Tag Archives: state of the union

Sputnik Moment

Earthrise from Apollo 8

Earthrise from Apollo 8

Excerpt from the State of the Union, 2011

“This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. In a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology – an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.”

Getting to the moon took more perspiration than inspiration, but without vision it never would have happened.

What if we hold our President to his word on this? I watched his address in the company of people who assembled for an informal SOTU party, and when Barack Obama talked education the teachers jumped up and cheered.

We still have the vote, and we still have influence when politicians know that people who care about an issue will turn out. Do we have any clout in the nerd community? I read Scientific American for entertainment, and the editors there are very fired up about science and math education.

Can we imagine a future as glorious as our past?

This may be the moment. I’m watching the snow fall though my plastic-covered windows, imagining a future of clean, smart energy.

I think about a fourteen year old girl, looking at a black and white TV, watching Americans walk on the moon. Yes we did. Yes we can.

State of the Union

Watching these speeches is like watching a tightrope walk.

I’m on my way out, but a quick impression is that Barack Obama was looking forward– he stressed investment in education, research and infrastructure. His tone was optimistic, he praised our country for having the best workers, the most innovation. He named invited guests, last of all a business owner whose drilling company helped rescue the Chilean miners trapped underground.

I was in congenial company, met thru an email. I didn’t want to be alone. Six years ago I watched George Bush in the company of nuns and neighbors at a Catholic school and was glad to be with people.

This was a happier crowd. There were at least three teachers in the room, and they cheered every time the President mentioned education. WBRU sent two young men to do interviews and record first impressions. The mood was enthusiastic, but not without some reserve. Politicians compromise, it’s what they do.

The Republican response by Congressman Paul Ryan was a series of warnings about the deficit, and the need to lower taxes, and shrink the government. A talking point is never to say the word ‘stimulus’ without preceding it with ‘failed’. I have not yet heard Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann’s Tea Party speech.

Ten years ago George Bush assumed the presidency with a peace dividend, an intact economy. He handed it on with two wars, an economy on the brink of crashing, and a huge deficit. Along the way, a deepening divide among Americans and an angry electorate.

Barack Obama inherited a crisis, and the Republican Party has no answer but to defund the government and let the most vulnerable Americans sink or swim.

Ultimately, it depends on we the people. But good leadership is essential if our hard work is to lead us forward together, or to pull us apart, with each seeking a safe refuge while the country sinks.

Government is not the enemy. Not if we use our votes and oversight. Churches and corporations have their place, but a theo/corporatocracy is not democracy, and a nation of gated communities surrounded by poverty is not our America.

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