We can settle for a country where few people do well, while masses barely get by

2012-01-25 19:46

I woke up, got myself a pen and notepad pouring in a cup percolated coffee. The time was 3 o'clock Wednesday 25 January 2012 early morning (South African time).

The aim was to watch real live the State of the Union Address, America’s State of the Union Address so to speak. As usual every year this time the State of the Union is presented by the President of the United States to the United States Congress. The speech is not just American directed at Americans, it is wide ranging and covers the world .

The real audience world wide is the tens of millions viewers watching at home, with the address carried live on the major networks – ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC as well as the cable news channels CNN, CNBC, Fox News and MSNBC.

And so I timed my blackberry to wake me up - so there I was on the couch taking notes on my notepad: My mind was fixed on: What are the key points to take from home in South Africa for our own South Africa version State of the Nation address that Zuma will provide to the nation in February? I reflect...

In the Address President Barack Obama put emphasis on skills, he said: I want to speak about how we move forward, and lay out a blueprint for an economy that's built to last – an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.

One hope that President Zuma will speak about how we move forward not clogging the address with the history. History is nice because you are telling a story that is self congratulation. We need him to speak about how we move forward.

The State of the Union was about skills and more skills. Barack Obama continued: Join me in a national commitment to train two million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job. Now you need to give more community colleges [that is your technical colleges / FETs in South African context] the resources they need to become community career centers – places that teach people skills that local businesses are looking for right now, from data management to high-tech manufacturing. And I want to cut through the maze of confusing training programs.

About teachers Barack Obama said: Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let's offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. In return, grant schools flexibility: To teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren't helping kids learn.

And lastly: We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.

What's at stake are not Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. We have to reclaim them.

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