In 2010, Barack Obama walked into the well of the House to deliver his annual State of the Union address and declared: “A new decade stretches before us.” He spoke to us of our frustrations and anger, many of which were fresh, open wounds inflicted upon us by the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
But then he quickly pivoted to a more optimistic note and said, “In this new decade, it’s time the American people get a government that matches their decency, that embodies their strength.” Well, from where I sit at the close of that decade, that optimism has yet to be born out.
In the decade since Barrack Obama first sounded that now remote note of optimism, political, cultural, and economic gaps have widened, hearts have hardened, and anxiety born of a prolonged financial crisis has come to define so many of our behaviors, relationships, and conversations.
Divergent ideologies now determine even the sources by which we gather our news and harvest our information, resulting in alternative and irreconcilable truths. And then, just when you think the world cannot become more divided, a thing called COVID-19 comes along and adds a literal twist to what had been only a metaphor as we spoke loosely of “a nation divided.”
Well, if you are still reading this after that rather stark assessment, let me tell you that I say all that to better illustrate this… Amid all this, let’s try for a moment to take a slightly different perspective … a more horizontal interpretation of our culture. We may even find some silver lining. To the extent that this world of ours has continued to function in these terrible times of political division and COVID 19, we have been given a unique and inspiring look at the true face of our nation. As unsolvable as it all may seem, to the extent that America continues to galumph its way along in spite of the ineptitude and false hopes of it’s so-called leaders, it does so riding squarely on the solid, reliable, steadfast backs of its hard-working middle class.
Yes. The hard-working people of America’s Labor Movement have once more proven to be the “not-so-little engine that could.” It’s you… it’s us… it’s our Sisters and Brothers in Healthcare, Public Safety, Building Trades/Construction, Food Workers/Retail, Transportation, Public Sector, Education and US Postal Service putting your lives on the line every hour of every day. To the extent this nation is functioning, you can thank a Union Worker. Bravo Sisters and Brothers! Its us!
So yes, live humbly, but take pride in each other… and in the very noble work we do…work too often performed in silence and out of the view of the more strident minority. However, know that today, you are heard! You are seen! Your voice rings out in the sound of our hammers and in the squeaking of our brakes…in the roar of our engines, the quenching of fires, the formation of young minds, and the easing of pain… in our hands — the hands that do God’s noble work… the hands of America’s Unions! You are America at its best!
You my Sisters and Brothers are why this nation will persevere. You are why we will continue and pull out of this… because we persist, we will see more and brighter days ahead. And here, as we stand once again… on the edge of yet another new decade, it may yet prove out that in this new decade, the American people will get “…a government that matches their decency, that embodies their strength.” We have the opportunity to get it right this time.
So, thank you, Sisters and Brothers, for all you do… and for all that you are. A sometimes seemingly ungrateful nation sees you now and is indeed grateful. And what they see is the absolute best of this nation’s character and it’s hope. You have shown them what is truly meant by “Solidarity forever!”
God bless you and God bless America!