Friday, November 7, 2014

A realistic appraisal of why America is great

Sorry for all of the politics these past two weeks.  I've been personally busy, and on top of that, I got a little caught up in the national elections.  They're over, and it is no doubt time to move on and let this go.

Before we do, I want to take a minute to acknowledge what the President said Wednesday at the end of his press conference.  The conference itself was something of a grilling, with reporters basically asking him to fall on his sword over the election results.  His party got killed, and most observers think it's because Obama himself is personally unpopular with voters.  There's lots of back-and-forth, and by the end of it, you can see that the President is physically tired.  Finally his guard comes down, and with nothing left to lose--and very little to gain, politically speaking--the President launches into a casual but very stirring case for American optimism.

This struck a chord with me.  His reasoning is absolutely sound, and I found myself nodding along as I listened.

It's worth watching the video on Slate.  It really is.  Unfortunately, I had some trouble with their embed code, however, so instead, I've cut the relavant words out of the official transcript in the Washington Post.

"But I’ll close with what I said to -- in my opening statement. I am really optimistic about America. I know that runs counter to the current mood. But when you look at the facts, our economy is stronger than just about anybody’s.

Our energy production is better than just about anybody’s. We’ve slashed our deficit by more than half. More people have health insurance. Our businesses have the strongest balance sheets that they’ve had in decades. Our young people are just incredibly talented and gifted, and more of them are graduating from high school and more of them are going on to college and more women are getting degrees and entering into the workforce.

And one part of the reason I love campaigning is you travel around the country. Folks are just good. They’re smart and they’re hard working, and they’re not always paying a lot of attention to Washington. In some cases, they’ve given up on Washington, but their impulses are not sharply partisan, and their impulses are not ideological. They’re really practical, good, generous people.

So, and we continue to be a magnet for the best and brightest from all around the world. We have all the best cards relative to every other country on Earth. Our armed forces, you talk to them, you know, I had a chance this morning to just call some of the -- our health service that is operating in Liberia. And the amount of hope and professionalism that they’ve brought has galvanized the entire country and has built -- they’ve built a platform effectively for other countries suddenly to start coming in, and we’re seeing real progress in fighting the disease in a country that just a month or a month-and-a-half ago was desperate and had no hope.

So all that makes me optimistic. And my job over the next couple of years is to do some practical, concrete things as much as possible with Congress. If it’s not possible with Congress, on my own, to show people why we should be confident and to give people a sense of progress and a sense of hope.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be ongoing nagging problems that are stubborn and can’t be solved overnight. And probably the biggest one is the fact that despite economic growth, wages and income have still not gone up. And that’s a long-term trend that we’ve seen for 10, 20, 30 years. And it makes people worried about not just their own situation, but whether their kids are going to be doing better than they did, which is the essence of the American Dream.

I think there are some concrete things we can do to make sure that wages and incomes do go up. Minimum wage in those five states was a good start. But -- but I think more than anything, what I want to communicate over these next two years is the promise and possibility of America. This is just an extraordinary country. And our democracy is messy and we’re diverse and we’re big, and there are times when you’re a politician and you’re disappointed with election results.

But maybe I’m just getting older. I don’t know. It doesn’t make me mopey. It energizes me because it means that this democracy is working. And people in America were restless and impatient and we want to get things done. And even when things are going good, we want them to do better. And that’s why this is the greatest country on earth. That’s why I’m so privileged to have a chance to be president for the next couple of years.

All right? Thank you, everybody."

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