Practice Makes Perfect – Obama’s confidence speech

Last night President Obama gave sort of a runner up to the State of the Union Address. I attempted to watch the entire speech, but I only made it until 9:30. Hey you get up at five every morning and take care of a toddler and a sick pregnant wife! All that damn standing and clapping really slowed things down. Sit down Pelosi and let the man speak. (Did anyone notice how hard she clapped when Obama mentioned healthcare reform? I thought Pelosi’s hands were going to shatter.)

Thanks to those magic internets, I read a full transcript of the speech. It’s far too long to analyze the whole thing piece by piece. Overall I enjoyed it. Obama countered a lot of his critics.

from CBC News

As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan by Presidents Day that would put people back to work and put money in their pockets. Not because I believe in bigger government — I don’t. Not because I’m not mindful of the massive debt we’ve inherited — I am.

For those who have accused Obama of pushing a federalist big government agenda here’s his reply. Government isn’t the answer to all of our problems. This time, however, it has to be whether we like that or not. Most of us don’t want the government in our business. Obama is right though, failure of the government to act in some way would have led to us to a much worse place.

He gave historic examples as well of how government intervention helped private enterprise rather than shackling it under nationalization.

from CBC News

From the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution came a system of public high schools that prepared our citizens for a new age. In the wake of war and depression, the GI Bill sent a generation to college and created the largest middle-class in history. And a twilight struggle for freedom led to a nation of highways, an American on the Moon, and an explosion of technology that still shapes our world.

In each case, government didn’t supplant private enterprise; it catalyzed private enterprise. It created the conditions for thousands of entrepreneurs and new businesses to adapt and to thrive.

There was a lot of reassuring language in the speech. Reminders of other hardships we have overcome and how Americans can accomplish anything were peppered throughout the address. This is not about helping banks, Obama said at one point, but helping people. Invoking Churchill, Obama did not shy away from tough talk either.

from CBC News

I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for the assistance they receive, and this time, they will have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer. This time, CEOs won’t be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks or buy fancy drapes or disappear on a private jet. Those days are over.

With yet more abuse exposed this morning, these are some powerful words. Words the President needs to stand behind if he wants confidence to rise and outrage to stay at a low boil and not bubble over.

Though I’m eager to see what sorts of health care reforms will be proposed, I’m going to skip ahead to the education reforms Obama spoke of.

Obama addressed the problem of high school dropout rates and low college completion rates. I agree with his no nonsense words the need for a student to graduate high school. “Dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country — and this country needs and values the talents of every American.” Obama highlighted two important things here. You cannot cannot CANNOT hope to get anywhere in this country without a high school diploma. Even a factory job our fathers could have gotten straight out of high school is out of reach to someone with just a high school diploma. Students too need to take a little responsibility in their futures as well.

It pleases me greatly that Obama recognizes reform cannot be achieved by simply throwing money at the problem

CBC

But we know that our schools don’t just need more resources. They need more reform. That is why this budget creates new incentives for teacher performance; pathways for advancement, and rewards for success. We’ll invest in innovative programs that are already helping schools meet high standards and close achievement gaps. And we will expand our commitment to charter schools.

True reform and success will come from changing the way we do things in schools. Tenure and teacher pay raises linked to teacher performance are necessary. I still support charter schools and believe that they provide another important piece to the education puzzle, but not the only solution. Invest in programs that work, dump those that don’t. That’s some great common sense (and that’s not sarcasm.) I am expecting some more concrete reforms and for Arne Duncan to fill his damn cabinet.

I’ll post some other bloggers analysis later.

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