So the screams of my seven-year-old daughter accompanied with her exuberant claps and jumping up and down when Mr. President, Barack Hussein Obama, spoke for the first time before the joint sessions of congress.
I felt goosebumps when the Sergent at Arms was standing there and then the announcement, "Madame Secretary, the President of the United States." Loud claps threatened to shatter the walls of my upstairs bedroom. It was amazing to see this intelligent, poised, strategic, and charismatic black man walk into that chamber with all the elected officials of the country standing to recognize.
My two daughters, aged five and seven, probably did not understand everything he said, but they could understand the thunderous applause that broke out on my television screen and in my bedroom. Even at times my daughter screamed out, "clap mama, clap!"
I listened intently and while the writer in me wanted to run downstairs to my laptop and tweet, facebook, or blog about what was happening, the citizen in me kept me glued to CNN while he spoke.
Mr. President hit on all the major topics that have been on my mind. He didn't sugar coat it that we are in deep do-do as the kids would say. We are in a mess in this country financially and he tactfully reminded his Republican colleagues that "we inherited this" talking about the banking crisis and subsequent recession/depression. he also reminded us of why we voted for him, he came there to do something, to take action, and that is what he is planning to do.
The top areas that stood out as importance to me were health care, education, and energy. When he focused in and said that these would be his priorities and this would also leading to revitalizing our economy, I jumped up and down! I have a daughter with a chronic illness that but for the grace of God, would've sent a lot of people into bankruptcy. Mr. President pointed out the realities of the high premiums and how in this country, every American does not have adequate care.
On the educational front, I felt like the light was shining for possibilities. My daughters have had the benefit of two highly educated parents and a mom who has been at home the past five-and-one-half-years. This has given them a firm foundation for success that includes my first-grader reading as a high third-grader. Mr. President pointed out the importance of early childhood education programs for those formative year and rightly exhorted parents to play their role - turn the TV off, read to the kids, help the kids with their homework.
His educational plan, including offering tuition assistance in turn for youths serving their community, also made me clap loudly. My freshman son will have the doors of higher education more accessible in 2012 when he graduates from high school. I also liked how our President told the American people that a high school diploma is not enough and dropping out in unacceptable - not just for oneself, but for the country. I expect to see a revival of vocational training and even one or two year diploma programs that provide a skilled trade to keep these trades in America.
I am not an energy expert but I do know that depending on oil is not good for this country. I recycle as one thing I can do to not add to the carbon footprint. I teach my kids to do the same and even take them to the recycle center so they can sort the items we bring. Even as I do my little part, I know there needs to be a national policy and focus on other ways to get energy, to make the cars more fuel efficient or even battery-operated. There has to be a focus on science and technology that would allow us to capture wind, solar, and water to power and heat our homes. I'm glad he mentioned this as one of his priorities in the first term.
When the speech ended, I felt satisfied, much the way I feel after drinking a really good vanilla latte. The stories he interspersed, especially the little girls from South Carolina who wrote him a letter using the public library. Her declaration that "we are not quitters" resonated with him. It also made me smile that Mr. President also reads our letters! I was equally happy to hear about the unsung banking executive who instead of buying another yacht or taking an European vacation, took his $69 million bonus and gave it to his employees, even going out to find 72 former employees to give it to them, this is what we need in America.
As we begin the Lenten season today, I felt electrified when I woke up this morning. I know the road ahead will not be easy for this family or for this country. As Mardi Gras came to an end with the last carnivale and last reveler going home, it also closed a chapter of excess in my mind. The beginning of Lent, marked by Ash Wednesday, reminds us that in this season of sacrifice, it is also a season of new beginnings. This theme rang out as President Obama spoke last night. We know we hold some responsibilities for the condition we are in, and we also hold the key to rebuild, renew, and re-energize America. Truly, yes we can!