A little more than a century and a half ago, President Abraham Lincoln took his oath of office as the 16th president of the United States. Fifty years ago, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. The bibles belonging to each man will be united this Monday, Jan. 21, as President Barack Obama, our 44th President, places his hand on both sacred books while taking his second oath of office. The symbolism in using these two very carefully chosen texts is rich in knowledge, conviction, optimism, inspiration and struggle.
On Nov. 4, 2008, for millions of Americans, a historic shining moment of sheer euphoria existed. Daunted not by the opposition’s corrosive tone, the winners, cognizant of potential struggles, were poised to move America forward with a bold, new agenda.
This was a grand, long-awaited agenda, one that would change America forever, one from which all Americans could benefit. And while more could have been accomplished had we a Congress engaged in civil, respectful debate and compromise, still, in four short years, many significant undertakings were successfully achieved. Often amid denigration, mired in distortions and lies, domestic and international priorities still were addressed. Consider that President Obama:
* Signed into law The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.
* Signed into law The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)/“Obamacare.”
* Signed into law the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act spurring economic growth amid the Great Recession.
* Signed into law the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act re-regulating the financial sector after its practices caused the Great Recession.
* Signed into law the expansion of The Children’s Health Insurance Authorization Act allowing health care coverage for 4 million more children.
* Signed into law the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.
* Ordered U.S. Seals to raid a secret compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, resulting in the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
* Brought back from the brink of death the U.S. auto industry. Federal money totaling $62 billion helped GM and Chrysler add more than 100,000 auto industry jobs.
* Issued an executive order permitting thousands of “Dreamers” (youth who came to America as children) to find jobs or attend colleges.
President Obama’s strong record on Israel must neither be overlooked nor minimized. He remains unwavering in his support for Israel’s safety and security. In 2007 during NJDC’S Washington conference, Presidential candidate Obama told the audience, “When I am president, the United States will stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel in search of peace and in defense against those who seek its destruction.” He continues to make good on this promise.
Israeli leaders agree: Former Prime Minister and former Minister of Defense Ehud Barak stated, “... when it comes to this nation’s security, the Obama administration is doing more than anything that I can remember in the past.” President Shimon Peres recently said that President Obama has “pledged a lasting friendship for Israel ... Israel’s security is ‘sacrosanct.’ So you pledged. So you acted. So you’re acting. As a great leader, as a genuine friend.”
Why do these Israeli leaders voice such support for President Obama? Consider that President Obama:
* Provided $6 billion of foreign assistance to Israel;
* Added an additional $275 million for Iron Dome missile defense systems;
* Oversaw hundreds of millions of dollars for the joint development and production of the Arrow and David’s Sling missile defense systems;
* Backed unconditionally the close and most in-depth ever relationship between the U.S. military and the IDF;
* Sided with Israel against the Gaza flotilla, opposed the inaccurate, unbalanced Goldstone Report, boycotted Durban II and III;
* Helped Israel fight the Mount Carmel fires ordering, “Get Israel whatever it needs now”;
* Helped the successful rescue of Israelis trapped in the Embassy in Cairo;
* Stated that “containment of Iran is not an option for the United States,” and continuously toughened sanctions to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Looking to the next four years, euphoria still exists, but one that is more tempered by obstacles in the form of a nettlesome political opposition bent on blocking whatever President Obama proposes. Yet, this last election provided a clear mandate. As this second inauguration quickly approaches, a new set of challenges on the horizon includes:
* Solving the national debt problem, putting the federal government’s finances on a sound financial footing;
* Ending America’s longest war in Afghanistan, bringing the troops home;
* Helping to secure peace for a democratic Israel and her neighboring Palestinian state;
* Enacting into law immigration reform;
* Enacting into law stringent gun safety measures;
* Passing and enacting into law climate change legislation;
* Passing and enacting into law the Violence Against Women Act;
* Obtaining full funding for The Housing Trust Fund.
Our Jewish heritage provides rich troves of ideas and knowledge to face the struggles plaguing our society. As Jews, we bear inescapable moral obligations not just from those outlined in our own Bible, but also from the experience we have as a people. We have an obligation to improve society, and are proud that tikkun olam plays a strong role in defining, enriching and invigorating our Jewish identity. Born with different natures, our own free will is what permits us to choose the paths we take. By selecting the road guided by “yetzer hatov,” our inclination to do good, we become part of the solution.
As an active and engaged community, we have the opportunity to use our strong public support to help move forward the new and bold agenda for the next four years. Let us take this journey together. We can agree, disagree, debate and discuss. But let us do so with mutual respect and trust. In the true spirit of “United We Stand, Divided We Fall,” let us work in earnest and together toward achieving our goals.
Barbara Goldberg Goldman is the president of Regal Domestics, Inc. and principal in Quorum, LLC. She is the founder and co-chair of the Affordable Housing Conference of Montgomery County, and a member of the board and on the executive committee of the National Jewish Democratic Council. She is the 2011 recipient of Montgomery County’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award.
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