Some three years ago, I was sitting in the auditorium of my high school watching the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Many students had fought to ensure we would be able to watch the first African-American President in American history get sworn in. I was younger then, only midway through my junior year of high school. I was just starting to develop my appreciation for politics, and 2008 was really the first election I participated in. Unfortunately, I couldn’t vote yet, but I was able to watch as the primaries unfolded and the race heated up.
I wasn’t sure who I particularly liked in the election. Growing up in a conservative household, I’d always considered myself something of a Republican, but after eight years of failed policy in the Bush administration, it was difficult to support the same ideals that got us into such a big mess.
Still, I was wary to support Barack Obama. A young, ideological Democrat, Obama had a very limited service on the national level. His political inexperience and leftist voting tendencies made me at least question if he could handle the pressure of being the face of the nation. In many ways, I was somewhat happy I couldn’t vote in 2008.
In his inaugural speech, Obama projected an optimistic tone, matched by his charisma and coherency. He spoke with conviction, comparing his new administration to classic stories within our nation’s history. He spoke of a bright future for America, made promises to the people, and led a surge to restore responsibility in Washington. About half way through the speech I leaned over to one of my friends and said, “If he can lead as well as he can speak, we’re in for a good four years.”
Unfortunately, as Obama proved once again last week during his State of the Union address, talking about positive change and actually instilling positive change are two wildly different things.
In the speech, Obama talked about “the American within our reach,” a romantic term to describe a land that leads the world in education and personal prosperity. He pulled from our country’s history, touching upon World War II and the Great Depression, as pivotal situations America has gotten through. He spoke about bring manufacturing back, financial regulation and education. And each line was wonderfully crafted, inspirational, and enthusiastic.
But that’s where my praise ends.
The unemployment rate is still dastardly high. The economy is still stagnant. The country still faces a debt crisis that threatens to destroy us from within. We’re still spending more than we take in. We still have 900 bases in 130 countries. And we’ve just announced that the Fed has destroyed 95 percent of the purchasing power of the dollar since 1913.
Ronald Reagan earned the moniker “The Great Communicator” for his public speaking skills. But equally as good was his ability to lead. Being the president isn’t just about being at home in front of a microphone. It’s about maintaining a good relationship with congress. It’s about being respected around the international arena. It’s about passing sensible legislation that solves the myriad of problems plaguing our country today.
This election has a much different feel for me than 2008 did. I’m older, hopefully wiser, and at 19, I can actually cast a vote. I don’t know who is going to win, but I hope whoever does places precedent on doing rather than saying. Presidents are never remembered for what they say, but rather what they do. Because as we all know, actions will always speak louder than words.