If there is one song I refuse to sing, it is “We Shall Overcome.” I hate that song. When I hear people sing it, I imagine a group of people chained together, walking through mud, toward a goal that they may or may not get to, with the shackles of the world locked around their ankles. There is nothing progressive about that song. It’s downright depressing.
This is how I would describe President Obama’s approach to getting the American public moving again. Talking job creation and financial regulatory reform is one thing, but a president’s main source of power is his power to persuade.
John Kennedy understood this. In his September 12, 1962 speech delivered at Rice University, Mr. Kennedy challenged NASA and the American public to place a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. Mr. Kennedy declared that America was going to the moon, “not because it is easy, but because it is hard.”
The result of his challenge was a legacy of space exploration unchallenged by any other nation on Earth and the creation and use of technologies that made American output more efficient and abundant.
More importantly, as he did in his inaugural speech in January 1961, Mr. Kennedy painted a vision and provided a testament of faith in America’s human resources and technical abilities. Mr. Kennedy, rather than harp on the stagnant economy overseen for eight years by the last administration, painted an honest picture of the cost and hardship of space exploration, but provided a painting of the glory around the corner.
We get no such picture from Mr. Obama. Mr. Obama reminds us that our vision has become murky after eight years of George Bush’s administration. In some ways these reminders serve as cement blocks within which are feet are captured. Instead of moving to a brighter place given our advantages in education and resources, we are merely trudging along, simply trying to overcome.
I’m afraid that as long as we keep thinking inside the box, trudging along and overcoming is all we will continue to do. I’m afraid that as long as we settle for the same old fiscal policy prescriptions, all we will do is trudge along and overcome.
If this is the new normal, it is one we cannot afford to accept. I only hope and pray that President Obama can persuade us to excel instead of merely overcome.