"Like the America he serves, Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg never gives up, and he does not quit."
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, watched the two-minute standing ovation Congress gave Sgt. Remsburg, and tweeted: "Thanks to Army Ranger Cory Remsburg and his sacrifices, POTUS finished on a powerful note."
It was moving, uplifting and a forceful ending to an hour-long State of the Union address to the country. If you skipped the State of the Union, perhaps you missed quite a moment -- witnessing a weakened Congress that has made itself almost irrelevant to governing -- rising as one to applaud the sacrifices of Sgt. Remsburg.
Sgt. Remsburg was wounded on his 10th -- 10th! -- tour of duty, severely wounded by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan that left him with shrapnel in his brain, blind in one eye, and with (so far) an unresponsive left hand. He's undergone multiple surgeries, and goes through hours of grueling rehab each day.
"Like the American he serves ... Cory Remsburg does not give up," Obama said. "He does not quit." What a compelling example Sgt. Remsburg gives us.
In remarks prepared before the State of the Union, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said in rebuttal to the president's State of the Union: "The most important moments right now aren't happening here. They're not in the Oval Office or in the House Chamber. They're in your homes.
"Kissing your kids goodnight, figuring out how to pay the bills, getting ready for tomorrow's doctor's visit, waiting to hear from those you love serving in Afghanistan, or searching for that big job interview."
She is right. Like Sgt. Remsburg, millions of Americans heroically carry on with daily struggles, wanting a Congress that doesn't shut down their government to force an agreement. They want a Congress whose members can sacrifice their elevated views of their own opinions for the common good -- by a means other than unending obstructions.
Ironically, this Congress came to Washington vowing to change the way things are done. They did. For the first time in American history, the Congress might just be incapable of governing, of doing its part -- as Sgt. Remsburg and Americans do their part daily -- to work cooperatively to make this country the greatest in pursuit of equality and opportunity.
Watching from across the country in Seattle, New York Times columnist Timothy Egan wrote, "In one of the speech highlights, (Obama) urged Republicans to 'join the rest of the country. Say yes.'"
Millions of us must have thought, "Yes! Say yes, Congress. Say yes to something -- anything -- you don't agree with, for the sake of the sacrifices of the Cory Remsburgs of this nation; for the sake of the working mothers and fathers of this nation." Congress, say "Yes."
But with this Congress, literally every policy they favor is a principle so inviolate, so untouchable, that they are right 100 percent of the time, and the president is always wrong. The Democrats are always wrong. With the Democrats, the Republicans are usually wrong. Even the voters cannot disagree with this Congress on policy, no matter if they did make this president the only president since Dwight David Eisenhower to receive 51 percent or more of the popular vote twice. Yet this Congress defies their election decisions.
From our American homes to our cities to our state houses, the American people are faced with a Congress of such overweening pride, it cannot humble itself enough to say "Yes" to anything but its own partisan agendas. It is not just principle; it's willful self-interest.
Nonpartisan studies confirm its self-interest. An American Political Science Association task force study concluded that Congress' unending gridlock is caused not just by "sincere ideological differences," alone, but also by "strategic behavior to exploit those differences to win elections."
That's why Rep. Rodgers, giving the Republican reply (approved by House Speaker John Boehner's office), attempted to construct still another partisan division of "right vs. wrong" where none exists. Rodgers wants a contrast between "income inequality" and "opportunity inequality."
The president wants to end both, because they are linked. Without an end to income inequality, there will be limited opportunities for advancement. Congress cut food stamps for working men and woman, but provided millions in subsidies for agribusiness. They cut pensions for our veterans, but won't touch lopsided tax breaks that allow unearned income to be stashed in the Cayman Islands.
President Obama chose Cory Remsburg as an inspiring example to continue to struggle against great odds, in this case, the Congress. "It's certainly heartening," concluded Timothy Egan, "to hear Obama, in full-throated defiance ... proclaim, 'America will not stand still -- and neither will I.'"
Nor should the rest of us. Let's figure out a way to move our country forward -- together.