Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. More of our kids are graduating than ever before. More of our people are insured than ever before. And we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years.But it wasn't until he got to the end of the speech that I realized why the President has a spring in his step lately and more determination that ever to push his own agenda. No, its not simply because he doesn't have to face another election. And no, its not simply because he wants to set the agenda for the 2016 election. And no, its not because he's finally learned how to be combative with Republicans.
Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over. Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, fewer than 15,000 remain. And we salute the courage and sacrifice of every man and woman in this 9/11 Generation who has served to keep us safe. We are humbled and grateful for your service.
America, for all that we have endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this: The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.
Listening to the President last night I got more of a sense of how burdened he's been by the near-collapse of our economy and the seemingly endless wars in which we were engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan. For almost six years he has had to focus almost exclusively on fixing the messes he was handed by previous administrations. As he has said a lot lately, 2014 was finally a "break-through year" on all those fronts. And now he is free to get back to the issues that motivated him to run in the first place.
I can hear it now: "But, but, but...income inequality!!!!" My response would be to say that addressing that issue is EXACTLY why Barack Obama ran for president. It's not a new challenge that exists because of the Great Recession. It has been building for the last 30-40 years (or more). President Obama's assessment of our situation is that the fundamentals of our economy are now strong enough that we can begin to tackle the structural issues that create inequality.
It was when President Obama recalled his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention that I recognized the transformation that has happened in him over the last few months. He's finally able to let go of an incredibly difficult crisis that was not of his making and get on with the work he felt passionate enough about that he was able to take on the risk of running for president against all odds...and won...twice :-)
He's only got two years left to go. But I predict that over that time we'll see the president Barack Obama dreamed of being. So hang on for a VERY interesting fourth quarter!