Everyone’s talking about it. President Obama just delivered his fourth State of the Union Address. And in comparison to last year’s address, I felt this was more promising, more powerful, and more focused on the future of America’s course.
There were a few key phrases that warmed my insides above and beyond their usual 98.6 degrees. I’ll share them with you here and then chime in with my thoughts (and concerns):
- “They [U.S. Military] exceed all expectations. They’re not consumed with personal ambition. They don’t obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together. Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example. Think about the America within our reach:”
- “We’ve all paid the price for lenders who sold mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them, and buyers who knew they couldn’t afford them.”
- “We bet on American workers. We bet on American ingenuity. And tonight, the American auto industry is back.”
- “It’s time to turn our unemployment system into a reemployment system that puts people to work”
- “Just like it [political affiliations] didn’t matter that day [Operation Kill Osama] in the Situation Room, when I sat next to Bob Gates – a man who was George Bush’s defense secretary; and Hillary Clinton, a woman who ran against me for president. All that mattered that day was the mission. No one thought about politics. No one thought about themselves.”
- “More than that, the mission only succeeded because every member of that unit trusted each other – because you can’t charge up those stairs, into darkness and danger, unless you know that there’s someone behind you, watching your back.”
Did his 65 minute address change history? Doubtful. Tomorrow, it will be the same shit, different day type mentality for most of our elected officials. One moment that really made me give pause was his segment on illegal immigration. The sensitive issue has weighed heavily, really very heavily on my heart and mind. The moment I find the issue resolved finds another filled with uncertainty. Strangely enough, being a registered Democrat doesn’t just grant me blind allegiance to the party’s platform. In fact, nothing is as black or white as politics, I’m learning. I think we’re all somewhat floating along the middle.
The deciding moment isn’t very climactic. It was merely an understanding that there really is a new America. I’m not so ignorant that I thought the country would just round up all the undocumented residents and send them back to their countries of origin, but my position on deportations was unwavering. Our country is in a crisis with record high unemployment and underemployment rates, increasing debt, increasing expenses and I thought the immigration debate was a waste of energy and resources. Illegal residents can’t stay. We can’t afford to pick up the tab on failed industries, failed mortgages, failed banks, and tend to the needs of the millions who’ve come to this country in hopes of a better life when the Americans here can’t run off to another country for a better life. This is the better life.
Except, it just felt wrong. It felt wrong to tell people who’d come for the American Dream that they’re too late, the borders are closed, that there are thousands of dollars to begin the process of becoming a legal and naturalized citizen, that they aren’t skilled enough, they aren’t valued enough, and can’t contribute enough to American society. But then, I step outside my apartment in the city of Boston and can only find two neighbors on an entire block that speaks English in addition to our household. We attempt to patronize restaurants or small businesses (you know, for batteries) and can’t communicate with the employees or owners. It’s frustrating to not know the word for batteries in Spanish. It’s maddening to order a dish without onions and know it’s coming with onions because your waitress doesn’t understand English. The part of me that wants to be sympathetic gets tired, hungry, and really needs AA batteries.
However, tonight I listened to our President speak with clear emotion and understanding when he said this, “they [children of undocumented parents]…are American through and through.” They are American. And even with all of the conversations about them being illegal, not speaking English, taking working class jobs, forcing working class people out of work by working for lower wages, not paying taxes, living off the system, having (hoards) of anchor babies; it’s a conversation that needs to end. It’s mean. I was being mean and I’m sorry.
They’re here. We’re here. Let’s stop using words like they and we, us and them. What are we doing any of this for, if not for them? If not for the generations that will come, live and love this country after us? If I want the best possible country for them, whoever they are, then I want everyone at the table to be welcomed and cared for (with excellent government funded healthcare) and (very well) educated and fed and loved. That is how we create a nation of American ingenuity. I give my best and you give your best, because we live in a society where we constantly receive the best from our country and each other. That is the land of the free and the home of the brave.