President Barack Obama gave his final State of the Union Address last Tuesday, and surprisingly, it came off as more sincere than a typical political speech. I’m not the biggest fan of President Obama, however I have to admire the man’s accomplishments thus far, and his hopeful realism about what can be done in the future.
By far, the most important message from President Obama’s last State of the Union was his message of unity for the American people. In an election season that’s already been plagued by partisan politics and rampant discriminatory soundbites, it’s incredibly refreshing to hear a politician (especially President Obama) speak to the diversity of America as what it is — a virtue.
Obama made clear that America could not face its problems as a divided country; that Americans could overcome any obstacle, if only they stood together.
Obama said, “The future we want… all of us want opportunity and security for our families, a rising standard of living, a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids; all that is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together.”
You can dismiss all that the President said as simple clichés, but that would be a disservice to the relevancy of what he’s saying. In a time where presidential candidates like Donald Trump can get away with demonizing Mexicans, where politicians can get away with spreading Islamophobia and where Kim Davis is invited to the State of the Union Address based on refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, Obama’s message about the inherent equality of all people under the Constitution and the need for everyone to work hand-in-hand is clearly still needed.
Early on in his speech, Obama spoke candidly about the four problems he perceived as deciding America’s future: how to ensure opportunity for everyone, how to harness technological change, how to keep the country safe and how to fix the nation’s broken politics.
“Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise or when even basic facts are contested or when we listen only to those who agree with us,” he said. “Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get all the attention. And most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some special interest.”
So despite all the fearmongering and all the other problems we face as a country, we definitely aren’t doing the worst. When has America ever been a perfect country? We won’t ever be able to have the perfect leader who can solve all of our problems, because p
erfection doesn’t exist. What we need is a president who can get the ball rolling on real progress and keep it rolling. President Obama has, in some ways at least, made good, lasting changes in the United States.
It’s sad that political polarization has plagued our government during President Obama’s presidency, because think of what could have been achieved in this country if both parties legitimately committed themselves to ensuring the prosperity of the American people. So often our country finds itself in a quagmire of fear and hate, and that’s why it’s important that Obama stressed — and should continue to stress — unity, because without it, we can’t move forward as a country.