January 26, 2011
In all the comments I’ve read about President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address Monday, none referenced the bit he asked us to remember: “Remember,” he said, “for all the hits we’ve taken these last few years, for all the naysayers predicting our decline, America still has the largest, most prosperous economy in the world. No workers are more productive than ours. No country has more successful companies, or grants more patents to investors and entrepreneurs. We are home to the world’s best colleges and universities, where more students come to study than any other place on Earth.”
Those words might seem meaningless next to the steps he proposed for fixing America’s mess.
But you can’t keep your edge if you don’t know your strengths, and Americans have grown mad and scared – about the deficit, the economy, health care, China, and the other political party – to the point that they’ve lost sight of just that. Sensing that the competitive gap is closing, they miss how far ahead of the world they remain, and the arsenal of tools at their disposal to retain that lead.
The President’s speech was a timely reminder.
In saying Americans “know what it means to compete for the jobs and industries of our time” he wasn’t falsely reassuring Americans but reminding them who they are; in saying “what America does better than anyone is spark the creativity and imagination of our people,” that America is “the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook,” he wasn’t attempting to gloss over reality but reconnect with it.
The disconnect is the result not only of very real challenges at home and competition from abroad; but a global media obsessed with the theatrical notion that America is in decline.
President Obama Monday corrected that assumption when he said, “The future is ours to win.” He went on to lay out specifics, from rebuilding America’s infrastructure to reducing government regulations and greater investment in education and innovation.
But, as the president reminded us, those plans will best be served by an America that sees its cards-in-hand for what it is.