Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Not-State of the Union State of the Union Speech

Tonight, President Obama made the most masterful address of its kind that I've heard in a over forty years of studying politics. The President's quasi-official State of the Union speech (technically not official because the SOTU is mandated by the Constitution to occur in January, but an incoming president always makes a speech like tonight's) was powerful, thoughtful, and inspirational. The transcript of his speech and the details of his proposals you can and probably have already read elsewhere, and I won't go into it tonight. What I want to say, though, is how President Obama's address made me feel.

Obama talks to Americans like adults, intelligently and reasonably, and that's a tremendous relief after eight years of pious, inarticulate crap and mendacious evil from "the Decider," his master, and his minions. When I see this intelligent, highly educated and articulate African-American man address Congress as the Commander-in-Chief, it gives me a feeling of pride, honor, and accomplishment. And I confess to still getting a bit teary-eyed when I heard the Sergeant at Arms of the House announce "the President of the United States!", and this confident, elegant (to use Sean Penn's phrase) man walks into the room.

President Obama asks us to better ourselves, to better our country, and to remember the challenges in the past that Americans have overcome. I grew up in the shadows of Dallas, Memphis, and Khe Sahn. I came of age during Watergate. I've watched bad actors, bad boys, and an outright idiot inhabit the Oval Office. Not since JFK have I really felt patriotic, that deep down pride in one's nation, nor have I been able to speak of America with anything except a "yeah, but..." phraseology since I was a teenager. Many people of my generation, both black and white, knew exactly what Michelle Obama was talking about last year when she said that for the first time, she was proud of her country. Anyone with a brain and an awareness of what's happening in the world knew what she was talking about.

President Obama speaks to our better angels, our sense of compassion, community and purpose, our awareness of our shared responsibilities to each other. He's applying intelligence and empathy, with a sense of history and moral outrage, to our many and varied problems. They are numerous, those problems, afflicting both our nation and our planet. The wounds are deep and slow to heal. But for the first time in a long time, I have both pride and hope in and for my country. I'm beginning to understand what my parents were talking about when they spoke of FDR. I think that we do have a chance. And I know that Barack Obama was the right man, in the right place, at the right time.

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