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“That is our generation’s task – to make these words, these values – of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness – real for every American.”
The president spoke these words with conviction, and in the tone of the President Obama we saw campaigning and, indeed, winning in 2008. Hope and change was once again alive this morning.
He emphasized the importance of equality for all -- women, minorities, the disabled and gays. He spoke of investment in new technologies, government reform and a new tax code. He addressed the growing threat of climate change, and about protecting the poor, the sick and the marginalized.
To be sure, these ideas are crucial to the revitalization of America that we so desperately need. But unlike four years ago when he spoke in similar, lofty tones, now we have to interpret the speech in context of his actions, which sadly involve more polarization, division, attack politics, and class warfare than is healthy. Indeed his whole approach, particularly during and since the campaign, has been to practice precisely the kind of politics he eschewed in today's speech.
I am in agreement with the president that we need a more equal society and a strong, clear plan for our country’s future. We need a viable solution to our fiscal mess and a plan for our national security and foreign policy strategy going forward. While it is clear that the president recognizes this as well, he did not offer the kind of specifics and detail that he needed to today. Speaking to the goals of great leaders before him like Martin Luther King Jr. lends itself to a rousing speech, but the president has not proven himself to be a man whose actions have been congruent with the ideals and goals for America that he says are so important.
I remain hopeful that this morning address was a turning point in President Obama’s tenure and that he will lay out clear plans for the future in his State of the Union address. That said, the evidence from the last four years gives ample reason to be discouraged at this point and to consider today’s speech just another piece of rhetoric.