And we have Sgt. Cory Remsburg to thank. But first, let’s address that speech.
President Obama was critical of the gridlock and how it hurt the American people, and said he was ready to act on his own, and take executive action.
It was a ballsy threat of action. Let’s hope in this final term, Obama actually takes some. Especially on immigration. Maybe Ju Hong, the San Francisco activist was right when he disrupted the president’s speech in November. The president can do more without the Congress, if he can only summon up the political will. Maybe the president has found some. When you’re on your way out, what do you have to lose?
There were a few specifics about some things like the MyRA retirement accounts, energy policy, equal pay for women, job training, pre-school and minimum wage proposals. But we still don’t know if any of that will amount to all that much in the end.
So for now, this speech will have to be about how it made us feel. And that’s’ where the president struck gold when he introduced us to Sgt. Remsburg, the wounded Army Ranger, who couldn’t walk or hear or see, but never gave up on his own recovery to the point where he could sit in the gallery and watch the State of the Union.
A little bit of drama through a meaningful cameo never hurt a State of the Union. Especially when one needed some rallying emotion. Normally, the president has a paragraph, what I call the “litany of diversity,” where he names every race in the Census. But this year, he talked in general terms about all of us, when he said “we believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation.” He was in the military section of the speech, including a cheering portion about the Olympic team, that incited a “USA” chant.
But it was just a lead up when he personified it all by talking about Remsburg.
In Remsburg’s story, the president found common ground for us all, above the b.s. of politics. It was one of the few times in the speech where Biden and Boehner could be seen both standing up and applauding behind the president. Indeed, Remsburg, gave the president the night’s biggest applause (about a minute and 45 seconds, and that’s with the president inserting himself to stem the roar).
Again, it played right into the president’s plan. About Remsburg, the president said: “My recovery has not been easy,” he says. “Nothing in life that’s worth anything is easy.”
He could have been talking about himself, the country, all of us struggling in our present day America. That’s what we all need to remember, that we’re all in this fight together, and when we start fighting each other (like when the governing class loses its mind and shuts down the government) it’s just not the American way.
The end of that speech was like a call for the best in us all, the good of government, and our country. It’s why we send our children to war, and why we can, with all our differences, in the end, stand together as one.
Forget about specific policies you may or may not have heard. After hearing dozens of these, SOTU addresses are about the “feel good.” And if how you felt about Remsburg is the only thing of substance that you remember tomorrow, or next week, then the minute or so of applause he got did the trick.
That’s what Obama needed to do with this SOTU address. As our leader he had to remind us that despite it all, the state of the union is really much stronger than we think.