Wednesday, January 26, 2011


My wife tells me that I write better when the topic is politics as opposed to my last article describing my Las Vegas stranding and my corresponding luck.

So here I am writing again about politics which also means listening to and discussing with my barber who has always given me the closest thing to a public pulse.

Last night President Barack Obama delivered his second State of the Union address. My barber and I listened to it with utmost interest and great expectations. Expectedly, the delivery was excellent, inspiring and of course, devoid of too many details. After all, if the devil is in the details, there is no better way than to avoid it.

I like the speech. First of all, it reiterates our democratic beliefs as a nation. Ours is a robust one and that despite our differences, “the noise and rancor of our public debate…. in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people.” That America is the “first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea -- the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny.“ And as the American people wanted, Republicans and Democrats would and should work together.

Secondly, also as expected of an inspiring and optimistic leader, President Obama described the State of the Union as “poised for progress…..the stock market has come roaring back……Corporate profits are up….The economy is growing again.” As a result of the tax cuts and of both Democrats and Republicans working together, “Americans' paychecks are a little bigger today. Every business can write off the full cost of new investments that they make this year….will grow the economy and add to the more than one million private sector jobs created last year.”

But he could not divorce himself from the reality that the unemployment

rate is still high and that more jobs have to be created. Because  the budget

deficit is too large and the sovereign debts too high, we now see the need for

greater reduction programs.
He also recognized that the world has changed. And that change has inflicted pain which he saw “in the shuttered windows of once booming factories, and the vacant storefronts on once busy Main Streets…in the frustrations of Americans who’ve seen their paychecks dwindle or their jobs disappear – proud men and women who feel like the rules have been changed in the middle of the game.”

Thirdly, the speech. in bringing forth the reality that both the State of the Union and of the World have changed,  proposed specific steps to meet the challenges of today and fulfilling our obligations to “win the future.”

“Winning the Future” is a phrase I first encountered during the tenure of former Philippine President Fidel Ramos who also incorporated it into one of his speeches and used it as the title of one his books. I  know this because I was part of the law and lobby firm that represented the interests of the Philippines and of the Ramos government at the time.

Yes, indeed! It is all about winning the future. I like President Obama’s action steps for an effective and efficient strategy to beat the competition: “Out-Innovate, Out-Educate and Out-Build.”

Innovation and new revolutionary technologies have had exponential effects in our socio-economic and political lives. Indeed, they “have transformed the way we live, work and do business.”

Drawing from the past, President Obama suggested our own generation “Sputnik Moment” – a moment when we surpassed Russia in reaching the moon by investing in better research and innovation. He says, “We'll
invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially
clean energy technology -- an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.”

I am a proud descendant of a School Principal (my mother) and a School District Supervisor (my father), and a member of a clan (Gal-lang Maynigo) that produced over a hundred teachers.  I also have a graduate degree in education to go with  my background in philosophy, business and law. That’s why for me, the best part of President Obama’s speech is his recognition of the role of education and teachers in his drive to win the future.

He says, “In South Korea, teachers are known as "nation builders."
Here in America, it's time we treated the people who educate our
children with the same level of respect. We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones. And over the next 10 years, with so many baby boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science and technology and engineering and math. In fact, to every young person listening tonight who's contemplating their career choice: If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference in the life of a child -- become a teacher. Your country needs you.”

To out-build the competition, President Obama wants us to achieve, among others, the following goals: 1) Give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years; 2) Provide next generation high speed wireless coverage within five years; 3) By 2035, 80 percent of America's electricity should come from clean energy sources.

My teacher-parents used to quote to me very often an Asian philosopher who said, “if you want to plan for a year, plant corn; if you want to plan for 30 years, plant a tree; if you want to plan for 100 years or more, plant men.”

President Obama’s speech was about “winning the future”. To achieve it, “plant men and women” we must!

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