ESCANABA - What a week! The Packers won the Super Bowl on Sunday and the President visited the Upper Peninsula on Thursday.
President Obama carried the themes of education, innovation and infrastructure to Marquette. The president evoked the images of Presidents Lincoln, Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Kennedy to remind us of our greatness when we work together.
The president's speech was in contrast to those who say "we can't." We have heard them. "We can't" provide health care to fellow citizens. "We can't" support education. "We can't" build roads and bridges. "We can't" spread technology needed to grow America's economy.
Mitt Romney claimed Mr. Obama is trying to Europeanize America. He missed the point. The present administration wants America to engage Europe and Asia and to best them.
President Obama was very clear in his message. He recalled that candidate Kennedy came to Michigan in 1960 at a time when America was being challenged around the globe, notably by the Soviet Union and China. Senator Kennedy said that we had only one choice, to be first. Kennedy said "I do not mean first, but," "I do not mean first, when. I do not mean first, if. I mean first period."
President Kennedy's call to action sounded like a Vince Lombardi pep talk, and so did President Obama in Marquette.
The president recalled that the transcontinental railroad was started during the Civil War with President Lincoln's leadership. Two railroad companies were given land that were equal in area to the state of Texas. The companies used the lands to leverage money to build the railroad. The transcontinental railroad was a national project during America's bloodiest war. Lincoln did not say "we can't." Trains were faster than the Conestoga wagons and America's industrialization pushed forward.
America has been it's best when it's citizens worked as a team. Lincoln's leadership of the country held the union and built a railroad.
The Greatest Generation defeated dictatorships on two continents. What if they had said, "we can't"?
In the early 1970s Zolton Ferency, a lawyer and criminal justice professor at MSU, ran for governor on the ballot under the banner of some obscure political party. Mr. Ferency was asked about whether there was a place for government ownership of industry.
Mr. Ferency said that government should do what it could do best and private enterprise should do what it does best. He was correct. In our area water and sewage is provided by government while production of paper is a private concern.
President Obama wants to build an infrastructure for the 21st Century. He seeks to expand the 21st Century's highway, the Internet.
President Eisenhower launched the interstate highway system in 1956. The program provided jobs in the short run and sustained economic growth in the long run. The transportation of goods would no longer be restricted to the railways, waterways, and two lane roads.
President Eisenhower also presided over the implementation of the National Defense Education Act, a program to increase support for young people going to college. Ike knew that America needed to be competitive in education.
President Obama recalled that President Franklin Roosevelt pursued rural electrification. Private companies had said it wasn't feasible to run power to rural areas. Putting electricity in rural areas spread economic development outside of urban areas.
The U.S. government has encouraged and supported infrastructure development since the beginning of the Republic. The federal government makes sure barges can float up and down the Mississippi. Inter-coastal waterways linking American ports are watched and care for by the federal government.
The federal government supports air travel. It pumps money into physical structures at airports, provides air traffic control, and secures airspace permitting commercial passenger, freight, and business travel.
America works best when we work as a team. By summoning the actions of Lincoln, first Republican president, and the presidents from the Greatest Generation, Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Kennedy, President Obama called us to be America that's at its best. First in education, innovation and infrastructure.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Richard Clark, Escanaba, practices personal injury law throughout the Upper Peninsula. He can be reached at uppermichiganlaw.com/richard-clark.html