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McEntee: Obama makes an eloquent case, but what will Congress do?

Published January 21, 2013 6:41 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

One of the delightful moments of President Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony Monday was when New York Sen. Charles Schumer introduced a famous tabernacle choir — the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.

That choir, not ours, then set off into the most beautiful rendition of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" I've ever heard, complete with a star turn from Alicia Olatuja, a mezzo-soprano for the ages.

But my focus was on the president's 18-minute speech, which spun out a vision for the nation — clarity of purpose, leveraging the United States' stature globally, finding solutions to climate change and appropriately, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, insisting on civil rights for all.

He laid out the steps: remaking government, revamping the tax code, taking on school reform and rewarding "the effort and determination of every single American." The nation must reduce the cost of health care, one of the intentions of the Affordable Care Act, he said, and tend to the very old and very young.

Despite the naysayers, Obama is right about climate change. As he said Monday, "None can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms."

It reminded me of the drought that fostered fires in Utah and throughout the West, with weeks of smoke that hid the Wasatch Range and irritated our eyes and moods. Even right now, an inversion has erased distances in the Salt Lake Valley and makes prisoners of those whose very breath is compromised.

America, Obama said correctly, must lead the transition to sustainable energy sources. Many Utahns, in love with oil, gas and the extraction industries, will disagree. But in time, if this nation puts its shoulder to it, sustainable energy will create new jobs and industries and put more people to work.

On civil rights, Obama cited women — "Our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts" — and gay people — "If we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."

The president made his stand on immigration clear, calling for bright students and engineers to be enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from the country.

As for gun violence, Obama said, "Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm."

And Obama believes the nation's prosperity rests on the "broad shoulders of a rising middle class."

And, of course, throughout his speech, congressional Republicans like John Boehner and Eric Cantor looked miserable, as did the perennially hangdog Mitch McConnell.

We can only wait to see what Congress will do about what awaits us — not the fiscal crisis so much as the political smog that keeps new and veteran politicians from doing their jobs.

The president has laid out his hopes for his second and last term. Voters need to demand the same from their delegations. Bury them with phone calls, letters, emails and tweets. If you haven't already, register to vote.

We elected the obstructionists. We can fire them.

Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at pegmcentee@sltrib.com, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter: @pegmcentee.






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