This editorial was published in Freestyle’s “Freespace” Column today, Sunday, Feb. 9
On Tuesday, January 28 at 9p.m., I listened to the #SOTU address. I watched the first half on television but then resorted to AM radio once I had to leave to drive somewhere. (This was the first time I had turned my dial to the AM frequency.)
It was a bit of a nostalgic experience, a nostalgia for a time before my time. What was it like when radio was the only means of listening to the president speak? What was it like when families gathered in their homes around the radio, relying solely on their auditory senses to interpret the message? Obama’s speech required a visual component as he engaged several members of his audience, so I had to do a bit of imagining to fill in the gaps.
The road stretched on, the signal faded in and out, the sound of clapping brought with it much static, but I listened.
Did I agree with everything Obama said in his address? Certainly not, but I did not disagree with everything either.
Many spoke with conviction after the conclusion of the #SOTU address. Social media platforms were littered with comments. I call it the #SOTU because that’s how it was deemed via social media. Why? For none other then promotional purposes. The purpose of the hashtag is to organize information. That’s why it was first created. The #SOTU was a perfect arena for hashtag-organized commentary.
However, in choosing to comment via social media or in conversation, voicing accolades or criticism, one question determines the credibility of each person’s words: did you listen?
I personally joined in the conversation a bit. I tweeted a few comments, using the #SOTU tag.
In a way, I was merely adding to the noise. Still, I thought it was appropriate for me to do so – because I had actually been listening.
Taking the time to listen gives you a voice to comment.
Maybe you couldn’t listen to the address in real time this year. You were at work, had a prior commitment, were feeling ill or something came up last minute. That’s okay; that’s what the Internet is for, with its blogs, reports, columns, live feeds and the like.
Regardless of whether your comments were made in real time or in the subsequent hours, were you listening?
You lose your voice to comment when you are not cognizant of what is going on. You lose your voice to comment when you are either unwaveringly in favor of or against those in political leadership. You lose your voice to comment when you allow your opinions to come solely from the opinions of the general public. You lose your voice to comment when you fail to make decisions for yourself.
Be informed. Absorb the information made available to you. Analyze it for yourself – and then speak. Let your voice be heard. Share your concerns; voice your questions; speak with confidence. Keep listening. Only then can you appropriately type “#SOTU.”