Tuesday, January 26, 2010

State of the Union

The President will address Congress tomorrow evening. It’s the State of the Union address. Like most of these addresses it will be part truth, part hope, and somewhat imaginative. That's the way it's been for a long time.

I wonder what our reaction would be if President Obama said something like this.

I’d like to talk straight with the American people tonight. Please refrain from any applause. I really want to speak from my heart without interruption.

This has been a tough year. We’re stretched thin. We haven’t seen the economic turn around we’d hoped for. We think there’s some encouraging signals regarding a turn for the better but I’m not sure we’ll have a return to the insane prosperity we had just a few years ago.

There’s a lot of you who are stuck in the middle of hard times. In all honesty you might be there for a time. That’s not what you want to hear but I can’t give you what I don’t have.

All I can say is that we are working hard to turn things around but we’re going to continue to need your help. If you own a business do whatever you can to keep workers on the job. If you’re an investor don’t panic if companies don’t hit their projected mark especially if their still making a profit. When you panic everyone panics. We don’t need that anymore. If you’re getting government money and you own a business we want you to have the decency to not take obscene bonuses at the public’s expense. Main street doesn’t get it and frankly I don’t either.

We’re stretched thin on the military front too. Let’s be honest. This war on terror is an awful thing. We’re dealing with crazy people. You can’t reason with crazy people. So, we have to have a strong military presence. We’ll have to have one for a long time. Maybe forever. That’s the nature of evil in this day and age. We’re beginning to think that the war on terror can’t be won the way we’d like to win it. That’s the reality of it. We’re going to have to be vigilant, at considerable cost, for the long term.

I’m backing off health care. It’s a battle I’d like to win but can’t right now. But health care is an issue. People don’t have insurance. They can’t afford it and don’t have access to it. We’ve got to fix it. But this isn’t the time or place to do it. There doesn’t seem to be a plan available that makes sense to enough people. But I promise you this. I will come back to it. This is a battle worth fighting. We need to do our homework, however, and come up with a plan that makes sense, does good, and solves the problems that threaten our health care system and the lives of friends, families and neighbors.

Our government has not earned your trust. We continue to see pork in almost every piece of legislation. It’s embarrassing. I won’t sign any legislation any longer that’s filled with stuff that doesn’t belong there.. But I need your help. I want you to pledge not to vote for anyone in the next election who votes for legislation , even if it’s earmarked for you and your city, that makes you scratch your head and wonder ‘what’s that doing in here?’ The only way to get better government and more fiscal responsibility is for you to hold us accountable. The trouble is that too many of you don’t vote, don’t read, and don’t know what’s going on. That’s got to stop. We need an informed, alert and involved electorate.

I’m convinced part of the problem we have in America is an ability to discuss things with a credible level of civility. I don’t know how to fix that except by maintaining a high level of civility in my own interactions and expecting the same from my staff. To that end, I’ve fired some of my staff. I hired some to act like hatchet men and women. They’re rude and disrespectful. In their place I’m going to be hiring tough people who know how to exert influence without striking fear into the lives of the people they’re dealing with.

One of the things we’ve got fix in America is the lack of respect we have for each other. We've got to figure out how to be more respectful on our streets, in classrooms, in town hall meetings, and on our airwaves. We seem to have a fascination with those who bluster and blabber and exert negative influence. Is that what we want?

Those of us in the public eye have to start modeling more noble things. Are we living lives worth emulating? If you're a talk show host tell the truth. Keep the innuendo out of it. If you’re making millions of dollars as a singer make sure your lyrics take the high road. If you’re a comic and can’t be funny with out swearing maybe you need different writers. If you’re an athlete be a role model for the young. If you make a gazillion dollars you should be generous in your giving. It’s been written that ‘to whom much has been given much is required.’ My prayer is that more of us who have been given much would believe it act accordingly.

Of course, all of us can make a positive difference. To that end I want to encourage every religious body to partner with an underachieving school. I want each of you who aren’t doing something noble with your life to commit to giving five hours a week towards something that will make a positive difference in our culture.
Don’t even think about commuting unless you car pool. We can save the environment and have more money to invest into our economy. If you don’t know what to do pick up litter in your neighborhood.

Just make a difference. Leave a footprint. Help us advance the ball down the court.

I’m going back to some things that are rooted in my heart of hearts. There’s too much going on in this country and the world to rely solely on my own talents and abilities. I know I’ll get hammered for saying this but I need God’s help to lead this country. We all need God’s help. Part of the reason we’re in the messes we’re in is because we’ve walked away from asking God to guide us. Too many of us don’t have a moral compass that works. We’ve got to change that. I’m going to try to model it in my own life in deeper ways.

I still believe in America. The answers to the problems we face aren’t going to come to us easily. They’re going to require sacrifice, soul searching, collaboration, and vast amounts of good will. I think we’re up to the task.

Compared to just about any other planet in the world we’re in pretty good shape but there are many Americans who go to sleep each night without hope and the promise of a better tomorrow. Life is hard for them. There are systemic and personal issues at play. Instead of pointing fingers and bashing the poor we’ve got to join together to create opportunity and a vision for a better future. We can do it. We must do it.

America’s best days aren’t behind us. They are in front of us. We must believe this deep in our being. And may that belief propel us into an era of creativity, problem solving, forward thinking, compassion and care that will make us the envy of the world.

May it be so.

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