Obama enters ‘the final kick’

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00_DrEFayeWilliamsUnashamedly, I am a fan of most sporting events.  I find competitive tests of strength and skill compelling.

Most fans focus on events that hold the greatest popularity.  Football, basketball, soccer, and baseball all get fan and media attention. I enjoy those, but find track and field uniquely impressive.

Short and long
There’s purity of effort in events that test skills unencumbered with devices (i.e., balls, bats, hoops, goalposts), time limits or referees that interrupt the flow of action.  Events may be as short as 9.58 seconds for the 100 meters or a marathon longer than two hours.

Runners have no “breathers” and require full dedication, focus, determination, and endurance during their race.  They finish with all of the strength they can muster, applying it to “the final kick.”

Watching President Obama deliver his final State of the Union address, I envisioned the analogy between his presidency and the distance runner’s challenges.

Still running
He started his race in 2009 with the intent to win for America.  The goals of his final SOTU show that he plans to run without slowing down for the duration of his term.

I’ve written much of this before, but, President Obama’s detractors muddy the waters so much, his supporters must respond to balance the public discourse.

In his first term, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act; orchestrated passage of health care reform resulting in fewer Americans without health insurance than ever before; orchestrated passage of the stimulus package, leading to 70 consecutive months of employment growth – the longest in the nation’s history.

He ended the war in Iraq; killed Osama Bin Laden; turned around the auto industry, leading to 2015 as the best sales year in history; increased support for veterans’ health issues and increased tuition assistance programs.

These were a fraction of his first-term accomplishments. In a more ambitious second term, President Obama has negotiated a deal with Iran, preventing development of nuclear weapons; overseen a two-thirds reduction in the budget deficit from 9.8 percent GDP to 2.9 percent in 2014; re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba; ordered federal contractors to pay workers a minimum of $10.10 per hour; and negotiated a 200-country deal to reverse global warming.

Not coasting
And though three-quarters of his second term is complete, President Obama concedes nothing and refuses to coast to the finish line.

In the SOTU, President Obama outlined his “kick to the finish.”  He remains dedicated to leveling the playing field for all Americans.  He’s committed to criminal justice reform; the elimination of prescription drug abuse; growing an economy that affords greater promise to all citizens; development and use of clean energy sources; modern transportation systems construction; greater educational opportunities, including making college more affordable; major research initiatives to eliminate cancer; rededicating resources for Homeland security/protection and defeat of terrorists; reformation of the political process including expanded voting opportunities.

We have benefitted from seven years of enlightened leadership.  It’s been leadership of diplomacy rather than conflict.  It’s been a focus on universal opportunity and earned, merit-based privilege.  I hold faith with the President that unless we all – politician and citizen alike – embrace the idea that we are ill-served by special interests that restrict the full potential and development of us all, our nation cannot realize its full potential.

In full stride
As the president described the state of our Union, I visualized him as the runner moving ever more closely to his own personal finish line.  Although he nears the end of his presidency, he runs in full stride.

The race is far from over, and I’ve made the commitment to join that race for however long it takes to achieve the goals of justice, equality and “a more perfect union.”  For success, we must finish with that strong, final kick.

Dr. E. Faye Williams is national chair of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc. Contact her via www.nationalcongressbw.org.

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