Barack Obama today signed the first bill of his presidency, a piece of legislation known as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act that makes it easier for workers to sue after discovering what they believe to be pay discrimination.
In signing the bill, Mr. Obama said that it sends the message "that there are no second class citizens in our workplaces, and that it’s not just unfair and illegal, it's bad for business to pay someone less because of their gender or their age or their race or their ethnicity, religion or disability."
It Still Doesn't Seem Real Edition
- Obama's President. Nope, it still hasn't hit me.
- Headline from the Politico: Obama to GOP: 'I won'.
- Both houses of Congress have passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which is expected to be signed into law by President Obama soon after the differenced between the House and Senate versions are reconciled.
- Peter Luke offers a way to save Michigan money. Also from Peter Luke, Obama's stimulus plan may keep the state from having to make even more unpopular cuts.
- I'm getting the feeling that the Repubs just don't want to win anymore.
And the Lions are going to win the Super Bowl.
- If you were First Lady (or First Gentleman) of the United States, what issues would you champion? Laura Bush championed literacy; Hillary Clinton, healthcare reform; and Betty Ford, mental health. I would probably champion cancer research and an end to sexual aggression.
The Sun Shines on America Edition
So many others have summed up their thoughts on the inauguration, and I don't know how much I can add to what they have said. So I'll leave you with this.
- How appropriate. The Sun shined both in DC and in Mount Pleasant on Inauguration Day. Random chance? I don't think so.
- Barack Obama - yes, Barack Obama - is now President of the United States. I'm just trying to let that sink in. So far, it hasn't.
- It's amazing to think of what has transpired over the last eight years. When Bush became President, I was in middle school, three of my four grandparents were alive, John Paul II was Pope; Facebook, Daily Kos, and YouTube hadn't existed; and so many people whom I now call my friends weren't part of my imagination. And that's just for starters.
- I'm also noticing those times when I do something for the first time since Obama became President. Until Tuesday, every memory I ever made at CMU occurred during the Presidency of George W. Bush. "The last time I was at The Cabin, Bush was president," etc.
- I have known the Presidential Oath of Office by memory since I was 11 years old (Clinton was President at the time). How the hell did the Chief Justice of the United States screw that up?
- Former President George W. Bush (I love saying that) declined to pardon anyone at the end, even Scooter Libby, though he did commute the sentences of two border guards yesterday. Bush's decision not to pardon Libby
leaves a long line of rejected pardon applicants, many of whom have retained politically well-connected Washington lawyers, to make their case for presidential mercy in Bush's final days in the White House. Among them were junk-bond king Michael Milken, media mogul Conrad Black, former Illinois GOP governor George Ryan and former Louisiana Democratic governor Edwin Edwards. Bush also apparently turned down a last-minute plea from Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski to pardon her former GOP colleague Ted Stevens for his recent political corruption conviction.
- And finally, some eye candy.
Today we commemorate the 80th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (which was actually last week), one day before we witness the inauguration of our 44th President. The ties between King's birthday and Obama's inauguration are so significant that it is almost impossible to ignore them. I have compiled a variety of videos from YouTube to help celebrate both.
Let us start with Dr. King's most famous speech.
Like Dr. King and the many others who fought to expand and protect freedom in this beloved country, Obama and his supporters were motivated by a belief that things did not have to be the way they were - that we could do better. More than a mere slogan, Yes We Can has become a mantra for people well beyond the campaign.
And of course, that hard work paid off.
Oh, the excitement that generated! This was near Grant Park in Chicago, and though the melody wasn't entirely correct, he still did a great job conveying the excitement!
Our 44th President addressed the nation whose mantle of leadership he is now prepared to accept. He has constantly stressed that he will not merely be the leader of those who supported him, but of everyone in this land.
Both of my grandfathers served in World War II, Grandma was an Army nurse, and Dad was in the Reserves. My family and I vote in every election we can, from President to School Board. We love this beautiful nation and cherish the renewal of its promise.
It's out with the old and in with the new! On Friday the Late Show with David Letterman aired the finale of Great Moments in Presidential Speeches, looking back at some of the many verbal flip-ups of the outgoing Bumbler-in-Chief!
On a less funny but more uplifting note, let's celebrate the dawning of a new day for our country with It's a New Day by will.i.am, followed by You Are the New Day, sung by the King's Singers. My high school's choir sang the latter at my graduation in 2005.
Never officially our national anthem, Hail Columbia was widely regarded as such for many years. Today it serves as the Vice President's March.
Obama comes into the White House as the 44th member of the most exclusive club in the world (with apologies to the US Senate). This video notes his place in the line and has a wonderful ending!
It is my hope that kids everywhere will be able to look up to our new President as a superb role model.
And may he be an inspiration to us all, raising us up to new heights as a nation.
Barack Obama's election as President signals that America has come a long way from the deep racial tensions that plagued our past. Still, in order to continue moving toward racial equality, we must ensure that our economy is restored.
I had the privilege of interviewing Lt. Gov. John Cherry by phone this morning, who conveyed that message and others from DC, where he will be attending tomorrow's inauguration. Cherry, who arrived there Saturday, says there is a growing sense of excitement and anticipation in the nation's capital.
The incoming President has announced a major stimulus package that focuses on job creation through infrastructure improvements. Being from the Great Lakes Region, Obama is also aware that the Great Lakes are an important economic as well as environmental asset. He has pledged to invest $300 million in protection and restoration of the Lakes.
Cherry says he would like our new President to make it clear in his inaugural address that we as a nation are united and that we are closer than ever to living up to our ideals of freedom and democracy. Cherry also emphasized that we must understand that solving our challenges will require commitment from alll of us.
Special thanks to Lieutenant Governor Cherry for offering his time and for Graham for helping set up the interview.
"I Have Seen the Promised Land" Edition
"The biggest argument against democracy is a five minute discussion with the average voter." - Winston Churchill
"As people do better, they start voting like Republicans - unless they have too much education and vote Democratic, which proves there can be too much of a good thing." - Karl Rove
"When people think, Democrats win." - Bill ClintonOkay, enough quotes. :-)
In America, the people rule - or so we're told. Yet we are constantly reminded of the gripping power of big-moneyed corporations and special interests on American government.
You know what? The voters themselves do have the final say. Every member of the US House, and almost every member of the US Senate, is where they are because the people of their state/district - a plurality, at least - chose him or her to represent them. Those corrupt politicians whose pockets are laden with lobbyist money would not be in office except for the simple fact that they received more votes in the last election than their opponent.
Now, I assume that most people are of good intent. Does anyone believe that many of the more than 130 million Americans who voted a couple months ago did so knowing that the candidates they supported backed dangerous, anti-freedom, pro-big-money, anti-education policies? I doubt it.
So why do people vote for those kinds of politicians? To me it boils down to one thing: They don't know better!
It seems like the average American voter doesn't know enough to make an informed decision at the ballot box. Many voters - those who don't skip down-ticket races - will vote for a candidate because "I've heard of her" or "he seems like a good guy." And as long as voters keep re-electing politicians by overwhelming margins, the pols will think, "it's okay, the people will still vote for me, so I'll just worry about me, me, me."
I firmly believe that if people knew what Republicans (and, yes, some who call themselves Democrats) really stood for, progressive Democrats would be doing a lot better at the polls. I argue that the more educated the electorate is, the more likely they will be to support progressives in Democratic primaries and Democrats in general elections. In other words, the smarter people are when it comes to politics and government, the more Democrats we'd have in office, and the better those Democrats would be.
That's why progressive Democrats need to do a better job of informing voters so they make well-informed decisions. And when I say well-informed decisions, I don't just mean in the voting booth. (More on citizenship in the next week or so.)
Educating voters will be critical in not only fending off right-wing attacks in big-ticket races - making voters less susceptible to buying said attacks - but also in helping people understand the candidates and issues at stake in local and other down-ticket races, which provide a farm system of sorts for higher offices.
So what can we do to inform voters? Well, I won't pretend to know the complete answer to that. But here are some thoughts.
While posting articles on websites and issuing press releases may motivate the party faithful to support the cause, what good will it be in winning over those who aren't as dedicated to the progressive Democratic cause? To that end, I call upon Democratic Party and progressive organizations to do more to reach out to those who don't vote Democratic as much and to educate them on the issues that matter.
I realize that most progressive and Democratic groups have little extra money to spend. Even so, I argue that a cost-conscious, year-round persuasion effort may be a wise investment in the long-term electoral success of the Democratic Party.
Some of that money can be used to publicize Democrats' positions on key issues, through mailings, television, and so forth. During the campaign, candidates, staffers, and volunteers do their part to persuade voters to vote a certain way. When campaigns are not going on, there is still plenty of opportunity to keep voters in the loop about the important issues of the day and to solidify in their minds that it is the Democrats who stand for what's best for all of us.
Again, I won't pretend to know what tactics would work best in terms of helping voters become more informed. But I believe changing the way left-leaning groups educate voters is important to ensuring that those voters vote Democratic - and pick progressive Dems over corporatists.
(PS: You could look at this post as my argument for keeping the 50 state strategy.)
"Behold, All Things Have Become New" Edition
- John Cherry is running for Governor! Other fine Dems may also enter the race, and so I am not willing to say at this point that I endorse Cherry. However, I very much like what Cherry has done for our state.
- Meet Nancy Killefer, the first CPO of the United States. (That's Chief Performance Officer. :-) )
- When you're done meeting her, I'd like you to meet Chief Justice Kelly and Justice Hathaway.
- So they're raising hay about Attorney General-designate Eric Holder. You know what? Leahy's right. He'll be confirmed easily. I mean, the new President's got more Senators of his party than Bush did in 2001, when Ashcroft was confirmed 58-42.
- Any Republicans who oppose helping auto workers but support this proposed porn industry bailout can expect to hear an earful from me.
- I'm using 43things.com to help me keep track of my New Year's Resolutions and other things I want to do during my life. Highly recommended!
People need a lot right now:
- The Democratic Party needs to be more cohesive, better organized, and responsive to the needs and desires of its members.
- Elected officials need to know the views of their constituents - and why they hold these views.
- Citizens need to realize that merely voting every couple of years is not enough to be an active citizen.
- President Obama will need our help in making progressive policy, because...
- The people of this country - indeed, of the world - need food, clothing, shelter, a top-notch education, superb health care, a clean environment, the opportunity to work for a decent wage, and so much more.
Ensuring that the Democratic Party is strong and effective is critical because government policies affect so many aspects of our lives - what our children are taught, whether they can afford to go on to college, whether we have good-paying jobs and clean air, and so forth. And as we have seen, with few exceptions, Democrats are far better suited to lead our nation than most Republicans.
And yet, most of us will agree that the Democratic Party is nowhere near where it should be. Don’t get me wrong; progress has been made in many areas of our Party. Governor Dean’s 50-State Strategy comes to mind, as do programs like Democrats Work and the Blue Tiger Democrats.
But we can all see that there is plenty of improvement to be made. If I had a dollar for every time a Democrat in Congress voted to cave in to the boneheaded demands of the unpopular Bush, I'd be able to pay off the national debt. (Okay, maybe not, but I would be better off financially!) A year later, I’m still not happy that I as a Michigan resident didn’t get a say in determining who my Party would nominate for President of the United States. (Don't get me started on that.)
Yet it is precisely because I am such a darn proud Democrat that I want to make this Party stronger and more effective. For all the faults of some Democratic leaders, most of the Democratic activists I know are hard workers who expect the best from government and our Party. We want our rights protected. We want good jobs that pay well. We want everyone to be able to live the American Dream.
We want a better life for all, so that each person can live out his or her full potential as a human being, making our world a better place for it.
So how can the Democratic Party most effectively achieve these ends? I don't think I can answer that completely. But I do have some ideas. Among many other things, I believe it’s critical for the party of Jackson, FDR, and Obama to:
- Stand for truly progressive ideals and policies not just during campaign season, but always.
- Contest every race on the ballot.
- Reach out to all potential Democratic voters, including those who don’t vote.
- Understand the views of all of its members, including those who do not have much to give.
- Promote community service and civic engagement amongst both Party activists and others.
- Encourage collaboration and networking amongst progressive people and groups from all walks of life.
- Above all, show - not just by its words, but by its actions - that it truly is the Party of the People and that it deserves to govern this great country which many of my friends and relatives have so bravely served in uniform.
If you're not involved in your local and state Party, get in the game. Find out when your county or district Party meets, and see if you can attend a state Party convention, where you can interact with prominent Democrats and share your views with them in a face-to-face way. (Usually you don't have to be a Delegate to attend a convention.)
Perhaps you already are involved with the Party at some level, or maybe you're part of a progressive or Democratic club, such as the College Democrats or DFA. If so, let me give you that gentle nudge to run for a leadership post in one of those groups. The months following a general election are the time when many Democratic groups elect new leadership to carry the Party's mantle for the next couple of years. Last year I ran for President of the Michigan Federation of College Democrats. While I did not win that particular election, I did end up on the National Council of the College Democrats of America, and now I serve as Deputy National Communications Director of CDA!
If you don't make your voice heard, you cannot expect our Party to stand up for progressive values. So, stand up. Make it known that you are a proud Democrat, but you will not rest until the entire Democratic Party stands up for truly progressive, Democratic ideals.
I will delve more deeply into this topic more in the next few days. In the meantime, what ideas do all of you have for making our Party stronger? What would you like to see out of the Democratic Party?
...and I got 9 resolutions for '09.
- Give more of my time and talent. I've given treasure before, but not much time and talent.
- Donate blood at least four times this year. I just did earlier this week, but that was the first time in almost three years. Let me tell you, as physically drained as you feel, that is outweighed by knowing that you did something good for others.
- Work to build a stronger, more progressive Democratic Party. 2008 was great for Democrats at the ballot box. Will 2009 be great in the policy arena? Will our Party become more responsive to the concerns of its members? I sure as hell hope so, and intend to work to make it happen!
- Become a better leader. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy the books I have regarding leadership. But what we read about leadership in books cannot entirely substitute for real-world experience.
- Make at least 25 contacts with lawmakers. Last year's goal was 20.
- Inspire other people to become better citizens and leaders. Be to others what my friend Dan was to me.
- Swim more. It's a great way to get a great workout. Look out, Michael Phelps - see ya in London!
- Finish reading at least six books this year. Perhaps six of the following seven:
- The Audacity of Hope by our President-elect;
- The Assault on Reason by Al Gore;
- The Conscience of a Liberal by Paul Krugman;
- Blood of the Liberals by George Packer;
- 1776 by David McCullogh;
- Everyday Leadership by Dan Mulhern;
- Crossing the Threshold of Hope by Pope John Paul II
- Bring happiness, hope, and comfort to others. We could all use some more light in our lives!