President Barack Obama gave a great State of the Union speech this year – great in that he presented himself as statesmanlike, reasonable, sane, intelligent, and a consensus builder. However, it was not, I believe, very courageous or inspiring. Of course, I realize I am in the minority and come from my usual vantage point out there in left field.
What was missing for me in the speech was a call to action on the most serious problems of the globe and of our country. The speech was brilliant politically; it gave his opponents little to quarrel with. Who could argue with the virtues of unity, winning the future, and giving all Americans an opportunity for education? So in terms of positioning himself for 2012, it was a masterful speech.
I had a running argument with my wife and several friends during Bill Clinton’s first four years. I would ask why doesn’t he deal with poverty in America, with global warming, and with the growing disparity of wealth in the U.S.? They would reply by telling me to just wait until his second term. “Then you will see” they would say. I did wait, and I saw that it was the same as the first four years. And now I am having the same discussions with many of the same people.
“Just wait for Obama’s second term,” I am told. Sadly, I don’t expect anything different. I do expect more middle-of-the-road compromises, which are really not compromises but capitulations to the corporate powers that be and with their paid employees in the legislature.
A recent study showed that 1 -in -5 children in the United States is living in poverty. Yet in the State of the Union speech, the word poverty never came up. How is that possible? One in five is not a crisis? Allowing ROTC recruiters on college campuses is important enough to speak of but eliminating child poverty in the U.S. is not even worth mentioning? How about global warming and America’s carbon footprint: Not worthy of mentioning?
Here is a partial list of other serious issues not mentioned:
1. The Arms race
2. Bank Regulations
3. Gun Regulation
4. Inequality of wealth
5. Juvenile Justice
6. Nuclear proliferation
7. Oceans – pollution
8. Prison reform
So while I think the President’s speech was brilliant, I also found it sadly negligent and, consequently, not the leadership challenge to us all that I would have hoped to see.