Rev. Al Sharpton's Weekly Blog

Rev. on State of the Union Address

Feb 01, 2010

In 1913, President Woodrow Wilson broke rank and decided to deliver his State of the Union address in person, as opposed to sending in a written message as was tradition for decades. Since that time, every serving U.S. President has appeared before Congress and members of the Supreme Court and Cabinet to articulate his stance on the current state of the nation. This annual tradition allows the President to not only encourage and unite the union, but also set the tone and agenda for the upcoming year. A President’s vernacular and take on issues will, after all, lay the framework for how the country as a whole should proceed forward. Addressing the major domestic and international dilemmas of the day, the President provides a concise vision for both elected officials and the larger citizenry to follow. Last Wednesday, our 44th President did just that – and then some.

Entrenched in one of the most precarious and arguably difficult periods of our nation’s history, President Obama undoubtedly delivered on a plethora of levels during his second State of the Union address. Compassionate, articulate without a doubt, unwavering in his resolve, focused as ever, optimistic, intelligent in thought, diplomatic, dedicated to our value system and steadfast in our future goals, President Obama reignited a spark of hope that so many have been seeking during this bleak time of despair and hardship. In the midst of two active wars, skyrocketing deficit, increasing unemployment and a growing sense of uncertainty, our President did not shy away from laying blame – even on his own Party – for many of the roadblocks and hurdles we now face. And at the same time, Obama clearly outlined new tax incentives and initiatives aimed at restarting a dormant economy and energizing an increasingly dismal public.

“So tonight, I’m proposing that we take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat, “ he stated. “I’m also proposing a new small business tax credit – one that will go to over one million small businesses who hire new workers or raise wages…” In true leadership form, Obama also outlined government spending freezes and new methods of improving our crippling education system. And unlike those that would steer clear from controversial or challenging ideas, the President highlighted his key agenda early on: health care reform. Unyielding in his resolve to revamp our stagnant health care system, he continued to promise real, sustainable change in the midst of adversity from both the left and right.

Every President diligently crafts his State of the Union address to meet the needs of the country and the current climate of society. Our first African American President touched on everything from Iraq and Afghanistan, to the recent Supreme Court decision that would allow special interest groups to openly spend in our elections, and therefore openly control the outcomes. Firmly – yet intelligently – calling out Republicans that repeatedly say ‘no’ to every measure without providing alternatives, Obama once again proved that intellectualism prevails over combative behavior. During the eight tumultuous years of George Bush’s presidency, we were repeatedly inundated with an ‘us vs. them’ mentality, an ‘axis of evil’ and a ‘no child left behind’ concept that left virtually everyone in the dark. It’s a refreshing change of pace to have a leader that’s unafraid to admit his shortcomings, that chooses diplomacy over arrogance, that reaches across the aisle, that is open to new proposals and an exchange of ideas, that isn’t worried about challenging even those in his own Party and that can still inspire hope and change one year later.

“Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades, it’s time to try something new,” he remarked. “Let’s invest in our people without leaving them a mountain of debt. Let’s meet our responsibility to the citizens who sent us here. Let’s try common sense.”

A novel concept indeed.