Wednesday, January 26, 2011

State of the Union? Whatever You Believe It to Be.

"State of the Union" speeches are generally laundry lists of spending proposals that sound all sparkly and new but, thankfully, never see the light of day. Last night's speech had it's share of that, which was curious in that we're effectively broke.

The President had an opportunity, at a serious juncture in our nation's history, to make a real statement on behalf of the United States and The People thereof. Instead, he let the opportunity pass.  In a way, substantial leadership was abdicated in favor of unsubstantial theater, and unfulfilling theater at that.

My respect for Barack Obama would have really soared if, after addressing all of the attending dignitaries, he would have began his speech "My fellow Americans, the state of our Union is precarious; we're in debt up to my oddly protruding ears". It would have added an element of levity, self deprecation, and serious financial urgency all in one sentence. Imagine all the Democrats and Republicans, sitting next to each other in their Kumbaya seating arrangements, each looking at the other, not knowing whether to applaud, cross their arms in contempt or consider it a "laugh line", which I believe is pretty rare in State of the Union addresses.

Imagine the home audience, uttering nervous laughter, followed by a collective "holy sh--! I believe he's serious!"

Do you think I'm serious? In a very real way, I am. Extraordinary situations call for extraordinary actions.

Alas, that didn't happen. In fact, the traditional words "The state of our Union is strong" were the last seven words of the address. Take from that what you will. 6,802 words that were all over the map, yet ultimately somewhere between "uninspiring" to "boring".

Then there was the "Sputnik" moment:
"Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik¸ we had no idea how we'd beat them to the moon. The science wasn't there yet. NASA didn't even exist. But after investing in better research and education, we didn't just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.

This is our generation's Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven't seen since the height of the Space Race. In a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We'll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology – an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.
Odd, that "Sputnik" moment reference. Back in 1957, the Soviet launch of Sputnik offended our national sense of American excellence and lit the national fire that fueled the "space race". Personally, I'm 57 years old and I don't really remember the launch of Sputnik (I was 4), nor any national fervor surrounding it. Anyone who actually remembers these events in detail are at least in their very late 60s or older. Hell, Obama wasn't even born when these events occurred.

Could it be that it's been more than 50 years since our country has been united toward a positive goal? Must we actually go back more than a half century to find and example of Americans actually believing in and defending American exceptionalism?

To President Obama, the lessons that need to be learned today are not those of our past exceptionalism, but from Communist countries whose economies are burgeoning by manufacturing sub-standard, and even unsafe products, produced in an environment of scant regulation and borderline slave labor. Again, from last night's speech:
In a single generation, revolutions in technology have transformed the way we live, work and do business. Steel mills that once needed 1,000 workers can now do the same work with 100. Today, just about any company can set up shop, hire workers, and sell their products wherever there's an internet connection.

Meanwhile, nations like China and India realized that with some changes of their own, they could compete in this new world. And so they started educating their children earlier and longer, with greater emphasis on math and science. They're investing in research and new technologies. Just recently, China became home to the world's largest private solar research facility, and the world's fastest computer.

So yes, the world has changed. The competition for jobs is real. But this shouldn't discourage us. It should challenge us. Remember – for all the hits we've taken these last few years, for all the naysayers predicting our decline, America still has the largest, most prosperous economy in the world. No workers are more productive than ours. No country has more successful companies, or grants more patents to inventors and entrepreneurs. We are home to the world's best colleges and universities, where more students come to study than any other place on Earth.
If that last part which I have put in bold print is true, why must we learn from a slave labor driven, Communist country such as China? Why have the liberals in this country all but refuse to speak about "American exceptionalism" in favor of concepts such as "internationalism". Why has President Obama, on numerous occasions, chosen an apologetic stance when visiting foreign countries?

The state of our union is whatever We The People determine it to be. No, we needn't learn from China or India about financial success; while we didn't invent capitalism, we most certainly perfected it. They are mere flashes in the pan, WE will continue to be the light of the world, if We The People choose to be.

It's time we use our own history as inspiration for the future, rather than the temporary successes of overgrown and over hyped third-world nations. The fact that we must reach back 53 years for an example of our national fortitude is clearly an example that our fortitude and resilience needs exercise. We are not victims of anything but our own success and we need not look to "cardboard capitalists" like the Chinese for inspiration; we, as a nation, are our own inspiration.

"We Are America" and America is capable of anything, the State of the Union is the state of each of US. We have misplaced that spirit, but it's not lost. The world is in chaos and needs a leader. The question for this generation is "do we still have what it takes?" The  answer to that question will determine the true State of the Union.

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