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What Obama Could Learn From Pete Seeger for SOTU Address

In Tuesday's State of the Union address, will President Obama channel the spirit of Pete Seeger?

Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

Tonight President Obama will address Americans in his State of the Union speech, calling for 2014 to be “a year of action.”

In his 2009 inaugural address, Obama said he’d “come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics."

As if, as the kids might say.

It seems consensus in Washington is as elusive as ever. The dustup over the Affordable Care Act shut down the government last year. Democrats walked away in the battle over extending federal unemployment benefits. The complete list of bi-partisan bungling is long and varied. 

As his presidency begins to wind down, can Obama use his executive powers to fulfill some of the idealistic goals he campaigned on?

Anticipating tonight’s address, I can’t help but think about the example of Pete Seeger, who died at age 94 yesterday. As his New York Times obituary illustrates, Seeger was a true champion for social change. Regardless of one’s politics, there’s a lot all of us can learn from his example. 

Here are a few points: 

Don’t be afraid to fight: “I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this.” -- Pete Seeger, in response to interrogation by the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955.

Stand tall for your principles: Seeger left the band the Weavers when they recorded music for a Lucky Strike commercial. He wanted no part in promoting tobacco use.

Don’t be closed-minded: “Participation - that's what's gonna save the human race.”  (This could be seen as an argument against Obama using his executive powers.)

Don’t give up: “I am more optimistic today than I've ever been in my entire long life.” -- Pete Seeger, age 89.

How do you feel about the state of our union?  Are there any areas in which you think Obama should act unilaterally? Tell us in the comments or in a blog post.

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