by Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.
Founder and president of the Rainbow PUSHCoalition
President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night will focus on inequality, on the reality that this economy does not work for working people. Given the obstruction of House and Senate Republicans, the president faces the reality that little of what he proposes can pass this Congress. He has vowed to use his “pen” and “phone” to act unilaterally where he can. But the real challenge is to explain to the American people what the reality is, what must be done and who is standing in the way.
Here are things we’d like to see in the presidential address:
It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way
Every great change president — Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, even Ronald Reagan on the right — uses what TR called his “pulpit” to rally Americans, to help them understand the challenge we face, and that it does not have to be this way. With the middle class sinking and the poor struggling simply to survive, most blame themselves for their predicament. Some adjust to the new reality, thinking this is just the way things are. Some start to believe the best years of the country are behind us, that their children will face tougher odds and fare worse than they did.
The first task of President Obama is to not only make clear what the reality is, but to make it clear that it doesn’t have to be this way. There are basic things that can and should be done that can make a major difference.
Make Clear Who’s Standing in the Way
The president will call for a long overdue hike in the minimum wage. He should challenge the Congress to act immediately to renew emergency benefits for the jobless that expired in February. He should demand action on comprehensive immigration reform that has already passed the Senate. He should call for a jobs corps for the young, putting them to work in installing energy retrofits in public buildings, in reviving our public parks, in serving impoverished infants and the elderly. And he should make it clear who stands in the way.
To read Rev. Jackson’s commentary in its entirety visit the Chicago Sun-Times.