NETWORK welcomed President Obama’s State of the Union address as a call to develop trust among citizens and our government representatives. “We have each other’s backs” is at the heart of what it means to promote the common good. The president used the military as an example of this shared responsibility, but it is a perspective that is developed in many places. For one, it is at the core of our faith, but perhaps the military is something that all people in the United States can understand.
We affirm the call for all Americans to play by the same rules and pay taxes according to their capacity. The key concepts of the speech solidly extended NETWORK’s Mind the Gap! campaign themes. Wealth and income disparity are eating at the foundation of our democracy. In order to Mend the Gap we affirm the president’s call to integrate education into real jobs, support teachers, and make an economy that works for all people. This is critical to our continued development as a nation.
The president highlighted that we as a nation cannot continue on the polarized path that we have been on, pitting people and political parties against each other. The divide within Congress and between Congress and the rest of the nation needs to end, and real people need to be the focus of our concern. We affirm the president’s call for just such steps toward working together.
The concept of the United States as an “indispensable nation” is an important framework for understanding our role in the world. It challenges us to be engaged in both partnership and leadership on the way forward in creating a world where all can flourish. We are concerned that the president touted the Free Trade Agreements that Congress passed, but he failed to acknowledge the serious problems the Colombia trade agreement created by exacerbating the economic divide in that nation without giving much in return. We were also concerned that there was no specific support for the State Department’s work of diplomacy and development in a vulnerable world.
While NETWORK affirms ending the subsidies to “Big Oil” and investing in alternative energy, we are extremely concerned about the president’s focus on shale natural gas and the devastation to the environment that current mining procedures cause. While he said that it needed to be done in a “safe” way, it appears to us that technology is a long way away from accomplishing that. This makes the natural gas focus ephemeral at best, or a growing natural disaster at worst.
Finally, NETWORK marvels at the president’s capacity to give a speech that avoided the partisan “buzz words” that create knee jerk reactions in listeners. His use of new language of “having each other’s backs” created a visceral feeling of the common good. While we do not support all of the policy initiatives that the president put forward, we do believe that developing trust among our people is a crucial step toward developing a more perfect union. It is this attitude of trust that can make the work of governance a step forward for all of us.