"The State of the Union is getting stronger, and we've come too far to turn back."
-President Barack Obama
The president's State of the Union Address was delivered as most of his spoken outings - remarkably eloquently.
But, beyond the quality of the speech were some serious issues at this pivotal moment in history.
Before the American people, he outlined where we are as a nation, as well as where he would like to see us go as an "America built to last." President Obama then perused through a proverbial smorgasbord of issues ranging from higher taxes for the wealthy to the mortgage crisis to the energy crisis to education.
At the Barack Talk event Tuesday night, a group of progressives and over 35,000 viewers delved into POTUS's issues, as well as those that were not represented by the president as he spoke before the partly-hostile Congress. Civic engagement, voter suppression, The Occupy Movement, new laws making abortions difficult, and other matters like felons' rights were largely overlooked.
The president also didn't talk about how one out of seven people in American live below the poverty line, or how one in four children live in impoverished conditions. Google that, America. Better yet, click here.
Voter suppression is real, and it would have served the president well to address this egregious trend to the American people Tuesday. In many instances, these suppressed voters are the very people that helped elect him. According to alternet.org, there are seven ways that otherwise eligible voters are being prevented from participating in the electoral process. One simple tactic is to make it harder to present basic identification at the polls. (Click here for the remaining six ways that voters are being suppressed.)
"There's never been a better time for nation building..." - President Barack Obama
The president is right.
There has never been a better time for nation building. Greg Watkins and I built AllHipHop from nothing. No funding. No family bankroll. It was simply an idea from a pair of guys who decided to work together. Shortly after the company's inception, the country spiraled into recession. These were some of the leanest years of my life. No insurance. Very little income. I mean, at one point, I walked around with glass embedded in my foot, because it was easier to deal with that than the cost of a doctor with no insurance.
But, Greg and I were scrappy and excited by the possibilities before us.
Although those times were tough, they built character and prepared us for the next recession, the worst since the Great Depression. Moreover, we continued to see opportunity amid the chaos, remaining steadfast and optimistic. Our collective eyes no longer seen through rose-colored lenses.
"Built to last..."
Obama addressed the wave of general American skepticism in his address as well, which seemed to be a subliminal acknowledgment of The Occupy Movement. This also spoke to the youth community we call Hip-Hop, as I only know an idealistic few that have any faith in the government to help them achieve the "American Dream," as we've been reared to believe in.
But a dream is just that. We're dealing with reality. Right?
We've got to remember that the president runs the nation[s], but he does not control our local communities. We've looked at and criticized the president keenly, but we've got to do the same for ourselves. In the last three to four years, what have we done? African Americans, for the first time since the Civil Rights Movement, will not see positive economic progress as a group.
We continue to see our own shortcomings and yet, we look to Washington D.C. to fix these societal matters. Obama may create policy and reform in areas such as education, but it is up to us to make sure our children strive to be great students and successful citizens. The president can inspire the next generation, but he won't be able to guide them all through their journeys and trials. We will.
Yes, we have to do what we must for ourselves, and there are people doing that. We need more. That is not optional.
By the same token, it is also time to continuously hold our elected officials accountable, as they continue to be servants of the people. For us to become even more apathetic and further disengaged only defeats our own cause.
There are a number of ways that you can take action. Contact your local government and push them to activate the necessary change in your community. It can be something as simple as a bad pothole. Mentor a child and help guide them into adulthood. Educate them and yourself, because with education, many of the ills we face resolve themselves. Volunteer. Complain. Write. Tweet. Inspire. Empower.
And be vigilant.