Ty'Sheoma Bethea and Michelle Obama

I thought last night’s speech was great. Both @baratunde and I (@ch3ryl) kept up a steady conversation during and after the SOTU on Facebook, Twitter and Cnn.com/live while keeping an eye on the THREE dedicated open threads that rikyrah opened up last night. Nice work, lady – thanks. Go head, y’all. Great insights in there and funny too. Thanks for staying up late with us here at JJP.

This am, I’m struck by a few things. Number one: Bobby Jindal’s GOP Response. Response to what? Quaaludes? Smack? Meth? What exactly was that dude trippin’ on last night? His inappropriately chipper and eerie sing-song tone was truly creepy. Sort like a cute, brown but very evil Mister Rogers. It was off-putting and made his delivery almost meaningless and inhuman. Apparently he was told to appear “upbeat”. Instead he appeared “psycho”. The republicans are going to have to do better than Jingo Jindal if they want to go up against The Prez.

Speaking of which – how amazing was he last night? He relaxed as the speech went on and became even more real. If there was a theme for the speech for me, it was “Keepin’ It Real”. A special moment for me was late in the speech (should have been the opener IMHO) in talking about Ty’Sheoma Bethea:

And I think about Ty’Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina – a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom.  She has been told that her school is hopeless, but the other day after class she went to the public library and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this room.  She even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp.  The letter asks us for help, and says, “We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world.  We are not quitters.”

We are not quitters.

These words and these stories tell us something about the spirit of the people who sent us here.  They tell us that even in the most trying times, amid the most difficult circumstances, there is a generosity, a resilience, a decency, and a determination that perseveres; a willingness to take responsibility for our future and for posterity.

Their resolve must be our inspiration.  Their concerns must be our cause.  And we must show them and all our people that we are equal to the task before us.

Ty’Sheoma shone with dignity and grace up in the balcony with Michelle Obama and presumably her proud mama. But what Obama gets and that too few in America have fully understood is that the fate of Ty’Sheoma and the fate of our nation are twinned. Obama said earlier in the SOTU: “The nations that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow.” Tru dat. We cannot succeed as a country if talented kids like Ty’Sheoma aren’t able to succeed here.And here at JJP, we’re fightin’ everyday for all the Ty’Sheomas out there. Heck some of us were her once upon a time and had to come up the rough side of the mountain to make it — you know that’s right. Ty’Sheoma deserves more from America than what it has been prepared to offer her in the past.

There’s more to the story of Ty’Sheoma and how she came to be at the SOTU.

From MichelleObamaWatch:

No, don’t all of y’all start writing letters to the President trying to be BFFs with the First Lady. I know the way y’all think.

This would also be a good time to tell our international readers that First Lady Michelle Obama does not run this blog and while I appreciate your lengthy letters in the email inbox, you might want to direct those to the White House. I love reading them. Its like being Santa’s Elf :) Here is some background from Howard Witt of the Chicago Tribune:

I met Ty’Sheoma Bethea, the teenage girl invited by President Barack Obama to sit beside the First Lady during his speech to Congress on Tuesday night, quite by accident a couple of weeks ago.

I was visiting the J.V. Martin Junior High School in Dillon, S.C., a decrepit facility where the roof leaks and winter classroom temperatures hover in the 50s, to learn about how one impoverished school district was hoping for some financial help from the stimulus bill then being debated in Congress….Later that evening, after our exchange in her classroom, Ty’Sheoma decided to walk to the town library. She sat down in front of a computer and typed out a single-spaced letter which began, “Dear Congress of the United States.”

In rough but passionate prose, the teenager beseeched the faceless representatives to help.Ty’Sheoma’s letter made its way to the president’s desk, and last week, he invited the teenager and her mother to sit in First Lady Michelle Obama’s mezzanine box in the House of Representatives to watch the president’s first address to Congress.

Ty’sheoma smiled as the president read out some of her words from her letter. Chicago Tribune

Here are some other favorite passages from Obama’s SOTU from the Keepin’ It Real theme.

We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before. The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth.

That is why I have asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort – because nobody messes with Joe.

I understand that on any given day, Wall Street may be more comforted by an approach that gives banks bailouts with no strings attached, and that holds nobody accountable for their reckless decisions.  But such an approach won’t solve the problem.  And our goal is to quicken the day when we re-start lending to the American people and American business and end this crisis once and for all.

I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for the assistance they receive, and this time, they will have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer.  This time, CEOs won’t be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks or buy fancy drapes or disappear on a private jet.  Those days are over.

Still, this plan will require significant resources from the federal government – and yes, probably more than we’ve already set aside.  But while the cost of action will be great, I can assure you that the cost of inaction will be far greater, for it could result in an economy that sputters along for not months or years, but perhaps a decade.  That would be worse for our deficit, worse for business, worse for you, and worse for the next generation.  And I refuse to let that happen.


So I know how unpopular it is to be seen as helping banks right now, especially when everyone is suffering in part from their bad decisions.  I promise you – I get it.


That’s what this is about.  It’s not about helping banks – it’s about helping people.


For history tells a different story.  History reminds us that at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas.  In the midst of civil war, we laid railroad tracks from one coast to another that spurred commerce and industry.  From the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution came a system of public high schools that prepared our citizens for a new age.  In the wake of war and depression, the GI Bill sent a generation to college and created the largest middle-class in history.  And a twilight struggle for freedom led to a nation of highways, an American on the moon, and an explosion of technology that still shapes our world.

In each case, government didn’t supplant private enterprise; it catalyzed private enterprise.  It created the conditions for thousands of entrepreneurs and new businesses to adapt and to thrive.

We are a nation that has seen promise amid peril, and claimed opportunity from ordeal.  Now we must be that nation again.

We must also address the crushing cost of health care.

This is a cost that now causes a bankruptcy in America every thirty seconds.  By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes.  In the last eight years, premiums have grown four times faster than wages.  And in each of these years, one million more Americans have lost their health insurance.  It is one of the major reasons why small businesses close their doors and corporations ship jobs overseas.  And it’s one of the largest and fastest-growing parts of our budget.

Given these facts, we can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold.

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