Mr. Obama Goes To Washington

obamaShortly before 9 pm last night, I felt my heart thumping, skin tingling and my throat swallowing hard. Channeling Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,*” President Obama was finishing up his speech on healthcare reform and challenged his legislative audience to reject partisan bickering and unite in action:

“We did not come to fear the future.  We came here to shape it.  I still believe we can act even when it’s hard.  I still believe — I still believe that we can act when it’s hard.  I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility, and gridlock with progress.  I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history’s test.**

At this point, I looked over at Wise Hubby and said, “THIS is a great speech!” And, Wise Hubby, usually a bit ambivalent about Obama’s rhetoric, agreed.

Today’s post-mortem analysis of the speech focuses largely on the speech’s passion and idealism. There is also great discussion about Republican’s jaw-dropping incivility during the president’s remarks. (I cringed at the oubursts, yet chuckled at how Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s head kept swiveling back and forth in shock.)

While such observations may ignite invigorating debate, they should not be allowed to obscure the substance of healthcare reform. For legislation to be enacted, we must remember the reason behind the rhetoric – the millions of people who suffer due to a broken healthcare system – and persevere during the pain-staking process of working out the details.

Otherwise, all last night was a passionate jolt of energy for both sides of the aisle. If we don’t move forward, we risk falling into a soul-less black hole, as President Obama eloquently described:

And they [our predecessors] knew that when any government measure, no matter how carefully crafted or beneficial, is subject to scorn; when any efforts to help people in need are attacked as un-American; when facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom, and we can no longer even engage in a civil conversation with each other over the things that truly matter — that at that point we don’t merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges.  We lose something essential about ourselves.

This may sound corny – President Obama’s words make me want to be a better American.

*Credit for this apt analogy belongs to Tom Shales in today’s Washington Post.

** Read the full text of the President’s healthcare remarks.


  • Leanne Says:
    9-10-2009 14:22:58

    I can honestly say that I have paid very little attention to health care reform but I just finished reading the President’s speech and I was blown away by it! He has an amazing ability to break down complex issues into understandable chunks. How can anyone honestly disagree with such a sensible plan for improving health care for all Americans????

  • Sharon Says:
    9-11-2009 09:48:14

    Thank you for this post, Elaine, and the link to the article by Tom Shales, which I have gone back to read again. I knew President Obama would present his message with power, passion, and grace. I am relieved that so many others saw it that way, too.

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