The Second Wind of Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address

After the sprinting through the minutia that is the traditional SOTU speech, President Obama got his second wind.

Everybody wants THEIR issue to be represented by the President in his speech. I admit that a few issues I wished he had brought up weren’t. But at least I heard something that wasn’t merely placating and actually felt meaningful. I heard Obama’s “Second Wind”.

The first half was important, and some good stuff there too, but it seemed riddled with politics. I wanted to hear about some light at the end of the tunnel. That dark tunnel of American politics where the Oligarchy controls the United States and Congress is just their tool to placate us in the process.

It wasn’t until more than half way through the speech that I heard something new. Something possible…

The wealth equality issue stems from a greed-based economy that is blamed on capitalism. It’s not capitalism, its a highly efficient system of selfishness and greed that is allowed by an out of control congress that has has all but married corporate America. America isn’t even a Representative Democracy anymore, so many people are looking for some hope, and some change… still!

Fairness? This isn’t new, but to hear the President speak of it at this time in history is important. Within the walls of the Capital building, where not 2 years earlier my daughter and I sat in that very room gazing up at the spot where the president would make his speech every year. There was a lot of applause and some laughter too. But what I heard was a glimmer of hope.

What I didn’t hear much from the President was “wealth inequality”. Or the “wealth gap”, or put another way, the upside down redistribution of wealth upwards away from the majority of Americans and into the hands of a few who control congress. For 40 to 50 years this country has seen great gains in wealth in the top 10 to 20%, and especially the top 1%, but stagnancy for the rest of America. Yes, he did speak of minimum wage, wage fairness for women, and a few other related issues like poverty, veterans, education, student debt, healthcare, etc. But I wanted more. Can’t please everybody, but I was pleased enough with what he DID SAY.

The most memorable part was the unscripted quip in response to a Republican applauding when the President said he wasn’t going to campaign anymore.

FOX news pundits were quick to go on the attack…

Mashable’s Stephanie Buck @StephMBuck tweets:

Which shows a steady stream of applause / interruptions scrawled upon a Verizon Billing envelope (count: 80). How apropos. I’d like to see congress actually work together and make a difference, bring some positive change to America. But since I’ve been around for the last 50 State of the Union speeches, I’m not holding my breath.

Transcript of “Second Wind” of SOTU (first half can be found via the link at the bottom of this post):
“So the question for those of us here tonight is how we, all of us, can better reflect America’s hopes. I’ve served in Congress with many of you. I know many of you well. There are a lot of good people here, on both sides of the aisle. And many of you have told me that this isn’t what you signed up for — arguing past each other on cable shows, the constant fundraising, always looking over your shoulder at how the base will react to every decision.

Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns. Imagine if we did something different.

Understand — a better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine.

A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears.

A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues, and values, and principles, and facts, rather than “gotcha” moments, or trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives.

A better politics is one where we spend less time drowning in dark money for ads that pull us into the gutter, and spend more time lifting young people up, with a sense of purpose and possibility, and asking them to join in the great mission of building America.

If we’re going to have arguments, let’s have arguments — but let’s make them debates worthy of this body and worthy of this country.

We still may not agree on a woman’s right to choose, but surely we can agree it’s a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows, and that every woman should have access to the health care she needs.

Yes, passions still fly on immigration, but surely we can all see something of ourselves in the striving young student, and agree that no one benefits when a hardworking mom is taken from her child, and that it’s possible to shape a law that upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.

We may go at it in campaign season, but surely we can agree that the right to vote is sacred; that it’s being denied to too many; and that, on this 50th anniversary of the great march from Selma to Montgomery and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we can come together, Democrats and Republicans, to make voting easier for every single American.

We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York. But surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed. Surely we can understand the wife who won’t rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift. Surely we can agree it’s a good thing that for the first time in 40 years, the crime rate and the incarceration rate have come down together, and use that as a starting point for Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law enforcement, to reform America’s criminal justice system so that it protects and serves us all.

That’s a better politics. That’s how we start rebuilding trust. That’s how we move this country forward. That’s what the American people want. That’s what they deserve.

I have no more campaigns to run. My only agenda for the next two years is the same as the one I’ve had since the day I swore an oath on the steps of this Capitol — to do what I believe is best for America. If you share the broad vision I outlined tonight, join me in the work at hand. If you disagree with parts of it, I hope you’ll at least work with me where you do agree. And I commit to every Republican here tonight that I will not only seek out your ideas, I will seek to work with you to make this country stronger.

Because I want this chamber, this city, to reflect the truth — that for all 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.

I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we are a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen — man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino and Asian, immigrant and Native American, gay and straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability.

I want them to grow up in a country that shows the world what we still know to be true: that we are still more than a collection of red states and blue states; that we are the United States of America.

I want them to grow up in a country where a young mom like Rebekah can sit down and write a letter to her President with a story to sum up these past six years:

“It is amazing what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”

My fellow Americans, we too are a strong, tight-knit family. We, too, have made it through some hard times. Fifteen years into this new century, we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and begun again the work of remaking America. We’ve laid a new foundation. A brighter future is ours to write. Let’s begin this new chapter — together — and let’s start the work right now.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless this country we love.”

Transcript Credit CNN

Featured image credit The Daily Signal.

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