Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 4:33 PM on Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Obama's message simple, not easy

Editorial


President Barack Obama was addressing the nation, but his Tuesday night State of the Union address was perfectly tailored for Alaska — especially with the current session of the state Legislature only days old. In fact, three of his key points should guide legislators — as well as reinforce that they are on the right track — as they get down to business:

On education: "Higher education can't be a luxury — it's an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford," said the president.

Affordable higher education makes good economic sense. Imagine in this current economy jobs not going filled because workers don't have the right skills. But that's what's happening, particularly in science and technology industries where there are twice as many openings as there are American workers who can do the job. That's unforgivable.

Alaska has done a lot to make higher in-state education affordable with its scholars program. But it needs to make sure that rising tuition costs don't price other deserving students out of the education market. The state also has seen the value in tailoring training to jobs available in state. Of course, more can be done. Alaska needs to make sure it is investing in the smaller campuses of the University of Alaska — including the Kachemak Bay Campus — so they can become "community career centers — places that teach people skills that local businesses are looking for right now," as the president described them.

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On energy: "Nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American energy," said the president.

Alaska should lead the way with that innovation — not just with the development of fossil fuels, but with other forms of energy. Alaska is perfectly positioned to make the most of wind energy, tidal energy and thermal energy. The state should do as much to encourage investments in developing those alternative sources of energy as it does to encourage new oil and gas development.

Legislators, with the help of Gov. Sean Parnell's administration, also need to help get the cheaper, cleaner energy the state has — natural gas — to the people who don't have it. Yes, we're talking paying for a gas line from Anchor Point to Homer and Kachemak City. The project will create jobs, lower the cost of doing business here and lower the cost of living. What's not to love about this project?

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On bipartisanship: "We need to end the notion that the two parties must be locked in a perpetual campaign of mutual destruction; that politics is about clinging to rigid ideologies instead of building consensus around common sense ideas," said the president.

Amen to that. We hope Congress and the Alaska Legislature are listening. There will always be differences of opinions, but those should not stop elected officials from finding common ground and moving forward to do what needs to be done. The public always loses when political gamesmanship becomes more important than doing the right thing.

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President Obama reminded us all of important truths that are easy to forget when times get difficult.

He reminded us that the United States of America is still a great nation. He reminded us that while times may be tough, the country has lived through tougher. He reminded us of our potential — and our power — to change things for the better. He reminded us that when we work together, the possibilities are limitless.

All of those reminders, plus his proposals for education, energy and tax reform, wrapped up what could well be the most important element of his speech: optimism.

It's something the nation desperately needs right now. Words are powerful. The right ones can make things happen, they can build us up, they can bring us together. The wrong ones do just the opposite — they destroy and divide.

President Obama used the right words Tuesday night. He encouraged us to remember what this nation is all about. And he encouraged us to work together to move forward into better times.

Too simplistic? No. Easy? No. Possible? Yes.

As the president said, "We can do this."

Let's get moving.

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