Tonight while watching the State of the Union address, I thought back to the fall of 2008 and remembered how hopeful people were. Once Barack Obama is in office, they said, everything will be better. My belly dance teacher thought her business would boom again, my friends who’d been laid off were sure they’d find work, and my mom called me on election night and declared, “Things ’bout to change now!”
My expectations were not as lofty. Not because I doubted Obama’s sincerity, but because I knew, as President Obama said in his speech tonight, that change would not be easy.
I must say I’ve been even less hopeful this past year. With all the bickering between political parties over bank bailouts, health-care reform and national security, my dreams of unity were dashed. I’ve been fortunate enough to hold on to employment during this recession. As you all know, I changed careers last summer. My husband quit his job so I could seize this opportunity, but he was able to find a new one. I can’t deny we’ve been blessed. But I have too many friends holding a college degree in one hand and a pink slip in the other. There was a time when I believed that, as Obama said tonight, education was the key to ending poverty. But these days my faith in that notion is shaky — and this is coming from a teacher!
I lie awake at night worried about health care. I worry I won’t be able to afford my lupus medication and doctor visits — and I have health insurance! What about my friend who’s exhibiting a host of lupus symptoms, but can’t be tested because she has no coverage?
But our president is aware of the waning hope in the hearts of Americans, and I believe he truly wants to inspire us once again. Tonight he said he knows many doubt if he can actually live up to his campaign slogan of “Change You Can Believe In.” He took the blame for not making the health-care reform bill more understandable for the American people. I applaud his humility. (I also appreciate that he basically told everyone one in the room to grow up and even called out the Supreme Court justices while they were sitting right in front of him. Awesomeness!)
Obama left us with words that I know I needed to hear. He reminded us that change will not be easy and that he cannot do this alone. He reminded us that democracy is “noisy, messy, and complicated.” But he also reminded us of the resilience of our forefathers (and mothers) and made us a promise with the statement: “We don’t quit. I don’t quit.”
Well said, Mr. President. This girl is still in the fight.