Immigration reform high point of Obama's inauguration address

There is a point in any engaging text, whether visual, spoken, or read, where the organization of ideas reaches a high point.  And everything changes.  In short stories, novels, and poems, this turn happens two-thirds into the text, at the end of that section.  In a 90-minute movie, it happens at the 60-minute mark.

In today’s inauguration address, before a section of paragraphs where our president reminded us that “you and I have the obligation to shape the debates of our time,” President Obama mentioned immigration reform as his high point.

He led up to it, of course, with less controversial debates.

First, he reminded us that “our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.”  Almost no one will disagree with this.

Then, he reminded us that” our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.”  The acceptance of civil unions and the strong push for gay marriage make this issue less debatable today.

But then, he mentioned arguably the most controversial measure his office committed to take on–immigration reform.  “Our journey is not complete,” our president said, “until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.”

And before the audience could respond with skepticism or criticism, our president quickly transitioned to something no one can challenge: “Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.”

Nice move, Mr. President.  But let’s not let the gun-reform fight silence our persistent need for immigration reform.

The language that followed the high point reaffirmed his commitment to our country and our own commitment to our country’s success.  Let’s hope this was our president’s attempt to make immigration reform possible this year.

May we reminded him and ourselves regularly of our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  But more importantly, may we remind our president and ourselves of what he said today, too.  “For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing.”

Immigration reform cannot happen by itself this second term.  Those of us who support it need to keep it at the forefront of the conversation and not simply wait for it to happen.

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