By Perry Diaz
A week after Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney accepted his party’s nomination in Tampa, Florida, President Barack Obama accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination in Charlotte, North Carolina. Thus began the 2012 presidential campaign to win the heart and soul of a divided nation that’s trying to recover from the disastrous “Great Recession.”
Indeed, it was so bad that after the financial meltdown in October 2008, hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost in a freefall that lasted until May 2009 when job growth was realized fro the first time since 2007. And amidst the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that cost $3 trillion, President Obama told the cheering delegates that America is better off today than it was four years ago.
Why not? With 4.5 million jobs created in the past 29 months, unemployment down to 8.1% from 12%, Dow Jones up to 13,000+ from 6,000, the auto industry back in business, Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive, the war in Iraq is over, and the U.S. troops in Afghanistan coming home in 2014, Obama pitched his case before the delegates… and the tens of million Americans viewing the convention on television.
“When you pick up that ballot to vote,” he said, “you will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation. Over the next few years, big decisions will be made in Washington, on jobs, the economy; taxes and deficits; energy, education; war and peace, decisions that will have a huge impact on our lives and our children’s lives for decades to come.
“And on every issue, the choice you face won’t be just between two candidates or two parties. It will be a choice between two different paths for America. A choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future. Ours is a fight to restore the values that built the largest middle class and the strongest economy the world has ever known.”
And then he took note of what happened four years ago in the waning days of the Bush presidency. “When the house of cards collapsed in the Great Recession,” he said, “millions of innocent Americans lost their jobs, their homes, their life savings, a tragedy from which we are still fighting to recover.
“Now, our friends down in Tampa, at the Republican convention, were more than happy to talk about everything they think is wrong with America, but they didn’t have much to say about how they’d make it right.
“They want your vote, but they don’t want you to know their plan. And that’s because all they had to offer is the same prescription they’ve had for the last thirty years:
“ ‘Have a surplus? Try a tax cut.’
“ ‘Deficit too high? Try another.’
“ ‘Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning.’ ”
But Obama’s tax plan is different from Romney. “Now,” he said, “I’ve cut taxes for those who need it, middle-class families, small businesses. But I don’t believe that another round of tax breaks for millionaires will bring good jobs to our shores, or pay down our deficit. I don’t believe that firing teachers or kicking students off financial aid will grow the economy, or help us compete with the scientists and engineers coming out of China.
“After all that we’ve been through, I don’t believe that rolling back regulations on Wall Street will help the small businesswoman expand, or the laid-off construction worker keep his home. We have been there, we’ve tried that, and we’re not going back.
“We are moving forward, America.”
Vision of the future
And he shared his vision of the future. “And together,” he said, “I promise you, we can out-educate and out-compete any nation on Earth. Help me recruit 100,000 math and science teachers within ten years, and improve early childhood education.
“Help give two million workers the chance to learn skills at their community college that will lead directly to a job. Help us work with colleges and universities to cut in half the growth of tuition costs over the next ten years. We can meet that goal together.
“You can choose that future for America. That’s our future.”
Tribute to the troops
“Four years ago,” he said, “I promised to end the war in Iraq. We did.
“I promised to refocus on the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11. And we have. We’ve blunted the Taliban’s momentum in Afghanistan, and in 2014, our longest war will be over.
“A new tower rises above the New York skyline, Al Qaeda is on the path to defeat, and Osama Bin Laden is dead.
“And tonight, we pay tribute to the Americans who still serve in harm’s way. We are forever in debt to a generation whose sacrifice has made this country safer and more respected. We will never forget you. And so long as I’m Commander-in-Chief, we will sustain the strongest military the world has ever known.
“When you take off the uniform, we will serve you as well as you’ve served us because no one who fights for this country should have to fight for a job, or a roof over their head, or the care that they need when they come home.”
In no uncertain terms, Obama told the delegates, “I will never turn Medicare into a voucher,” in reference to the Romney-Ryan ticket’s plan to replace Medicare, as we know it, into a voucher program.
“No American,” he said, “should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies. They should retire with the care and the dignity they have earned. Yes, we will reform and strengthen Medicare for the long haul, but we’ll do it by reducing the cost of health care, not by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more. And we will keep the promise of Social Security by taking the responsible steps to strengthen it, not by turning it over to Wall Street.”
In moving forward, Obama came full circle to where it all began – hope. “And while I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved together,” he said, “I’m far more mindful of my own failings, knowing exactly what Lincoln meant when he said, ‘I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.’
“But as I stand here tonight, I have never been more hopeful about America. Not because I think I have all the answers. Not because I’m naive about the magnitude of our challenges.
“I’m hopeful because of you.”
And in a final pitch, he said: “America, I never said this journey would be easy, and I won’t promise that now. Yes, our path is harder, but it leads to a better place. Yes our road is longer, but we travel it together. We don’t turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up. We draw strength from our victories, and we learn from our mistakes, but we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon, knowing that Providence is with us, and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on Earth.
“Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless these United States.”
That was Obama’s shining moment.