A friend sent me an email this morning commenting on the President's recent speech. He wrote about how things have changed in our lifetimes and memories, about the role of government and our economy. He included a copy of a check his grandfather had written as a farmer in North Dakota, probably to a merchant or a banker in 1905, and reflected on the pride and optimism that young man must have had after his hard work and the fortunes of weather. Wednesday's speech was as different from the politics and economics of those days early in the 20th century as spaceships and helicopters on the moon are from farming on the North Dakota prairie in 1900.
Politics is as fickle as fashion and the term "transformational" is the latest example. I'm not sure the word was used to describe Roosevelt’s New Deal, Humphrey at the 1948 DNC, or Fredrick Douglas' "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" speech. And there are others like those "transformational" appeals. In each case, someone stepped forward to say that things can be better, that the resources of this country and the intentions of human nature can be directed differently, toward a more attentive and generous future. The President's speech to Congress was in that tradition--an appeal to our optimism and the confidence that all of us can share in the benefits of this nation. I hope it works.
The President also talked about our place in the world. "I've spoken with 38--now 40--leaders of other nations", he said. "I let them know we're back." There are moments in the last century when statesmen acted in ways that protected the well-being of our global future in peacetime, among them the Marshall Plan, the formation of the European Union, the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Arms, and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Our challenge, it seems to me, is to run in both races--here at home and among the nations of the world. Not an easy task.
In the meantime, we have work to do here. Our legislature and the governor, the Republicans and the Democrats, have chosen to find what's possible to accomplish in Minnesota in these last three weeks of the session. Not an easy job, but it's one we promised everyone we'd do. We’ll see how it works.
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