Thursday, September 6, 2012

More hope and change

Are Americans ready to absorb a speech like the one President Obama gave tonight? Maybe, if we're tired of hearing that there are simple solutions to our problems. If we have figured out that we can't have our cake and eat it at the same time. If we have finally realized that no one man can fix everything for us. 
I won’t pretend the path I’m offering is quick or easy. I never have. You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades. It will require common effort, shared responsibility, and the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one. And by the way – those of us who carry on his party’s legacy should remember that not every problem can be remedied with another government program or dictate from Washington.
But know this, America: Our problems can be solved. Our challenges can be met. The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place.

Do people want to hear that? I hope we're grown-up enough to be ready for that message, because it is powerful, and it happens to be true. The president's speech outlined the policy differences between the two parties' programs, but anyone who has been paying attention knows all that already. What President Obama had to do was remind us that in a democracy, we are the hope and we are the change. It's not enough to vote for him and expect him to solve everything. And it certainly isn't going to work to vote for the other guys and let them take us back in the other direction. No, what citizenship requires is that we all take the responsibility to come together and offer solutions.

Unfortunately, we have short attention spans. We want instant results. Even those who think the government can't do anything right, somehow think our elected officials are going to solve our problems for us. You can tell the president might be a little frustrated with that attitude by his reference to Roosevelt, and a subsequent reference to Lincoln. Those presidents who served during the most difficult periods in our history could count on a little more patience and support than this one has received.

What President Obama has accomplished in his first term, in the face of so much adversity and opposition, is something of a miracle. But he's still willing to give the people a lot of the credit. He reminded us that it's not about him; it's about us. Remember the famous "HOPE" poster that represented the uplifted face of Barack Obama as the symbol of hope? It's outdated.

The face of hope is not that of Barack Obama; it's us. Here's part of the conclusion of the president's acceptance speech:

 I’m no longer just a candidate.  I’m the President.  I know what it means to send young Americans into battle, for I have held in my arms the mothers and fathers of those who didn’t return.  I’ve shared the pain of families who’ve lost their homes, and the frustration of workers who’ve lost their jobs.  If the critics are right that I’ve made all my decisions based on polls, then I must not be very good at reading them.  And while I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together, I’m far more mindful of my own failings, knowing exactly what Lincoln meant when he said, “I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.”  
But as I stand here tonight, I have never been more hopeful about America.  Not because I think I have all the answers.  Not because I’m na├»ve about the magnitude of our challenges. 
I’m hopeful because of you. 
The young woman I met at a science fair who won national recognition for her biology research while living with her family at a homeless shelter – she gives me hope. 
The auto worker who won the lottery after his plant almost closed, but kept coming to work every day, and bought flags for his whole town and one of the cars that he built to surprise his wife – he gives me hope. 
The family business in Warroad, Minnesota that didn’t lay off a single one of their four thousand employees during this recession, even when their competitors shut down dozens of plants, even when it meant the owners gave up some perks and pay – because they understood their biggest asset was the community and the workers who helped build that business – they give me hope. 
And I think about the young sailor I met at Walter Reed hospital, still recovering from a grenade attack that would cause him to have his leg amputated above the knee.  Six months ago, I would watch him walk into a White House dinner honoring those who served in Iraq, tall and twenty pounds heavier, dashing in his uniform, with a big grin on his face; sturdy on his new leg.  And I remember how a few months after that I would watch him on a bicycle, racing with his fellow wounded warriors on a sparkling spring day, inspiring other heroes who had just begun the hard path he had traveled. 
He gives me hope. 
I don’t know what party these men and women belong to.  I don’t know if they’ll vote for me.  But I know that their spirit defines us.  They remind me, in the words of Scripture, that ours is a “future filled with hope.” 
And if you share that faith with me – if you share that hope with me – I ask you tonight for your vote. 
That's all the president is asking from us right now. Just tell everyone you know to get out and vote.

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