As I was watching the President speak last night, I couldn't hep but think of Doug Pagitt's new book Church in the Inventive Age. Like Doug, the President pounded home his conviction that the world has changed and we need to adapt to it. The road ahead may be difficult to navigate, but America's history shows that we have what it takes. The key words from last night's speech are EDUCATE and INNOVATE. This is because the jobs of tomorrow, unlike the jobs of yesterday require education, and the only way we can compete with China and India is if we educate and innovate. The President noted that in proportional numbers, the US has fallen to 9th in college graduates. In terms of Internet access we're well behind a number of other countries. There is the severe problem that 25% of HS seniors fail to graduate from HS at a time when it is next to impossible to get a job without a HS diploma at the very least.
Now as I listened to the President last night I heard a sober analysis and a centrist solution. He said enough to make the partisans left and right upset. But, what I heard last night was a President who gets it. He's not the Prime Minister, who represents a Party, he's the President who represents a nation. He gave the the GOP a few bones, and said okay, now since we have divided government lets see what we can do to solve problems in a centrist mode. I'll come part way, but you have to come part way.
I heard this strongly stated in the brief but important word about Health Care. He said, you know, if there are areas that don't work, let's fix them. But let's not redo the legislation so that a person with a pre-existing condition can't get health care coverage, let's not take away the opportunity for families to cover their children as they enter the work force or continue their education. But, he made clear he would not let us slip backwards.
While the pundits were poking holes (along with some of my progressive friends), my sense is that the American people liked what they heard. And, while Paul Ryan may have made a nice defense of small government in his response, is this really what the American people want?
What the American people want is a strong, efficient, effective government that solves problems and protects us from threats both external and internal, that delivers services on time and keeps the roads fixed.
My story for a moment. I'm driving down Long Lake Road, a major thoroughfare here in Troy (in what was once a rather affluent city), and I'm amazed at all the potholes. And it's only getting worse. Is this the America we really want to live in? Yes, the deficit is a problem, but maybe we need to be willing to pay a bit more money for things. Maybe here in Michigan we could pay 10 cents a gallon more so we could have good and safe roads and bridges.
So, did I like the speech last night. Yes, I thought he did what he needed to do to reframe the debate and get us moving forward. I think he also put himself on the right path to getting re-elected, and if he does well enough Democratic senators in states leaning right might do well as well.
So, let's go out and innovate and educate! (Oh, but one thing Mr. President, while I agree we need math and science teachers, let's not forget the humanities. One of the big problems today is people don't know their history!)