This State of the Union Address was not President Obama’s “Sputnik Moment” – and appropriately so. A little boring, yes. But his controlled and somber tone was the right pitch for a Congress – and a nation – subdued by the tragedy in Tucson. Like his Congressional audience, the President’s speech was civil and congenial. No big surprises. Some moments of “dad humor”.
“Can’t we all just get along?” That seemed to be the theme of the night. While no renditions of “kumbaya” were belted out, nor were there scenes of Members holding hands, an attempt at togetherness was represented by the noble gesture of legislators pairing with colleagues from across the aisle. The President got in on the action as well, focusing on finding areas of common ground (tort reform, immigration reform).
I appreciated how the President focused on progressing forward as a diverse nation. Quite early in the speech, he reminded Americans of a shared purpose and narrative by saying, “We are part of the American family. We believe that in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; that we share common hopes and a common creed…” Further, the President reaffirmed strongly his belief that all people of all faiths, including our Muslim brothers and sisters, fit beautifully into the mosaic that is the American narrative.
“And as extremists try to inspire acts of violence within our borders, we are responding with the strength of our communities, with respect for the rule of law, and with the conviction that American Muslims are a part of our American family,” Obama said tonight.
As I said earlier, this was not his “Sputnik Moment” in terms of how this speech ranks, in terms of loftiness and breadth, in the catalog of his powerful and elegant addresses. But we needed words grounded in reality and very much down to Earth. And for that, the President gets a B+.