photo of Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities USA

Our Sputnik Moment

President Obama gave his State of the Union address this week and I, like many Americans, watched with great hope that this moment would signal movement forward, out of the recession and into a future of new possibilities. And there were a number of actions and statements that suggested the door had opened to a new beginning.

For starters, members of Congress sat together instead of clinging to separate sides of the aisle.  In Washington parlance, “the optics were good.” But beyond the optics it was good. This simple act had a remarkable impact on the tenor of the evening, and to the remote viewer it raised the hope that we could work together as a nation united, not divided, to address the daunting issues we face.

We need innovation, and education, and jobs. The federal government has grown exponentially over the past 50-odd years and certainly is overdue for serious reorganization.  But as one who has been involved with Catholic Charities for more than 20 years, I was especially heartened when the President cautioned, “Let’s make sure that we’re not doing it on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens.”

As we embark on a new wave of innovation in America let’s also think and act anew about our fellow citizens who were born or have fallen into poverty. Let’s bring that same energy and commitment to changing the lives of the poor, children, the elderly. Like the mission to the moon, which at the time was considered a pipe dream, we have set a goal to end poverty in America in the next ten years. The ideas are there if we can muster the will to turn them into reality. It truly is our Sputnik moment.