Last night President Obama addressed Congress. It was televised live, and I watched as I did last month during the Inauguration, transfixed.
Ben came home half way through, and we sat side by side, nodding, and occasionally commenting to each other. “He’s a doer,” I said at the end. “Some people are talkers, and some people are doers. He’s a doer.”
“I hope so,” was Ben’s reply.
After the speech I caught Ben up on what he had missed, and he responded with a mixture of hope and a healthy dose of pragmatism. “I know he is all about change, and that he wants to sanction the banks for everything they’ve done, but I heard almost the exact same thing out of Bush’s mouth last year. I just hope that he actually does it.”
I understand where Ben is coming from. He has lived here his whole life, and for the past 8 years has had to listen to a President who, it has now been revealed, lied – and without apology. I understand that in politics there are key phrases that come up again and again, and that when they come from the mouth of someone new, it is hard not to attach all the connotations conjured by the previous guy. I feel I experienced something similar in Australia at the end of 2007, when the election campaigns hit their stride. It is hard not to be cynical.
But there is a buzz in the air here. It is palpable. He is not the Messiah. Understood. The ‘buzz’ is about him being a man of action, as has already been demonstrated. What makes him different from others is the integrity that grounds his words, and that he speaks frankly. About those who are responsible for this economic mess he said, “I will not spend a single penny for the purpose of rewarding a single Wall Street executive…”, and he knows”…how unpopular it is to be seen as helping banks right now, especially when everyone is suffering in part from their bad decisions.” And this, “I promise you — I get it.” The more I listen to his practical and straightforward policies, the more I believe that he does get it. People here are fed up, hurting and ready to get back on track. He gets that, which is why he was elected.
He went on to talk about Health and Education reform, and the dependency we have on fossil fuels. When he addressed the upcoming budget, I was reminded of that brilliant scene in the film, Dave, where he gets his accountant friend in to look at the budget. His friend, played by Charles Grodin, is staggered at the wasteful spending. President Obama had this to say:
“In this budget, we will end education programs that don’t work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don’t need them. We’ll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq and reform our defense budget so that we’re not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don’t use. We will root out the waste, fraud and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn’t make our seniors any healthier, and we will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.” Hooray!
As I stridently seek work, knocked back again and again in a sick and sad economy, despite my experience and qualifications, I can have hope. I have the personal hope that comes from knowing I am in the right place for me, and that something will come along. I can also have hope that this country – my adopted homeland – will pull itself up by its bootstraps and get on with it. And that hope comes from knowing that the person at the helm is a doer.