At the end of President Obama’s State of the Union address, my throat caught and tears sprang to my eyes. His were words to live by:
…no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all the challenges I’ve outlined tonight. But we were never sent here to be perfect. We were sent here to make what difference we can, to secure this nation, expand opportunity, and uphold our ideals through the hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government.
We were sent here to look out for our fellow Americans the same way they look out for one another, every single day, usually without fanfare, all across this country.
We are citizens. It’s a word that doesn’t just describe our nationality or legal status. It describes the way we’re made. It describes what we believe. It captures the enduring idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations; that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter in our American story.”
I’m sure many of us listened to Obama’s speech wondering how our own particular interests would be met. The president presented a thoughtful, intelligent approach to attacking what I think is the biggest problem our world faces: climate chaos. There will be plenty of time over the next few days to debate the merits of each and every thing he said–and did not say. I feel we have made great progress. I listened as a mother who cares deeply about what we can do to slow down global warming. The president gave me more hope about the seriousness of his intention, and his ideas, than he ever has before. We heard his determination “that the thing can and should be done,” as President Lincoln said. We will find a way–many ways, as this is a problem of enormous complexity and scale. Obama has begun to lay the foundation for an ambitious plan. It is up to us, the people of this country, to keep pushing for solutions.
Obama reminded us all of what really matters, whether we are Republican or Democrat, young or old, woman or man. He got to the heart of the matter–the beating heart of what makes a democracy function. It will continue to be our job to uphold the values of citizenship by which we are so blessed to live: the right of every person to participate fully in the important issues of the day, and, indeed, the need to do so; the right to information, and the responsibility each of us has to try and understand as best we can those issues, so that we can engage with intelligence; the right to disagree–or consent–to both small and bold ideas. The right to demand course correction, and the right to thank people for leading the way. The right to keep fighting to protect our precious children’s future–and that of their children.