La Crónica de Hoy, Mexico
Obama Focusing on His Own Country
By Concepción Badillo
Translated By Tabitha Middleton
23 January 2013
Edited by Daye Lee
Mexico - La Crónica de Hoy - Original Article (Spanish)
Barack Obama began his second term as president of the United States with an unconventional speech in which he discussed issues never before addressed by a president during his inauguration — issues such as immigration reform, welcoming immigrants, gay rights and equality and taking responsibility for climate change.
In other words, the White House chief, who was re-elected for four more years last November with great popular support, is promising and looking forward to an ambitious plan of action. He is now no longer focusing only on furthering his country's role as a world leader and force for justice, but on building a better nation, one that solves internal problems and provides a better life for its citizens.
In other words, Obama wants to start cleaning up his house and reconstructing his own country. But this will require extraordinary political skill, a better relationship with Congress and, above all, very good luck.
We Latinos especially appreciate his mention of immigrants, and his demand for the creation of a law that will eventually grant citizenship to the undocumented immigrants currently living and working in the U.S. And his insistence that women receive equal pay for equal work also had a great impact.
But the one part of his speech that is most talked about and received the most attention was his call for equality for gays. In spite of his support in his first term for same-sex marriage and the open presence of gays in the military, gay organizations have harshly criticized him for not supporting them enough. On this occasion, Obama made it clear that he believed the law should grant them the same rights as any other citizens.
Obama's gratitude towards Hispanics, whose votes won him re-election, was demonstrated in the appointment of Supreme Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor, a woman of Puerto Rican origin and the first Latina to administer the vice-presidential oath. Also present was Luis León, a Cuban-born minister, who recited the traditional prayer.
Obama's respect for gays was made clear in his invitation of Spanish poet Ricardo Blanco, who recited one of his poems on the first occasion in which a Hispanic and openly gay writer participated in an inauguration.
But perhaps the most important moment of Obama's speech was his statement that a decade of war is coming to an end, as is the economic recession, which consumed a great part of his first term. "I've been saying it since before I took office, it's time to focus on rebuilding our own country."*
A survey released before the inauguration revealed that the large majority of Americans — 83 percent of those interviewed, which included Democrats, Republicans and Independents — want the president to focus on domestic problems. This was after the president had been speaking about the need to leave the war behind and focus on job creation, industries and local infrastructure.
America's great need for reconstruction and new infrastructure was made clear when Hurricane Sandy left hundreds of thousands of people without electricity for weeks last October, because, although electricity runs underground in most industrialized countries, in the majority of the northeastern part of the U.S. — one of the most densely populated areas on the planet — electrical cables are supported by posts that are easily damaged by strong winds and rain storms. These are frequent occurrences in that area.
Another pressing issue is the security of America's 600,000 bridges, the structure of which are also outdated, to the point that one in four bridges is in need of immediate reconstruction. And what about the educational system? The universities are excellent, as well as extremely expensive and elitist. Basic education in public schools leaves much to be desired. It is estimated that 1.3 million young people drop out of high school every year.
And what about the health care system? It's the most expensive in the world, but not the most efficient, and it isn't accessible to everyone. In the U.S., life expectancy is 78 years, much less than the average in 32 other countries with similar economies.
The president seems very serious about somewhat disregarding the world and dedicating his energy, his power and his resources to progress and advances in his own territory. That would be his great legacy. Unless of course a crisis erupts outside the U.S. and he is forced to change his plans.
*Editor's note: This quote, while accurately translated, could not be verified.
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