President Obama has made two great speeches, once again. His comments on the George Zimmerman verdict, especially those concerning his memories of growing up black were moving, powerful and important. Americans don’t get such smart, thoughtful dialogue from our leaders. Instead, daily we turn on our TVs and let the corporate pundits fill our living rooms and our minds with their propaganda. As a nation, we think what they tell us to think. We do not question. President Obama made us listen and required us to think for ourselves about this issue: race in America; rare indeed from a modern President.
A few days later we got his economic pep talk to the nation in which he passionately spoke of his desire to help the Middle and Working Class in America.
These two wonderful speeches reached over the shoulders of the pundits and into our living rooms and shook us on our couches and rattled our kitchen tables.
But the problem with President Obama’s fabulous speeches throughout his Presidency so far… five years in, is there is never a follow up of action. It is a cliché’ but actions speak louder than words. I am afraid when the Obama Presidency comes to an end we will be left with a pile of paper, brilliant speeches, words that made us shiver and proud to have voted for him and words that gave us hope, but not much more than that.
At the beginning of the previous century, President Theodore Roosevelt mused on a life in politics: “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
After five years, I still don’t believe President Obama has stepped into the ring. His great speeches from the campaign and his first year yielded little action. The healthcare plan is a corporate guided trip through a maze that keeps us from universal healthcare as a nation. It offers little for the effort and if that is the result of his first four years, it is a minor achievement.
Words, speeches need to be followed up with actions. That action, in American politics is legislation. A legislative plan that follows through on the open punch of the great speech. The bully pulpit is not something that can work unless there is a plan of action when the President steps away from the microphone.
President Obama seems to think the job is done when his speech is over. This is leading us, so far, into a two-term, meaningless Presidency.
When President Kennedy addressed the nation in 1963 on Civil Rights. He followed that speech up with action. The legislation was sent to Congress. The National Guard went to Alabama. The Civil Rights Act was passed and signed by President Johnson in 1965.
When President Kennedy addressed the nation on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, he followed it up with a treaty signed in Washington, London and in Moscow for a ban on nuclear testing in the atmosphere, in space, and underwater.
A pile of paper speeches is not a legacy. President Obama has three more years to enter the arena or leave us and history with an echo of lost words.