Question: From a leadership perspective--moving the country and the political process away from division and gridlock and toward consensus, confidence and action--how would you grade President Obama's State of the Union speech?
I'd give President Obama's State of the Union address an A-, primarily for the positive tone of the speech. In the opening, he acknowledged our differences, then affirmed our unity: "The debates have been contentious; we have fought fiercely for our beliefs. That's a good thing. That's what a robust democracy demands." Then with a brief, powerful reference to the Tucson tragedy, he reminded us, "We are part of the American family...we are still bound together as one people." This was his most important message.
A weakness may have been a lack of detail in legislative priorities. But avoiding detail may have been a calculated move to the center to reduce political rancor. Inspiring bipartisan collaboration is one of the most important things our politicians can do at the moment.
As we argue, the Chinese, Indians and others move forward. Recently, columnist Thomas Friedman mused about a fictitious wiki-leaked Chinese diplomat's cable, "Things are going well here for China. America remains a deeply politically polarized country, which is certainly helpful for our goal of overtaking the U.S. as the world's most powerful economy and nation...There is a willful self-destructiveness in the air here as if America has all the time and money in the world for petty politics."
The president was effective in pointing out our need for investment and innovation to remain competitive--our "Sputnik moment." As an educator, I appreciated his emphasis on education, for instance. Appropriately he addressed the deficit, but was not as effective in describing how we will reduce it.
His acknowledgement of Rep. Boehner's rise from janitor to speaker of the house was masterful. Whether you agree with the president's policies or not, to get anything done, we as a country need to build capacity to better respect and listen to one another. We need politicians on both sides not only sitting together, but also acknowledging and listening to and learning from one another--and imploring their constituents to do the same. As the president said, "We will move forward together, or not at all."
Posted by: LeighOats | January 28, 2011 1:06 AM
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