Thursday, March 5, 2009

President Obama's Speech: Optimistic yet realistic

Feb 25 2009

It is not very often that I find a speech by anyone, let alone a politician, able to captivate my attention the way President Obama’s did last evening. To be honest, I find myself switching to ESPN about 20 minutes into most. Make no mistake; just as I find it unfair how certain members of the GOP, and some of these mindless pundits judge him after only 5 weeks-I am not ready to nominate him for a Nobel Prize yet either. However, at least for one night, he appeared as a man completely in control of himself and the daunting task he is faced with. As I listened, I found myself thinking that just 5 weeks ago we had a man whose IQ is at least 50 points lower than his leading our country. In the words of Bob Dylan: “A simple twist of fate”.

Throughout his speech, he consistently pointed to three areas that concerned him the most: education, health care reform, and energy reliance. These have pretty much been at the forefront of the last 3 administrations. However, President Obama was able to convince me that he was actually going to do something about them. In fact, he already has. As part of the stimulus plan, he has made it possible for 7 million young men and women to attend college. He has also made cuts in other areas in order to avoid the layoff of teachers. The fact that the U.S. has one of the highest dropout rates of all industrialized nations is nothing short of a slap in the face. Because of this; the President plans to increase funding in areas such as Early Childhood Education and more Charter Schools. He will also implement a plan that rewards those teachers that prove to be innovative and produce positive results. That alone is something I think is long overdue.

With regard to health care; he has helped pass legislation which will allow 11 million children to be insured. On Monday, he is creating a panel consisting of health care professionals such as doctors, administrators, and insurance specialists to address the issue of health care reform. He contends that the lack of efficiency is at the root of the problem. I was a bit taken aback when he stated that 1.5 million Americans may lose their homes in the next year due to medical costs. I know from personal experience that if you do not have a solid insurance plan, you can lose everything because of a health problem. In 2003, I suffered a heart attack and my total bills amounted to $140 thousand. Fortunately, I was a member of the Carpenters Union who were able to provide us with an excellent insurance plan. Without it, I would have lost my home.
When President Obama spoke of energy reliance, there was a hint of anger in his tone when he pointed out that China now leads the world in the use of renewable energy. He was equally upset that we were the first country to experiment with solar power and have since been passed by Germany and others in its use. Because of these things; he has pledged to allot $15 billion annually to energy technology.

It would be impossible for me to accurately depict the crisis facing both the banking and auto industries. One of the reasons is the ever-changing relief amounts requested. To emphasize this point, the New York Times reported that on Monday the American International Group (AIG) asked for additional tens of billions on top of the $150 billion previously requested. Citigroup is experiencing the same type of problems as they see their losses continue to mount. As I said; it is pointless to beat this proverbial horse. He is fully aware that his decision to continue granting aid to these institutions is not a popular one, but it is one that must be made in order to restore credit opportunities for Americans. This is an integral part in stimulating the economy. There was talk of nationalizing the banking industry but that has been replaced by a tracking system that will be put in place to enable all Americans to see how their tax dollars are being spent. Accountability will be the primary focus and Vice President Joe Biden will be in charge of the oversight. President Obama jokingly (sort of) commented that “You don’t mess with Joe”.
The auto industry has joined ranks with the banks in asking for additional monies exceeding the already exorbitant amounts already requested. General Motors and Chrysler are asking for an additional $22 billion on top of the $17 billion already promised. The President was quick to point out that this was in no way excusing them for their past performance, but a necessary move in order to help them re-tool and make them viable again. The number of jobs at stake should either of these giants go under is staggering. It is clear that the bailout is simply the lesser of two evils

Throughout the President’s speech, he maintained an optimistic view of the chance of recovery; albeit a slow recovery. The American public has come to appreciate that they are looking at 2 to 3 years before they see significant improvements. The President didn’t hesitate to explain the gravity of the situation; as the aforementioned numbers clearly indicate. Mixed in with battle cries of “We will recover” were reminders that we are on the brink of a total collapse. A collapse that has the potential to cripple the global economy as well. He issued challenges to lawmakers to set aside party differences and work together to focus on the future. Only this will help us crawl out of this seemingly bottomless pit. To his credit, the President refrained from taking shots at the previous administration that allowed these conditions to escalate year after year. Instead, he chose to take the high road and appealed to Americans and their history of resiliency to help in overcoming these incredible obstacles.

Though admittedly inspired; only time will tell if I witnessed a historical speech or merely more political rhetoric. Presently, President Obama has captured the hearts of Americans and is asking them to join him in this fight, and if the polls are any indication, the answer is an emphatic YES!!

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