Posted by on January 24, 2011 in Blog
With much speculation on what President Obama will say in tomorrow’s State of the Union address, we have asked several Arab Americans from across the country to share their thoughts. Below is what they had to say. Please join the conversation and share your reaction to their comments and elaborate with your own take on the speech. It is through this type of engagement that we can develop a healthy discussion on the current state of affairs and contribute to moving our country forward.
David Ramadan (R)
I spent many days in January campaigning in South Western Virginia for two of my Republican friends: Greg Habeeb and Bill Stanley. Habeeb, a Lebanese American, and Stanley were running in a Special Election to replace two Republicans who are now members of Congress. On Tuesday the 11th, the citizens of South Side VA casted their votes and sent my two Republican friends to Richmond with a decisive 60+ % of the vote. The messages we heard from the voters as we worked the polls were familiar and consistent: cut spending, smaller government, fiscal responsibility, create jobs and repeal Obamacare. The following morning I attended Senator Stanley’s and Delegate Habeeb’s swearing in ceremonies at the beginning of the legislative session. Later in the evening, as a guest of the First Family, I attended Governor McDonnell‘s State of the Commonwealth Address to the General Assembly followed by a reception at the Executive Mansion. Some of the Governor’s priorities included:
- Create new job-creating tools and resources to help start, grow, and recruit new businesses
- Implement major reforms and more accountability in higher education to make college more affordable and accessible for our students
- Reform government by prioritizing spending, eliminating or consolidating targeted agencies
The Governor is obviously in sync with Virginians. President Obama can and should adopt Governor McDonnell’s priorities. Americans sent a clear message to the President in November; Virginians reaffirmed the message in January; it is time for the President to listen and serve the best interest of Americans instead of Governing from the left on a liberal agenda of Tax & Spend.
Jean AbiNader (D)
Having just returned from a visit to Morocco with US security experts, and watching the events in Tunisia, I feel quite strongly that the President cannot back down from US engagement with the Arab/Muslim worlds. Over the past two years, the USG has demonstrated that it has the same challenges in hearing Arab and Muslim voices as the preceding Bush administration. While words may have weight with some constituencies, the lack of credible US actions that go beyond regime maintenance has eroded the US capacity to be a player in the region.
While the US rightly focuses on economic issues, the safety and stability of communities suffering from increasing energy and food prices, and the imperiled political space where dialog generates solutions rather than acrimony, it should not and cannot ignore that these are global issues brought on by mismanagement of very basic structural deficits in governance, accountability, economic growth for jobs, the distribution of economic opportunities, and satisfying very diverse citizen identity issues. The US indeed looks like the rest of the world and should act for domestic solutions that do not deny our global identity.
Whether dealing with immigration, controlling the deficit, reducing the footprint of government bureaucracy, providing support for social services, or realigning spending priorities, the President and Congress should never forget who their employers are and the quality of our links to the world.
Sherine El-Abd (R)
Now ending his second year in the White House, President Obama has succeeded in disappointing Republicans, Democrats and independents! We continue to see the lack of experience and leadership skills which have caused and grown many of the problems our nation is facing. On the domestic side, his health care agenda is misguided and he needs to understand that the majority of the American people are against it. His bailouts were unwise and misdirected and have not scratched the surface in creating jobs. People are hurting, there are no jobs to be found and you cannot find one person who has either lost his job or knows somebody (in most cases several) who are jobless! Not one sound economic policy out of this administration.
On the proposed Islamic Center to be built near Ground zero, he was all over the place making statements that he would take back the following day; not exactly the qualities of a true leader. Our foreign policy leaves a lot to be desired. We continue to support radical and dictator regimes and we are not working on keeping our allies in our corner. The Middle East is now a volcano that has started to erupt and this administration is just watching!
Linda Sarsour (D)
When asked about the state of our country, the first thing that comes to mind is ‘broken yet fixable.’ Our country is broken, fragmented, and divided by racism and dangerous political rhetoric that pins political parties, communities, and various sectors of society against one another. Today, securing our nation translates to trampling over constitutional rights; and more money is being spent on wars and separating families through deportations rather than on education and preparing our children for an increasingly competitive world.
We also live in the land of the free and home of the brave: a country full of opportunity and one that takes pride in its diversity; a place for people to flee political and religious persecution. We are the United States, looked upon as leaders in the eyes of our allies and others worldwide. In order for the United States to maintain its credibility and role as the world’s leader, it must redefine that role. We must become honest brokers in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, invest more funding in education and job creation; we must overhaul our current immigration system – keep families together and ensure due process. Not to mention, fixing our immigration system and ending our wars will strengthen our economy. We can only be strong when we come together, work together, sacrifice together, and put our differences aside. I ask that President Obama take more risks, voice his intolerance for racism and politically charged rhetoric from government officials, and to reframe our priorities based on human rights.
Randa Fahmy Hudome (R)
On Tuesday night, President Obama will deliver the State of the Union Address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress and, most importantly, to the American people. Predictably, the President will update the American people on the status of the country as he sees it, and will direct his legislative wish list to Congress. It is my sincere hope that he addresses two critical issues with clarity, sincerity and veracity: 1) rising gasoline prices and 2) Palestinian statehood.
The first issue affects every American who is struggling to recover from the recent economic downturn. While every President has attempted to implement some sort of energy policy to address the heated political rhetoric regarding gas prices, few have actually told the American public the truth: that gasoline prices are not rising due to the manipulation of OPEC or some “ unfriendly Middle East country that utilizes petroleum profits to fund terrorism.” Gas prices are on the rise due to the manipulation of the petroleum market by energy traders on Wall Street – many who benefit financially by engaging in trading energy futures. The President and Congress can do more to regulate the behavior of these hedge fund traders – for the benefit of the American people.
From a foreign policy perspective, President Obama can use the State of the Union Address to address one of the last great global injustices – that of the plight of the Palestinian people, who strive for freedom and justice. While South Africa’s apartheid is thankfully a policy of the past, and Sudan has recently democratically decided its fate, the Palestinian people are left to languish due to the political whims of Congress and the lack of courage by the Obama Administration to make the hard decisions that are required to give the Palestinian people the freedoms they so rightly deserve. The President should tell Congress that he intends to secure an agreement that will give the Palestinians a state – that which they have deserved for so long. That is within the purview of the Executive Branch and the President should deliver that message on Tuesday night.
Rashida Tlaib (D)
My parents immigrated to the United States over thirty years ago with hopes of freedom and equal opportunities for a better life. They could have never imagined that their daughter would be elected to the Michigan House of Representatives, let alone the first Muslim woman elected to the Michigan Legislature, and, in the same year, witness the historic election of the first African-American President of the United States, a child of an immigrant father, a Kenyan Muslim.
As President Obama contemplates his State of the Union, I hope the spirit of his 2008 campaign resonates in his message: the message of hope and change.
For me, Obama's message meant that being Muslim in America was no longer a disadvantage in applying for a job, joining the military, teaching our children, or running for office. Our core American values of fairness and justice are fundamental to social and economic prosperity for our country. President Obama needs to understand that means fixing our broken immigration system - a system that has targeted, humiliated and undermined the fundamental principles our country was built upon.
For our country to truly heal from the spread of hate towards immigrants in America, President Obama needs to reform our nation's most important gateway: federal immigration laws.
Patricia Ann Abraham (I)
My comments are limited to Middle East policy, specifically Palestine/Israel.
Our President will say nothing of substance.
Mr. Obama is gearing up for re-election. He faces a divided Congress with major House committees chaired by overt Israel supporters. (I am tempted to say by overt Arab bashers, but won't.) Even though some indicators show improvement, most of us feel the economy is in shambles and millions are still out of work. That will be his focus.
His plate is piled high. He knows better than to add to his troubles for example with a principled statement about the human rights of the Palestinian People or a US commitment to international law vis a vis Israel. There may be dots that connect the health of our economy to the billions we are wasting on wars in the Middle East and 'aid' to Israel, but he will not go there.
At most, given the influence of the Israel-firsters who contribute huge sums to the Democratic coffers, he might throw in the usual pap of 'working for two states living side by side in peace and security' and/or the 'US cannot want peace more than Israel and Palestine'.
What would I like him to say? I wish he would repeat some of his Cairo words and add 'this applies to Palestinians too.' Or, perhaps include the peaceful non-violent Palestinian protesters in his praise for those who seek freedom from tyranny such as the people of Tunisia recently. And wouldn't it be refreshing to hear Mr. Obama lecture the Israelis on human rights abuses as he recently lectured the Chinese? It won't happen. He has nothing to gain and too much to lose by stirring up the Israel-can-do-no-wrong crowd.
I pray I am wrong. Yet, so far this man, whom many of us looked to with 'the audacity of hope,' has been greatly disappointing at least when it comes to Palestine/Israel.
Omar Khalifa (D)
As we all anxiously await President Obama's State of the Union address tomorrow evening, we can expect much of the focus to be on our nation's economy and job development. There is no doubt that the President's leadership and handling of the economy has led to its stabilization. This past year we've seen the creation of more than a million jobs, and it goes without saying that there is more work to be done. We can also expect President Obama announce renewed efforts of ensuring that America remains competitive in an evolving global market.
We can also expect the GOP to form a "wall of opposition" to the President's legislative agenda. The Republican leadership has made clear their intentions of moving in the opposite direction of the President, the Democratic Caucus, and the best interests of American families.
Dr. Jamil M. Shami (R)
Our President Barack Obama continues to inspire America and all Americans. His appeal to the best in people paved his way to the White House. Once elected he reached for the hearts and minds of all of us in his service for all. I take pride in watching my President addressing the Congress as one without the partisan divide of Republicans and Democrats. Onward President Obama. Onward America.
Sami H. Elmansoury (D)
When asked about the "state of our union", it is difficult to speak as an American first, and far easier to fall into the common partisan rhetoric that we see represented in our media sources and political discourse. Yet as we think deeply about the "state of our union", we would be at a collective loss if we did not consider first the condition of our unity as a nation - of our union - rather than first consider the politics that are driving that union.
Joblessness, lack of healthcare, and several other issues plague our country - this cannot be denied. But it would be irresponsible to assume that one "side" holds all of the solutions to these concerns. America has always been run successfully on difference, checks and balances, and compromise. Yet today, compromise and respect for the other "side" seems to be all but dead. There are times when a Republican will develop a powerful idea for the nation - one that has true merit - and it will be rejected outright by Democrats. Although it may be unstated, evidence sometimes suggests that the rejection came simply because the developer was Republican. On the other side, every Republican in the House of Representatives recently approved the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Is it likely that every Republican, without exception, was vehemently opposed to the main premises of the ACA? The idea is unlikely to be truth.
We all have a role to play in fixing this union moving forward. It is not weakness to admit that today, we have been going down a risky path for our nation. It is weakness to simply blame the other. And it takes courage worthy of our founding to sometimes blame our collective selves.