Wednesday, January 26, 2011

State of the Union

Image from the NY Times
Last night James and I sat down to hear President Obama's 2011 State of the Union address. Picking up where he left off in Tucson, the President continued his push for bipartisan civility in an age where we need to move this country forward, instead of gridlocking progress in an 'us vs. them' mentality. Like any seasoned teacher with classroom management skills, I thought the seating arrangement truly influenced the tone, becoming less of a football stadium and more of a civilized chamber of governance. I even liked the reach across the abyss to John Boehner.

And boy didn't those of us who teach at Jericho High School buzz about the President's 'shout-out' to us as nation-builders, because those of us at my job, do see it that way. Not all agreed with his 'race-the-top' strategy, but we came to consensus against No Child Left Behind.

There were great poetics in Obama's writing style. It was balanced. I reflected on the analogous relationship of Sputnik to our "winning the future." Upon reflection, I consider it apropos. We currently sit on the precipice of the future and cannot be bogged down wasting energy fighting each other without at least an attempt to reach consensus.

Throughout the speech, the President made statements so thoughtfully worded that James and I often wondered aloud, "How could you object to that?!" Now it's no secret that I am a hearty supporter of President Obama, but I was pleased today when a social studies teacher who plans on teaching the speech tomorrow, told me, "I'm a Republican, but I like the guy." And as he prepared his 'Project Citizen' unit, he also appreciated the support for teachers.

One part of the night was more personal. When James and I were in DC with the family this summer, we spoke with our representatives in Washington about the Gulf oil spill. It was great to see our alternative energy allies having the ear of the President. Congressman Steve Israel (D-NY), a longtime champion of environmental issues, had such forward-thinking, sensible, and money-saving ideas, that we were excited to see him walking with Obama on the way out, with Energy Chairman Waxman (D-CA) symbolically leading the way. Congressman Engle (D-NY), a bull dog in questioning BP chairman, was shaking hands along the aisle. These are the folks who can implement these goals. We also met with Climate Change Czar and former Audubon Board Chair Carol Browner. When I heard this week that Browner was stepping down, I was disappointed since she had great perspective on the whole situation: the oil industry's unpaid taxes, lax regulation, and campaign contributions, while green technologies were moving forward in China. She knew what was at stake. I hoped her departure wasn't a sign we had given up getting this country off oil.

Our gasps were audible as the President hit the oil issue squarely out of the park. By subsidizing the oil industry, we are enslaving ourselves in the past, destroying our environment, and creating a national security issue. Funnel that very same money into green technology--sensible, right? European governments have been leading the way on this for years. Let's learn from their model. Of course I'd like to see a return to the moritorium on off-shore drilling, but I guess I can't have everything. . . yet.

Ultimately we were moved by the citizens in the gallery. The heroes, the dreamers, the believers. With Egypt's streets ablaze with revolution, last night I went to bed proud we were "for the people and by the people."

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