3000 miles away, I’m taking an hour between meetings in California to watch President Obama’s speech on the economy. Not an “official” State of the Union address, nevertheless it has all the trappings with a full house of Congresspeople and Senators gathered in the House of Representatives. Here are some reflections as the evening unfolds:
8:55 pm — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gets a standing ovation as she files down the aisle with the other members of the Supreme Court. Just recently recovering from surgery for cancer, Justice Ginsburg’s presence at this event is a great testament to the courage and determination of this remarkable jurist. I happen to have had the privilege of working with Justice Ginsburg’s husband Martin when I was on staff at Georgetown Law Center, and on the occasions when I met Ruth as well — before she joined the court — she always struck me as a remarkable intellect, kindly and even shy, deeply insightful about matters of law and justice. I was cheering for her tonight as she walked into the House.
Shortly after 9:00: other cabinet officers entered the chamber including Secretary of State Clinton, a vibrant and powerful presence fresh back from her first trips a abroad as the chief diplomat for the United States.
9:05: President Obama is announced and enters the House to many cheers.
9:15: Trinity Alumna and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi ’62 greets President Obama and presents him formally to the chamber.
9:19: President Obama wins his first standing O by declaring firmly that the United States will recover from the current economic challenge. But with a stern discipline: “…the day of reckoning has arrived.”
9:26: “Nobody Messes with Joe” — a humorous comment announcing Vice President Joe Biden’s role in the economic recovery plan, what this moment really shows is the warm and easy relationship among the people up on the podium — Obama’s wide grin is returned by Joe Biden, and Nancy Pelosi stands and applauds with a laugh. Having watched these speeches for years, I must say that one of the remarkable traits of Barack Obama is really coming through — his total ease at the podium, his fluid delivery of the speech, his keen intelligence that fuels his passion without overwhelming the message. He “owns” the stage, a quality so important for a successful leader.
9:30: big cheers for holding banks accountable — and how the bailouts will help the American consumer. End of fancy drapes and private jets! (My services as an Ikea “as-is” consultant to execs — see my earlier blog — may still come in handy!) Everybody cheers —- well, except some of the Republican members who look a bit cranky right now.
9:33: “we cannot govern out of anger” — I love this line! He’s explaining to the people why the government must rescue the banks in spite of their sins. Credit must be restored so that families can buy homes and businesses can continue to provide jobs. Bank recovery is tied to economic recovery. He makes it very plain and direct, no fancy talk.
9:34: calling on Congress to work with the Administration to replace the outdated regulatory system. Amen to that!!
9:40: Energy. Health Care. Education. The investment we must make.
9:45: Health care reform cannot wait! Yes!!
9:46: Education. Every child must “…have access to a complete and competitive education from the day they are born to the day they begin a career.” Education will be a keystone of the Obama administration. College becomes affordable for nearly 7 million more students under the economic recovery plan.
9:47: New budget creates new incentives for teacher performance. NOTE: also expands commitment to charter schools. This will be very interesting…
9:48: Every American should have some college education… this country needs the talent of every American. The commitment to education is significant. “By 2020 America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in America.”
9:50: Obama asks for new legislation (Hatch-Kennedy) to support college education for those who do community service…
More analysis of the speech later….