Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The President's Speech: The Value of Communication

From the very first moments of President Barack Hussein Obama's speech last night (which I watched this morning on the NYTimes website) I felt fortunate that we have this man as our president at this time.

One of the Republican talking points during the recent campaign was that eloquence is not action...but it has always been my belief that eloquence is the primary quality a leader must have...especially in troubling times. Without the ability to express ideas, not only clearly, but in a way which invites an emotional and energic positive response, a leader of a free people can do nothing.

The President, started his speech last night by saying that:

... while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken, though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.

The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don't lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and our universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth. Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.

This is precisely the note of hope that the nation must keep top of mind, as we enter a period of reduced luxuries and harder work...and we must remember that, though our collective labors, we WILL return to prosperity.

The President also invited us to look back into our recent past, and realize that we are now reaping the bitter fruits of the crop we sowed - starting as long as twenty years ago. As a people, we chose not to break our addiction to forgiegn oil and cheep goods, and we turned to leaders who promised us easy answers:

The fact is our economy did not fall into decline overnight. Nor did all of our problems begin when the housing market collapsed or the stock market sank. We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy. Yet we import more oil today than ever before. The cost of health care eats up more and more of our savings each year, yet we keep delaying reform. Our children will compete for jobs in a global economy that too many of our schools do not prepare them for. And though all these challenges went unsolved, we still managed to spend more money and pile up more debt, both as individuals and through our government, than ever before.

In other words, we have lived through an era where too often short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election. A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. (Applause.) Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn't afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.

Well that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here.

Now is the time to act boldly and wisely -- to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity. Now is the time to jumpstart job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that is what I'd like to talk to you about tonight.

Both the reminder that, as a Democracy and a people, we put ourselves in this place, and by inviting us to remember that, through our focus and hard work, we will raise ourselves out of it, President Obama is following in the great tradition of our best orators (who, not coincidentally, have been our best leaders) Kennedy, Churchill, and Franklin Roosevelt.

I, for one, was grateful to hear the speech.

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