“Believe It”

Watching television this morning I found out that:

The New York Times pronounced last night’s speech a “Diminished State of the Union.”

The Washington Post called it “Obama’s Muted Call.”

Time magazine told us Obama was a “Man with a Modest Plan.”

MSNBC’s Chuck Todd thought the speech didn’t have a lot of “big ideas” in it.

And an ABC News blurb crawling across the screen this morning read:

President Obama offers modest agenda in state of the union address including raising the minimum wage, immigration reform and equal pay for women.

Hmm. “Modest agenda”? “Raising the minimum wage, immigration reform, and equal pay for women” is modest? I guess doing those things are modest if you are wealthy, white, and wiener-equipped. Otherwise, getting those things done this year would be anything but modest accomplishments.

The truth is that last night’s speech was pregnant with hope. And although most folks in the news business missed it, the heart and soul of the speech was a call to faith. No, not the kind of faith you rehearse on Sundays at church. Another kind of faith. The kind we should all rehearse as Americans. If you didn’t see the speech, you can read it for yourself and make up your own mind as to whether President Obama’s SOTU address was diminished, muted, or modest. But you really should watch the end for yourself and see that this speech was really about having faith in our experimental country’s ability to right itself, as we have done before.

Watch this short clip of what happened and then I’ll tell you more:

Now, I post below a complete transcript of the end of the speech. And if you read it you will notice that the clip above ended before the President made the connection between the struggles and tenacity of Cory Remsburg and the difficulties and possibilities of America. (I have highlighted the part not shown.) Every news outlet I could find that posted a clip of this particular part of Obama’s speech left out the end, left out the larger connection. Why is that? Because as hard as some journalists might try, sometimes they fail to see what is right before their eyes. And right before their eyes—our eyes, our American eyes—was a President calling us to a deeper faith in our collective selves:

Let me tell you about one of those families I’ve come to know.

I first met Cory Remsburg, a proud Army Ranger, at Omaha Beach on the 65th anniversary of D-Day. Along with some of his fellow Rangers, he walked me through the program, the ceremony. He was a strong, impressive young man, had an easy manner. He was sharp as a tack. And we joked around, and took pictures, and I told him to stay in touch.

A few months later, on his 10th deployment, Cory was nearly killed by a massive roadside bomb in Afghanistan. His comrades found him in a canal, face down, underwater, shrapnel in his brain.

For months, he lay in a coma. And the next time I met him, in the hospital, he couldn’t speak; he could barely move. Over the years, he’s endured dozens of surgeries and procedures, hours of grueling rehab every day.

Even now, Cory is still blind in one eye. He still struggles on his left side. But slowly, steadily, with the support of caregivers like his dad Craig, and the community around him, Cory has grown stronger. Day by day, he’s learned to speak again and stand again and walk again, and he’s working toward the day when he can serve his country again.

“My recovery has not been easy,” he says. “Nothing in life that’s worth anything is easy.”

Cory is here tonight. And like the Army he loves, like the America he serves, Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg never gives up, and he does not quit.  

My fellow Americans — my fellow Americans, men and women like Cory remind us that America has never come easy. Our freedom, our democracy, has never been easy. Sometimes we stumble; we make mistakes; we get frustrated or discouraged.

But for more than two hundred years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress: to create and build and expand the possibilities of individual achievement; to free other nations from tyranny and fear; to promote justice and fairness and equality under the law, so that the words set to paper by our founders are made real for every citizen.

The America we want for our kids — a rising America where honest work is plentiful and communities are strong; where prosperity is widely shared and opportunity for all lets us go as far as our dreams and toil will take us — none of it is easy. But if we work together; if we summon what is best in us, the way Cory summoned what is best in him, with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow, I know it’s within our reach.

Believe it.

I believe.

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