to ignore its future. They sat out there gum-bangin’, telling people to “bring it on,” and their ideas are long gone. They sit in offices enriching themselves while they let others figure out the public’s problems. Some don’t even know time has past them by. You see it in Washington and you see it in our communities, emerging leadership having to out-think the same generation they once respected.
You saw that President Obama gave Congress much respect last week. They had to strain to give it back. On the community level, they never give back. You have to straight up take it, and that’s no problem. It is what it is. Our generation is up to the challenge. The president is showing that. And we’re seeing it on the state and local levels, too. Change will run over those who stand in its way. Some we have to take with us, kicking and screaming. And we will.
We just can’t lose sight of the fact that it is our time. Our time to take the nation forward, our time to build new horizons beyond a prior generation, and our time to shine.
Shine on, Mr. President.
Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum (www.urbanissuesforum.com) and author of the upcoming book, REAL EYEZ: Race, Reality and Politics in 21st Century Popular Culture. He can be reached at www.AnthonySamad.com
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