Saturday, January 29, 2011

The H & C Don't Stop Here Anymore

Reading back through President Obama's State of the Union speech gives one the impression he is beginning to consider a little more carefully why some people just did not take to his 2008 campaign slogan of Hope and Change:

Many people watching tonight can probably remember a time when finding a good job meant showing up at a nearby factory or a business downtown. You didn’t always need a degree, and your competition was pretty much limited to your neighbors. If you worked hard, chances are you’d have a job for life, with a decent paycheck and good benefits and the occasional promotion. Maybe you’d even have the pride of seeing your kids work at the same company.

That world has changed. And for many, the change has been painful. I’ve seen it in the shuttered windows of once booming factories, and the vacant storefronts on once busy Main Streets. I’ve heard it in the frustrations of Americans who’ve seen their paychecks dwindle or their jobs disappear -– proud men and women who feel like the rules have been changed in the middle of the game.

They’re right. The rules have changed.
I think I've heard that song before:

When I was a curly headed baby
My daddy sat me down upon his knee
He said, "Boy, you go to school and learn your letters
Don't you be a dirty miner like me"

I was born and raised in the mouth of the Hazard Hollow
Coal cars rambled past my door
Now they're standin' in a rusty row all empty
And the L & N
Don't stop here anymore"
That's an old song, and the truth is that the rules have not changed. There was never a time when you could just walk into a local factory or store and get a job with good pay and benefits for life. That may have happened for some people through hard work and luck, but it's wrong to think it was some kind of norm.

But there's also some reason to think that President Obama gets it:

We are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea -– the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny. That’s why centuries of pioneers and immigrants have risked everything to come here. It's why our students don’t just memorize equations, but answer questions like "What do you think of that idea? What would you change about the world? What do you want to be when you grow up?"
Perhaps what we have been most deprived of during this last decade is the chance to shape our own destiny. The long wars and the overhanging specter of job loss and economic stagnation have sapped the American spirit. If the President can get us back to shaping our own destiny, there may be some hope for him yet.

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