The impetus behind "A More Perfect Union" was to address comments made by Reverend Wright, comments that threatened to divide the country on issues of race and equality at a time when everyone needed to be working together to fix those problems.
Racial inequality has been part of American history for hundreds of years, and, in many instances, the government has allowed it to continue. There are a million reasons not to like someone—i.e., those who put the toilet paper on the dispenser the wrong way—but judging someone based on the color of their skin isn't one of the reasons.
Racism is still such a big issue in the United States because we don't know how to empathize with one another in order to really listen and make changes.
Until we eradicate racial inequalities at home, the United States will have a difficult time successfully transitioning oppressed nations from destruction to democracy.
Our government was founded on the belief that all Americans deserved the opportunity to have a voice—even if you use that voice to sing off-key and practice your yodeling. We may have different upbringings, different economic strengths and weaknesses, different opportunities—but, in the eyes of the law, we're all the same. However, that never quite happened as was intended—some people don't need to practice yodeling, for example, and others sing on key all the time.
But even beyond our literal singing voices, we still struggle for equality in all aspects of our lives. Obama's "A More Perfect Union" addressed these struggles and made it very clear that we need to find a solution because the inequalities have been impeding our success as a whole.
There will never be true equality in the United States until all minority populations—including women, Blacks, immigrants, and displaced persons—have access to the same opportunities.
The answer to the question of equality has nothing to do with equalizing everyone. Rather, it will come with an understanding of equality versus equity.
Aristotle said, "Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all," and sometimes, we're so focused on test scores and competing with other countries, we forget that school is about so much more than a child's ability to deliver rote memorization.
That's why it's important to remember that education is about gifting our students with the knowledge they need to make their own choices, their own decisions. And we're doing a huge disservice to all our children by denying them equal access to it. "A More Perfect Union" suggests that only with the tools supplied by a diverse and dedicated education can we hope to teach future generations to think for themselves, to choose a future without violence and without hate.
Education is the single most important way to effect change.
One of the main causes of the Civil War was the varying social traditions in the northern and southern states. In many ways, those differences still exist today, exemplified by the fact that the southern states sometimes refer to that conflict as the War of Northern Aggression. This basic rhetorical difference, and others like it, has a big influence on persistent racial inequalities.
You've heard the myth about Pandora and how she was told not to open the box. So, of course she opened it, and out popped all the evils we face today: sickness, violence, racism—you get the idea.
However, at the very bottom of the box was hope, this innate desire to believe, no matter how dark life gets, that there's always better things ahead. Obama focused quite a bit on hope toward the end of "A More Perfect Union," and throughout his entire campaign when he continuously acknowledged our faults but also emphasized how much faith he had in our country, in our young people, to create a better future.
America is a nation shaped by tradition and patriotic ideology, the most important of which is the stubborn refusal to give up hope.
Over the last decade, the United States has seen a rise in gun violence and other acts of hate that overwhelm nightly broadcasts and our news feeds. Sometimes, our immediate access to this kind of information makes it very difficult to hold on to hope.