Inheriting the Promise

Perhaps it was a speech that was more policy-oriented and political than broad and overtly hopeful, but Mrs. Icepick said that’s what she wanted to hear, so who am I to argue?

Let there be no doubt: This was a passionate address, and there were touches of inspiration in between the specifics and firey rhetoric that put to rest questions of whether Obama can go on the offensive when needed — a Jedi-like approach of using force when diplomacy and reason have failed.

In many ways, it was a cumulation and conclusion to the major speeches we’ve heard this week — Hillary’s inspiration, Bill’s reminder of our own potential, Kerry’s preemptive attacks, and Biden’s foreign policy focus.

There was the forward-looking call to serve the next generation and the Kennedy-like call to service, something I particularly liked:

And we will keep our promise to every young American – if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.

But in between the policy talk, and right before invoking the legendary speech delivered 45 years earlier, Obama did not forget to focus on the theme that brought him so far: Hope.

Instead, it is that American spirit — that American promise — that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.

That promise is our greatest inheritance.

He distanced himself from the old (and inaccurate) criticism of liberalism of the ’70s — that government owes you something, but you owe nothing. Instead, Obama focused on the hard work we all must do and offered a call for personal responsibility.

Yet, in many ways, in many of the approaches he offered, there was a welcome return to the progressive themes that he seemed to abandon since the end of the primary season. While acknowledging the country’s differences on Choice, guns and same-sex marriage, he sounded very much like a progressive in calling for an ambitious end to our dependence on foreign oil within 10 years — though 2018 sounds like a long time away, it’s not. He also endorsed progressive ideas like eliminating tax breaks to corporations that don’t need them and ending crippling capital gains taxes for small businesses, ensuring a “world-class” education to every child, fulfilling the promise of affordable health care, and, especially as the father of two young daughters, addressing major concerns of Hillary’s supporters, most notably equal pay for all women.

Far be it from this cynic to agree with a sentiment like “We are a better country than this,” but let’s see where we can take this.

Change happens because the American people demand it – because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time.

Strong and forceful, specific yet still broad, practical yet still full of Hope.

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