Ten years ago, fear and uncertainty blanketed the nation as America witnessed the worst of what mankind has to offer in terms of terrorism.
A decade later, uncertainty again pervades the country. But this is fear of a different kind. Now the worry is not about hijacked aircraft or anthrax. It's about high unemployment, a prolonged housing crisis and stagnant economic growth here and overseas.
As a result, President Barack Obama faces a daunting task when he takes the podium at 4 p.m. PST Thursday to give his long-awaited jobs speech during a joint session of Congress. He needs to deliver something more than a defense of economic policies of the past. He needs to give Americans a reason to be optimistic about the future.
Coming on the heels of last night's debate by Republican presidential candidates, the last thing the nation needs is more political rhetoric this evening. This is not about <i>his</i> job — and whether Obama will still be doing business from the Oval Office 18 months from now. It's about the jobs that 16 million Americans want and can't find.
Obama needs to convey a message of hope — despite a distressing jobless report that shows unemployment is languishing at 9.1 percent, about the same level it's been since April 2009.
Making matters worse is that nearly half of the 16 million Americans who are unemployed have been out of work for more than six months, the highest number of long-term jobless in America since the Great Depression.
Meanwhile, Obama's approval rating has also taken a nose-dive, falling from 68 percent 2? years ago to a new low of 43 percent in the most recent Gallup poll conducted last week.
But the burden is not on the president alone. The August Gallup pull showed the approval rating of all members of Congress is at a new all-time low as well — of 13 percent.
Our hope is that Washington would use this as a moment to work together toward getting America back to work — rather than allowing it to trigger more partisan backbiting.
We're reminded this week that, for a brief time following the terrorist attacks, American lawmakers showed uncommon unity. On the evening of 9/11, members of Congress even joined together on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in singing "God Bless America."