Obama declares 'America is back'

HERB BOYD Special to the AmNews | 2/15/2012, 7:15 p.m.
For a little more than an hour Tuesday evening, President Barack Obama delivered a State...
President Barack Obama

This was just one indication of the patriotic zeal that saturated his narrative. When he discussed the energy problem and natural gas, he said, "America will develop this resource [and clean energy] without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk. The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don't have to choose between our environment and our economy."

But no mention of the economy means anything to the vast number of unemployed Americas unless there's a plan to create jobs. After citing a woman entrepreneur seated right next to the first lady, Obama said, "Join me in a national commitment to train 2 million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job. My administration has already lined up more companies that want to help."

Of course, linked to jobs is education, and the president seemed cognizant of that. "Now you need to give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers-places that teach people skills that local businesses are looking for right now, from data management to high-tech manufacturing."

Rep. Charles Rangel commended the president's speech, observing that it "comes at a pivotal time for the American middle class. His call for tax reform, in which everyone pays their fair share, must be answered. We cannot build a solid economy unless the responsibility is shared by everyone. Giving tax incentives to small businesses and manufacturor that keep jobs in America and hire American workers rather than a handful of corporations and billionaires will pump life back into our hard-working middle class, which is the backbone of our nation."

Thousands of teachers in the country must have been pleased to hear Obama state, "Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them or defending the status quo, let's offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job and reward the best ones. In return, grant schools flexibility: to teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren't helping kids learn." Obviously, the camera panned the room and settled on Arne Duncan, the secretary of education.

Curiously, Obama used the educational theme to raise the issue of immigration and deportation, noting that many of these immigrants "live every day with the threat of deportation," he lamented. On this issue, his critics charge that he has in fact deported more illegal immigrants than President George W. Bush.

Even so, he said, "We should be working on comprehensive immigration reform right now. But if election-year politics keep Congress from acting on a comprehensive plan, let's at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses and defend this country. Send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship. I will sign it right away."

"So much of America needs to be rebuilt," Obama asserted-a topic that all of the elected officials agreed on-and it was time to mention yet another act he was preparing to sign. "In the next few weeks, I will sign an executive order clearing away the red tape that slows down too many construction projects-but you need to fund these projects. Take the money we're no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home." Again the Congress rose as one in applause.