The State of the Union

Published 7:49 pm Tuesday, January 25, 2011

When President Barack Obama stood before the Congress of the United States in person last night, and before millions of Americans by television, he was fulfilling one of his constitutional responsibilities.

Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution states that “He (the President and, as of now there has been no She) shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

In actuality, it doesn’t have to be an annual address, as the mandate states only from time to time. In addition, it does not have to be a verbal address, but could be in a written form. The last President to send the State of the Union address to Congress in written form was Jimmy Carter in 1981.

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I can’t imagine President Obama sending a written address and missing the opportunity to be received with such pomp and ceremony. I think it is safe to say he enjoys giving speeches and, I might add, does so usually with great skill.

As I am writing before the address, I don’t know exactly what he will say, but there have been some indications. I am sure he will extol the virtues of his and his administration’s leadership and he will proclaim that, although we have experienced the worst economic situation since the Great Depression, the future holds great promise for America.

I can’t imagine making the speech, but if I were to give the State of the Union, I might say something like this.

My fellow Americans, I want to be honest with you tonight. We are slipping away as a great country and we have only ourselves to blame. If we aren’t careful, we will soon reach a tipping point from which we cannot recover. We can spend our time pointing fingers as we are very good at doing, or we can acknowledge our failures and get back to the basics of living lives based upon good and Godly decisions.

I understand that when I say Godly, there are many who will reject that direction as un-American. Many will say that our founders would have never proposed a country based upon one and only one God. I agree that those founders allowed for your freedom to believe or not. I believe that is an appropriate freedom. Even God gives that freedom.

Just because we have that freedom, however, does not mean that we, as a people or country, cannot make the decision to honor and follow the good and wise counsel of the One who knows all. Let me say that, as a country, we should respect people of all faiths, including those who choose to have no faith.

We remember the words of that most foundational of all American documents: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights … life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Let us respect life and live it in freedom and let us allow for all people to search for the meaning of his or her life.

But, with freedom comes responsibility. One of our main problems, as of late, is that we have forgotten our responsibilities to our country and our fellow Americans. We want to have the freedom to do any and everything we want to do, yet when the piper is to be paid, we want to present the bill to others. That is an unworkable equation. Everyone who is able needs to contribute and, when that happens, those who aren’t able will not have so heavy a burden.

There are many who aren’t able and we must always help them to the best of our abilities and they need never feel unworthy of our help. Our safety nets should be instruments of compassion, not to be played as a game, but used to lift the unfortunates in our society. There is a difference between those who can’t and those who won’t, and we need to become sharper in that distinction.

We need also to build up those institutions that are the foundations of any great society. Many of those institutions are in a mess. I don’t have time to name them all, but some of them are education, justice, financial and health. In the past, in every one of those areas, the United States of America has been a leader in the world. Now, all of them are in danger of failing and no one seems to have any answers.

I sat across the table the other day and someone said, “If they would make me king for a day, I’d fix all the problems.”

“Not me,” I countered, “I wouldn’t know where to begin.” After I said that, he admitted that he didn’t know where to start either.

There will be much applause tonight and one side will say that the President hit a home run, while the other says that he struck out. The ones who liked the President before the speech will probably like him afterwards and vice versa.

The State of the Union is weak. It can’t be fixed by money or congressional bills. As much as people might say we need to be more civil or nicer to each other, that won’t eliminate our problems. Rebuilding the infrastructure or pouring more money into this or that will bring about only a temporary or cosmetic improvement.

What we really need is a heart transplant.