Friday, January 28, 2011

Sharing the State of the Union

Brian was home sick today. Not too sick, but he had been coughing and congested enough to make his throat sore. He usually doesn’t complain unless he has a real gripe, so, with the addition of a mild fever yesterday, I took him to the doctor to rule out strep. We’re heading into the weekend, and strep is not good to ignore. The test was negative. Thankfully it all pointed to a viral issue causing drainage that caused the pain. I decided he should stay home because he hadn’t slept well. He took advantage of the quiet time to play a lot of PC games and read, and was feeling much better by bed time.

In the afternoon, I loaded up Obama’s State of the Union speech on You Tube (text here), and suggested that Brian watch some of it with me, just so he could see his President in action. I explained a little bit about the Democratic and Republican parties and about the bickering that both have been guilty of, which is not good, but that having more one party, is good. It keeps both sides ‘honest’. It sparks argument, but, it also brings much more input to the table when there’s a problem to solve, etc. It makes discussion happen, which is good, even if it’s heated. Brad and I had watched the speech last night, so I knew to also explain the significance of the members of both parties sitting mixed up together in the audience, rather than on opposite sides of the room. I also explained why people wore the white and black ribbons. (wiki article)

I didn’t expect him to want to sit through the whole speech. He’s only just turned 10yrs old. I simply thought he ought to listen to his President speak about issues, for a little bit. He sat through the whole, hour long, video. He even paused it multiple times and asked questions.

Some questions were fairly simple, like why did people clap some times, and other times, they stood up and clapped. Why did some not stand? Why wasn’t President Obama wearing a ribbon? He also had some very good vocabulary questions, like what is a frivolous lawsuit, loopholes, pre-existing conditions (re. health care), deficit, or the New Start treaty, etc.?

I enjoyed watching what he approved of, what caught him by surprise, and what he didn’t like.

At the very start, he put on confused look over Obama’s mention of “every race and faith”. Why? Well, I had to explain that while there is a lot of tolerance in the US, some people are still hateful, and that some members of the majority religion in our country will sometimes forget about our Constitutional rights, and is often guilty of trying to insist that we are a Christian nation, dismissing those of Jewish, Islamic, Native American, Pagan, etc. faiths. Brian was indignant. He gave me the first of a few “What the..??!” looks he used during the speech, and said, “No! We are not!” We’ve talked about the wide variety of beliefs Americans possess. Our living abroad, amongst Muslims, Copts, Christians (and others) has led us to many discussions about our own nation. I liked that he thought it somewhat ridiculous for our President to have to remind people of such an obvious fact, “We are part of the American family. We believe that in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people;…”

Anyway, Brian really perked up every time he heard a goal expressed with numbers. As in, having one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015, and “setting a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.” He doesn’t get that math stuff from me.

He was appalled at the high statistic quoted for kids not graduating high school, but otherwise, he really appreciated Obama’s push for educating our kids. He actually turned and grinned at me several times during that part of the speech, and when Obama mentioned that education needed to go beyond high school, he said “That’s why you’re saving for our college now!” Yep. Sure is.

He couldn’t believe that other countries have better internet than we do… so true… and was enthusiastic hearing about plans to improve that. He loves computers!

He looked concerned when the freezing of federal salaries was mentioned. He was quick to connect that to his daddy. And he didn’t understand why a “permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans” exists… well, what can I say? I don’t understand that either. I’m against punishing people for being successful, but we don’t live in a vacuum. We live in a society with a wide variety of group needs and responsibilities. There needs to be a fair way to tax at all levels, without stifling the motivation to succeed.

I don’t think Brian understood all of the talk on the military situations, but he had a lot of questions about the New START treaty and why that is important, as well as what Obama meant when he talked about US relations with countries such as China and Russia. I thought it odd that Brian was more interested in other areas, and not so much the Middle East, but then again, the Middle East has been his home for most of his life, so perhaps hearing about China and Asia is more intriguing because they are ‘foreign’?

He enjoyed hearing about taking care of our soldiers, and proud to hear of the mixed races and religions in the ranks, but he was confused over the mention of gays being forbidden to serve. When I said that yes, it really was true, homosexuals are now discriminated against and kicked out, I got another one of his disgusted and incredulous “What the..??!!” looks. Then, when Obama said that “The American Dream” was why he could stand and speak to us now, I had to explain suffrage, civil rights and voting rights. Another baffled and disgusted look from Brian… (yea… people were/are *that* ignorant kiddo…)

We had a very interesting discussion throughout the whole of the speech. It really was very positive, yet also, solidly grounded in reality. Obama’s overall message, of having to work together, and that real change will take hard work, sacrifice, and time, was wise. Or, as Brian would say (roll eyes) “Duh!”

Later on, when we were talking about it over dinner, Brian told his dad his favorite part of the speech. I thought it might be the catchy “We do big things.” that Obama used to wrap things up. No. Instead he chose: “What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow”.  This line came at the beginning of the speech, and yet Brian remembered it almost word for word later that evening. Let’s hope our elected representatives can do likewise.


Sadie said...

Connie, I loved this post! I think it's so cool that Brian got so interested in SOTU, and you did a great job explaining things to him! Very encouraging for the future of our country, if we can encourage the youth to get passionate about it now.

Connie said...

Thanks Sadie! Being young, doesn't mean stupid :) Kids are eager to learn, and while they might not have the experience to understand the full depth of some subjects, they can still get a pretty good grip on the overall idea. I'd told Brian that I only only wanted him to see a short bit, just to hear Obama talk, and when he saw how long the speech was, he insisted that he'd only watch 15minutes or so. I was surprised, but pleased, at how interested he became once he got into it! (Thank goodness for the internet!)

Anonymous said...

You're son makes me smile. I love this post!

Connie said...

Thank you l.b.! It was an awesome sharing moment. My little boy is not so little anymore :)

Veronica said...

Hope things are OK with you.

Connie said...

Hi Veronica - Things are fine here. I'm very worried about my former home and the folks, local and foreigners, who are caught up in the chaos. I understand the need for reforms, but I sure hope things are settled soon! The violence we are seeing in the news is very sad. Egyptians are very good people and this is difficult to watch.

Jill said...

I just think it's awesome that you watched this with Brian - and even more impressed that he had so many questions for you ... and remembered so much from the speech!

Rebecca said...

Just so you know, being a "Christian nation" doesn't mean everyone in the nation is forced to be Christian. It means that the nation was founded on Christian principles, which is true.

Connie said...

Rebecca - I have nothing against Christian principles - they are principles and values shared by many, and religion is not even required when it comes to holding to and respecting these principles and values. It's only when extremists use their religion against others that I get defensive. I believe in God, I am much more leery about religion. Religion is a man-made tool, a good thing in our lives, true(!), but it is a human thing, not divine, and too many people forget that and idolize their religion, far more than makes sense to me.

Rhianna said...

AWESOME! Staying home sometimes is the most educational!

Connie said...

Rhianna - it is! After watching how enthusiastic he was about the speech, I decided to subscribe to "The Week" magazine. I guess that I was about his age when I started reading the paper more seriously, so this magazine seemed like a good idea. We got the 1st issue yesterday, and both kids have been reading it! (