The President’s State of the Union address to Congress is more than a president’s opportunity to lay out his agenda for the coming two years that Congress is in session. It is also an address that lays out a president’s vision of America. I will admit that I have purposely kept myself, somewhat, in the dark about the address itself this time. Instead, I am looking at what I want our president and Congress to accomplish through the lens of my vision of America. That vision, by the way, I am not sharing at the moment.
However, for me the biggest issue our nation faces is income inequality. I recently read a discussion on a friend’s Facebook page asking the question, “What is American Exceptionalism?” American Exceptionalism is rooted in the basis that the United States is the first modern democratic republic, centered around liberty and equality. What makes the United States exceptional is not the power we project throughout the world, but rather that our nation’s beginnings are different than other nations around during our founding and that despite that challenges and shortcoming our nation has faced and continues to face both at home and abroad, we are still here as a nation and exist as one of the oldest democratic republican nations today.
Why mention American Exceptionalism? Because is centered around liberty and equality. I would expect that President Obama will address income inequality at the heart of his State of the Union. This is an issue he has often addressed as President and has just as frequently come up short in finding solutions. It is in his first inaugural address as President that he makes mention as a key to reducing income inequality, it is rooted alongside liberty and equality and is often forgotten. That is community, as a nation we must work collectively as a nation of individuals to reduce income inequality. It is through our government that this can happen. We often talk about big government and limited government and I believe we miss the point of government when we do that. Government, whether it is based in Washington, Austin, San Antonio, or a school district, is a tool for the people. We should talk of a responsible government and that take collective and vigilant action to achieve.
I hope that President Obama talks about a responsive government that works for the people, regardless of is big or limited size. I hope he talks about issue of partisanship in Washington. I hope he talks about the Affordable Care Act, immigration, security, and other issues that are at the center of our lives. I hope he will talk about these in his State of the Union Address to Congress and reminds all of us, that despite our differences, we are in this together, we should not feel the need to go it alone, and that the world is watching America. The world is watching us because of what is suppose to make us exceptional to the rest of the world. That despite our differences, despite our shortcomings, as a nation we will come together to move our nation forward and with it move the world forward as a leader among nations.
Some noticed I was commenting on both the President’s State of the Union Address and the Republican Party’s response on my Facebook Page. There’s a reason why I do this to some degree every year and it’s not to change minds in regards to politics but rather to engage in conversation.
I’ve learned this in debating politics in coffee shops and pubs around town; you don’t debate politics to win or to change opinions, rather you debate politics to seek knowledge and (at least for me) to encourage political action through conversation. We can vote and donate our time and money to a candidate or a cause we support, but one vote doesn’t make a difference. However when your one vote is canvassed with other like minded votes that makes a difference.
But even canvassing with other voters will not work, unless you’re unafraid to join the discussion at the coffeeshop, the pub, or the water cooler at work.
What are we going to take from the State of the Union address later tonight? President Obama will focus much of his address on four issues; the economy, foreign policy, education, and health care. Why these four issues? The state of our economy and our foreign relations would seem to be mainstays of any address considering the persistent, but improving economy, and the continual war on terrorism that is going on throughout much of the world.
The President will continue his support of the overall scope of the new changes in health coverage, changes Americans seem to overwhelmingly support, while opening a door for Congress to tweak and even change laws that are not as popular, like the health insurance mandate.
This would leave education, which will be a major policy focus for the administration in the coming year. By addressing our education system, this will continue a trend of focusing on long term issues with our economy. Americans want greater access to health coverage for their families, and the White House delivered. Americans also sense a growing crisis in the way we educate our children, too many children are being left behind and this will greatly have an impact on our ability to compete for good jobs and expand an already shrinking middle class in the United States.
What happens tonight is a State of the Union address that shows a President willing and ready to work across both sides of Congress. Just don’t expect this address to introduce a president who moves fast to the center. While the President has no clear mandate from voters, he does have momentum that the Republicans do not have since the mid term elections. I would expect President Obama to use the address to set an agenda that will allow for vigorous debate, while still being able to move forward with what is necessary to continue the push to a stronger economy, the continued creation of good jobs, while allowing Congress to make serious inroads on our deficit and debt, without endangering our economic recovery.
Tonight’s State of the Union address is President Obama’s time to show that he is more than the leader of one political party and one set of ideals, but rather is a leader who will bring all of us together as we move forward as a nation.