“Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: They will be met.” – From the inaugural address of President Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States
And so it begins – perhaps the most awaited U.S. Presidential term in recent memory. What does it hold for our nation and for we as a people? Mired as we are in an economic recession, burdened by trillions in debt, and facing an ever-shadowy global network of terrorists and evil-doers, the road before us seems rockier than ever. Yet the first speech by President Obama lays out a plan that he believes shall help us deal with – if not overcome -- all of these obstacles before us.
“Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet,” Obama said after taking the oath of office on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.
“These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics,” he noted. “Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land – a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights. [Yet] the time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”
Obama stressed that “greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the fainthearted – for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things – some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor – who have carried us up the long, rugged path toward prosperity and freedom.”
So what does this mean for the country over the next four years, and for trucking?
Well, for starters, expect a heavy focus on alternative energy. President Obama laid out an over-arching strategy to get America to embrace a variety of alternatives to petroleum for both environmental and national security reasons. “We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories,” he stated.
Expect, too, an massive rebuilding an expansion of our infrastructure – a major tenet of his campaign he still plans to carry forward with vigor.
“The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act – not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth,” Obama said. “We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.”
Obama noted in speech Jan. 8 at George Mason University that everyone in America must share in the task ahead as well as shoulder some of the blame for how we got here. “This crisis did not happen solely by some accident of history or normal turn of the business cycle, and we won't get out of it by simply waiting for a better day to come, or relying on the worn-out dogmas of the past,” he noted in his talk at the school.
“We arrived at this point due to an era of profound irresponsibility that stretched from corporate boardrooms to the halls of power in Washington, DC. For years, too many Wall Street executives made imprudent and dangerous decisions, seeking profits with too little regard for risk, too little regulatory scrutiny, and too little accountability,” Obama said. “Banks made loans without concern for whether borrowers could repay them, and some borrowers took advantage of cheap credit to take on debt they couldn't afford. Politicians spent taxpayer money without wisdom or discipline, and too often focused on scoring political points instead of the problems they were sent here to solve.”
He also stressed that instead of politicians doling out money behind a veil of secrecy, decisions about where the government invests will be made transparently, and informed by independent experts wherever possible. “Every American will be able to hold Washington accountable for these decisions by going online to see how and where their tax dollars are being spent,” Obama said.
“We will launch an unprecedented effort to eliminate unwise and unnecessary spending that has never been more unaffordable for our nation and our children's future than it is right now,” he noted. “We have to make tough choices and smart investments today so that as the economy recovers, the deficit starts to come down. We cannot have a solid recovery if our people and our businesses don't have confidence that we're getting our fiscal house in order. That's why our goal is not to create a slew of new government programs, but a foundation for long-term economic growth.”
Will Obama’s efforts be successful? Surely, they are ambitious. But as he noted shortly after taking the oath of office, President Obama believes American and its people are more than capable of achieving all of this.
“There are some who question the scale of our ambitions – who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage,” he said.
“This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began,” Obama stressed. “Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.”
Good luck to you Mr. President.