According to TV’s political analysts, President Obama’s State of the Union address was the one of the most impassioned, lackluster, articulate and deceptive speeches the nation has seen in at least a decade. Depending on which news channel you watch at home or which radio station you listen to on the way to work, the President’s speech either exceeded all expectations or fell completely flat.
Truth be told, I kept my eyes loyally fixed to my TV screen during the hour and some minutes that the President spoke, clapping and cheering at the President from my couch every two minutes or so. When I woke up in the morning, however, I began to see the speech for what it was: an excellent motivational speech delivered by a master orator; big ideas, but no real plan. President Obama has clearly slipped into his role as campaigner-in-chief. And that’s not to say that the things Obama said weren’t truthful or that he doesn’t really belief in progressive issues; he does. But the address was clearly not a roadmap for 2012; it was a blueprint for a second term, and beyond.
Nonetheless, the areas highlighted by Obama are areas which the Latino community must also focus on. The President stressed the state of education and the abysmal dropout rates our nation struggles with. In May 2010, Being Latino published the results of a Pew Hispanic Center study which found that the percentage of Latinos over the age of 20 without a high-school diploma was at 41 percent, nearly double the percentage of Blacks and nearly triple that of Whites in the same age range. This is an area where we can and must improve. A strong education opens doors and makes the socioeconomic ladder easier to climb.
The President also touched on immigration reform, but admitted to its unlikely passage in an election year, saying, “if election-year politics keeps Congress from acting on a comprehensive plan, let’s at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses, defend this country.” Still, he placed pressure on the opposition in Congress, which continually fails to pass the DREAM Act: “[My] administration has put more boots on the border than ever before. … there are fewer illegal crossings than when I took office. The opponents of action are out of excuses. We should be working on comprehensive immigration reform right now.”
This is a greater commitment to immigration reform than you’ll ever hear from any of the GOP candidates competing for the presidency. What the Latino community must do in this area is simple: vote. And not only that, make sure your friends and family members vote too. You don’t have to give them a clinic on politics. Just make sure they get to the ballot box on Election Day.
The third area Obama discussed, which the Latino community should focus on, is entrepreneurship, but no one has to remind Latinos to focus on that. Creating small businesses and building new enterprises is what we’ve been doing all along.
So it would seem that three of the areas Obama wants the nation to work on – education, immigration and small business – are also areas in which Latinos have already dedicated their efforts. If we continue to focus on educational achievement, civic participation and entrepreneurship, the state of our community will continue to be strong.