Dear Mr. President,
I loved the State of the Union address. I thought you were eloquent, uncompromising and honest. I was cheering out loud at my laptop several times. Your proposal for student loan payment caps, if enacted, will help me save the money I need to pay for school. My degree feels like a real possibility for the first time in a long time. I was also impressed with your commitment to health care, your call to action to both parties. Promising to repeal 'don't ask don't tell' was a needed boost to the left's confidence. I think, on the whole, the speech was excellent.
What unsettled me was the number of people I talked to who had no idea the speech was even happening. From the clerk at the grocery store, to the people in the ER waiting room, who asked my roommate if we'd been attacked, I was shocked by the people who weren't aware of the night's significance. Where does that disconnect come from? Even my politically minded friends have difficulty seeing how the things you say in your speech affect them. Are we too comfortable? Too cynical? Too shallow? Or is it that we've been let down too many times?
For example, I read the transcript of your Q & A in Florida today. One young woman asked you a question about your lack of response or condemnation for the Israeli and Egyptian treatment of Gaza. The audience booed. To your credit, you calmed them down and asked them to be respectful. Unfortunately, you then proceeded to disrespect the woman in an even worse way, responding as you did with a talking point, and not one that answered the question. She asked why you did not condemn human rights violations, and you responded by pontificating about all the reasons we are Israel's ally and how complicated the situation is. Mr. President, she was not asking you to denounce Israel or outline the conflict's complexities. She was asking why you did not condemn specific actions. Any reasonable adult can tell you that this is a question that can be answered without renouncing our allegiance to Israel. The answer to this question is either "I do condemn these acts, but I understand why Israel and Egypt are concerned" or "I don't feel that the you, the UN, the ICRC, and much of the international community are correct in characterizing these actions as human rights violations, let me tell you why...." Maybe if my generation felt that a straight answer from a politician was possible when it comes to tough issues, more of us would pay attention when you speak.
Anyway, Mr. President, I was quite proud of your speech, even if I'm disappointed by the Q & A. I hope that you consider just how answers like the one you gave this woman contribute to the "deficit of trust" you addressed last night.