As I listened to the State of the Union Address last night (I didn’t watch it …. slow internet on the water), I was surprised to hear echoes of memorable statements from former Presidents. I’ve heard others say the same, and I recognized much the same ‘feeling’ in the Social Media Buzz this morning.
I find myself flipping the Presidents words around, trying to narrow down the theme of his comments, and summing up that theme in one statement. Now, I’ve settled on one; a sad twist on JFK’s Inaugural Address of 1961 . Kennedy asks/instructs the American People to:
“ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
What I heard last night was President Obama asking much the same of the Citizenry. I heard:
‘ask not what your Congress can do for you, ask what you can do without your Congress.’
I’ve labeled this a sad twist, and believe it is, but it’s also enormously instructive, and reflects the times in which we live. Our Congress is stuck in partisan/ideological mud. It’s been stuck, and will continue to be stuck there. I do not accept, on face value alone, that things would be effectively different were the Democrats to regain control of Washington, D.C. and every State House across the land.
‘We, the People….’ have a corruption problem, deeply entrenched in the Halls of Government.
‘We, the People….’ have a finance problem with respect to our Electoral Process.
‘We, the People….’ have an access problem with respect to our Publicly Elected Officials and their Appointees.
‘We, the People….’ have a confidence problem; unsure how to ask/coerce/force the Federal Government to listen to Us, let alone represent Our will.
Why these issues are impeding the political process is a matter for another collection of words, and will be discussed in finite detail by persons better able to articulate the answers than I, but I’ll try as well. Later.
For now, I choose to look past the troublesome part of of my theme, to see the good it can inspire.
Several times, the President suggested; perhaps instructed; that Citizens of this Country do for themselves and others, what Congress is unable or unwilling to do.
Help an uninsured person get health insurance.
Raise your employees pay as best you can.
Assist those in need of special training/re-training.
Hire a long-term unemployed person or help them find a job.
Volunteer, donate, etc..
In the President’s remarks, obscured by the messy words, political correctness and attempts to garner bi-partisan reception of his address, this is what I hear, and hope you hear as well.
Treat each other with respect, even in the face of disagreement.
Treat each other with dignity, even the most undignified.
Treat each other with kindness.
I replied to someone on twitter yesterday, someone who often draws fire for the views they share openly, and more often responds with much less venom than is received for having been so open. I replied as follows:
“…. Hate is easy to dish out, and easy to respond to in kind. Civility is hard work. Hate is laziness.”
I practice what I preach, falling short of this mark on enough occasions to cause reflection, and occasionally, to issue an apology. It’s about progress, not perfection. I’ll keep trying.