Past the fact spinning and partisan responses to the President's address, these statements resonated with me;
For these Americans and so many others, change has not come fast enough. Some are frustrated; some are angry. They don't understand why it seems like bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded but hard work on Main Street isn't; or why Washington has been unable or unwilling to solve any of our problems. They are tired of the partisanship and the shouting and the pettiness. They know we can't afford it. Not now.
In this new decade, it's time the American people get a government that matches their decency; that embodies their strength.
From the day I took office, I have been told that addressing our larger challenges is too ambitious - that such efforts would be too contentious, that our political system is too gridlocked, and that we should just put things on hold for awhile.
For those who make these claims, I have one simple question:
How long should we wait? How long should America put its future on hold?
You see, Washington has been telling us to wait for decades, even as the problems have grown worse. Meanwhile, China's not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany's not waiting. India's not waiting. These nations aren't standing still. These nations aren't playing for second place. They're putting more emphasis on math and science. They're rebuilding their infrastructure. They are making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs.
But even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future - because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation.
And by now it should be fairly obvious that I didn't take on health care because it was good politics.
We face a deficit of trust - deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years.
But what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day. We cannot wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about their opponent - a belief that if you lose, I win.
I know it's an election year. And after last week, it is clear that campaign fever has come even earlier than usual. But we still need to govern. To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve some problems, not run for the hills. And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it's not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions. So let's show the American people that we can do it together.
But remember this - I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I can do it alone. Democracy in a nation of three hundred million people can be noisy and messy and complicated. And when you try to do big things and make big changes, it stirs passions and controversy. That's just how it is.
Those of us in public office can respond to this reality by playing it safe and avoid telling hard truths. We can do what's necessary to keep our poll numbers high, and get through the next election instead of doing what's best for the next generation.
When you read through the speech you come across many pats on the back along with acknowledgements of less than stellar performance. We have all seen and heard political spinning, from both sides, and neither fully puts the truth out there. But the comments I noted above are much more to the points that I care about.
Our politicians are failing us. Every day, whether in Washington, Springfield or Chicago, is Election Day. The lack of transparency (nowhere more obvious than in the Senate negotiations over health care reform), the obstructionism (whether it is Republican nay-saying or Democratic refusal to play fair), and the outright refusal to tackle the thorniest issues (the perennial efforts to have a commission come up with solutions for Medicare/Medicaid/Social Security), tell me that our politicians are less interested in solutions and more interested in their paychecks. As one friend pointed out; we put them in those chairs.
There is an old saying that is worth recalling:
We get the government we deserve.
We deserve better but we aren't getting it and we are the reason. Last night the President chastised both parties for their bad behavior even as he joined in with his own spinning and fact-stretching. Elections are coming up and we need to engage in some chastising of our own. I hope we are up for that.