Consider these two “State of the Union” photos.
The first photo shows Mrs. Obama’s guests last night. Two of them, in particular, the banker far left, and the school girl, were recognized by Obama in his speech. The banker privately distributed a $60 million personal bonus to all his current and former employees. The girl, Ty’Sheoma Bethea, wrote to Obama about preserving funds for education. Tying her words into the ambition of his agenda, Obama quoted her line: “We’re not quitters.”
The second photo shows US Air Captain “Sully” Sullenberger in Speaker Pelosi’s box. He was introduced to the audience before Obama arrived in the Congressional chamber but earned no recognition from the President nor any national face-time.
My immediate take on this contrast was, Bush is really gone.
I could easily imagine Dubya using the image of Sully and his Hudson River landing to create a fantasy-like example of American spirit and “can-do” optimism. Of course, “W” would probably then use it to bask in the glow — and win one more news cycle. The Obamas, on the other hand — averse to fairy tales and pedestals for their own sake — seem more interested in something both more mundane but also more exceptional, which is outstanding character as an expression of everyday citizenship.
(image 1: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters. caption: U.S. first lady Michelle Obama (bottom row, center) stands next to Leonard Abess jr (L), Dina Leach (2nd L), Ty’Sheoma Bethea (3rd L), a student from Dillon, SC; Richard G. DeCoatsworth (2nd R), a police officer from Philadelphia, PA; and Jill Biden (R), wife of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden as President Barack Obama gives his primetime address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 24, 2009. Obama mentioned Abess in his address saying “I think about Leonard Abess, the bank president from Miami who reportedly cashed out of his company, took a $60 million bonus, and gave it out to all 399 people who worked for him, plus another 72 who used to work for him.” image 2: Alex Wong/Getty. caption: Captain Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger (2nd L, bottom row), reacts to applause during his introduction before the arrival of U.S. President Barack Obama for a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress February 24, 2009 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. In his remarks Obama is expected to address the topics of the struggling U.S. economy, the budget deficit, and health care.)