Obama’s SOTU: ‘I Do Not Accept Second Place for the United States of America’
January 28, 2010
(ChattahBox)—President Obama’s State of the Union speech last night hit all of the right notes, as he addressed the economy, joblessness, financial reform, health care reform, help for the struggling middle class and calling for an end to the toxic partisanship in Washington. His superb oratory skills were on full display before the joint session of Congress. But did his words resonate with the public? I think they did. A post-speech CNN poll showed that 71 percent of people polled thought Obama’s policies would move the country in the right direction. And the visuals of the televised speech worked in Obama’s favor, as he spoke with great emotion and dignity, eloquently expressing a love for his country, and a desire to transform our nation into greatness again, while the cameras showed Republicans snidely smirking, refusing to stand and applaud with the rest of the audience. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) had a perpetual smirk on his face and Republican Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner (OH), sitting beside Cantor, joined in the smirk-fest. Were they contemplating a schoolboy spitball attack? These are not lawmakers who are serious about trying to fix the problems our country faces.
There was a dramatic moment during Obama’s speech when he criticized the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United case. And in response, Justice Alito had his own “Joe Wilson” moment when he rolled his eyes and mouthed the words, “that’s not true.” But for me, a couple of moments really stood out in Obama’s speech—The line: “I do not accept second place for the United States of America,” was one. And the other was his message to Republicans and other naysayers who want Obama to “wait” to tackle the big problems facing our country. “For those who make these claims, I have one simple question: How long should we wait? How long should America put its future on hold?”
The President made a clear case to the American people and lawmakers in Congress, that his policies of health care reform, clean energy reform and financial reform can no longer wait, or we risk becoming a second tier nation, while the rest of the world moves forward:
“You see, Washington has been telling us to wait for decades, even as the problems have grown worse. Meanwhile, China is not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany is not waiting. India is not waiting. These nations — they’re not standing still. These nations aren’t playing for second place. They’re putting more emphasis on math and science. They’re rebuilding their infrastructure. They’re making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs. Well, I do not accept second place for the United States of America. (Applause.) As hard as it may be, as uncomfortable and contentious as the debates may become, it’s time to get serious about fixing the problems that are hampering our growth.”
It’s inconceivable that a leader of the free world would have to acknowledge that many American lawmakers sitting before him deny the science of climate change. But that’s the depressing state of the social discourse in our country now. He challenged the global warming deniers to rise to the occasion and embrace investments in clean energy and new technologies, even if they reject science:
“I know there have been questions about whether we can afford such changes in a tough economy. I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change. But here’s the thing — even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy-efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future -– because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation. (Applause.)”
Obama ended his address with the message that, despite the difficulties of his first year in office, he is no quitter. And he issued a spirited call for action:
“The spirit that has sustained this nation for more than two centuries lives on in you, its people. We have finished a difficult year. We have come through a difficult decade. But a new year has come. A new decade stretches before us. We don’t quit. I don’t quit. (Applause.) Let’s seize this moment — to start anew, to carry the dream forward and to strengthen our union once more. (Applause.)”
I believe him.
The full transcript can be found here.