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Obama's 'Ocean of Tomorrows' Not Reaching American Shores

Yahoo Contributor Network

Yahoo News asked Americans to respond to Barack Obama's speech on the economy on Wednesday and share whether their own financial lives match the president's words. Here's one perspective.

COMMENTARY | With less than one-third of the country approving of the direction of his economic policies, the intention of Obama's speech was to remind the American people where we came from, and instill hope for where we may be going.

Always a charismatic speaker, the president said he wanted to discuss his "vision" and a "plan," one that will "change the nature of the conversation."

Although these are very lofty goals, and despite the excitement and verve of the president's discussion, it's unclear if the tenor of his speech and excitement for its message will actually translate into real action. Unless the "nature of the conversation" goes beyond the "what" and forays into the "how," then it's just the same conversation with new words.

President Obama spoke of "an ocean of tomorrows" that can and will be available to the American people if we remain steadfast and continue to invest in ourselves. He focused much of his attention on education. He posits: "If you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much ignorance costs in the 21st century." It's a hypothesis that resembles a prediction, and definitely a frightening forecast for everyone. Eventually, students will tire of investing $40,000 into a diploma only to become a barista.

Ironically, as the president advocates for the country to invest in education, his former chief-of-staff- turned-mayor-of-Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, has closed 54 schools in city the president calls home. Aside from those drastic closures, he has also cut 2,000 educator and support staff positions -- all of this in areas of Chicago that already face high levels of poverty and crime, areas that need more resources and not less.

It would seem that those oceans of possibilities are not quite reaching the shores. Actually, it seems that we will not have to wait long to test the president's frightening hypothesis: the South Side of Chicago serves as an experiment for what happens when a society stops caring about education.

Perhaps, the president is earnest when he speaks of the vast oceans of tomorrows that will be available to the American people should we invest in education. However, that investment does not extend toward the most impoverished areas of his hometown. The incongruity cannot be ignored.

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