I thought the President's speech last night was both practical and optimistic--two qualities that seem sorely lacking in Washington these days. Despite assessments that President Obama has grown weary with the political process (and honestly, who wouldn't be, given the current state of partisan gridlock in this country?), I found his demeanor feisty and refreshing. He still has more than 1,000 days left in his Presidency, and I hope that things like the bipartisan budget bill that was fashioned last month indicate that there can be some compromise on important collective issues in 2014.
Some of the things I found interesting in the President's remarks:
- I appreciate the President's unequivocal stance on climate change. When historians reconcile his Presidency, it will have been important for him to be both assertive and operating on the basis of good science.
- A new NBC poll shows that a large number of Americans are pessimistic about the country's direction in the last decade. I don't blame them, though I don't quite classify myself as pessimistic about the topic. We've had some misery, to be sure. This ain't the '90s, folks, and I'm not sure when we're getting back there (if ever). I think it's important to try to re-invigorate the middle class, and the President's discussion of making college more attainable is a clear pathway to get there.
- Speaking of the middle class, a new study that I heard about on NPR a few days ago indicated that upward mobility is no more difficult to achieve than it was decades ago. It's an interesting look at the topic, and one that I think should be a carrot for those wanting to achieve a decent standard of living. But, as President Obama mentioned last night, things that are worth achieving are hard to do. That's an aphorism (concise statement of principle) that I can really get with, and college isn't easy. It shouldn't be, either. Nothing that has such a fundamental impact on one's total character should come without the occasional discomfort that goes with exploration, sacrifice, and growth.
We're in a bind as a country. The complexion of our political system and the distribution of our people lends itself to gridlock, and its important for Florida democrats like me to consider the needs of Kansas republicans when thinking about collective issues. The thing is, we're all Americans, and we need to work together for the progress of the entire country. That's so over-simplified that its a cliche, but that doesn't mean there's no truth in it.
Compromise and progress. President Obama has had to compromise all the way down the line in trying to turn around the mess he stepped into. I hope that folks on the extreme right can begin to move a little closer toward the center to make some good-faith efforts in kind...