Tonight, in the State of the Union address, the President emphasized lessons I thought the country would learn back in 1976/77. I am glad he renewed the ideals I supported in my youth, and that I document in my memoir-in-progress, Groundbreaker: Coming of Age in the First Class of Women at the United States Air Force Academy.
- In 1976, during the “Oil Crisis,” our leaders swore that we would never again be dependent on the use of a non-renewable fuel that keeps us beholden to despotic governments in other parts of the world. Energy policy encouraged innovation. Leaders asked Americans to conserve and drive 55 mph. Next came thirty-four years of gradually changing energy policies to favor the oil companies, politicians giving in to the American appetite for bigger vehicles and faster speed limits, and a consensus around the country that sacrifice is not required from anyone but soldiers and radicals. I am thrilled that the President called for another wave of innovation in energy development, and the withdrawal of tax funds supporting development of non-renewable fuels. After two more oil wars, it is past time to find a cleaner way to power all our devices and to change the American appetite for cheap gasoline.
- In 1976, few Americans thought that women should have the opportunity to defend the country we loved. The President’s proclamation that people who love their country can defend their country, no matter who they love (or their gender, religion, or ethnicity) is an over-due extension of the same ideal I struggled to achieve.
- In 1976, when I suddenly experienced life from the minority viewpoint, I realized that a diverse America is a powerful America. The President emphasized increased flexibility, research, and innovation from American businesses, laboratories, and universities. He also urged his political opposition to bring him “fixes” for current legislation. Institutions are stronger when they garner a diversity of ideas, from diverse sources. My heart swelled as I looked at the diversity among the members of Congress and the guests at tonight’s speech. Seniors and younger members, men and women, from a variety of ethnicities, holding oppositional viewpoints, all sat and listened.
As President Obama said, Democracy is contentious and messy–and the only type of government worth living under.