President Obama gave a speech earlier this week in Puerto Rico. What’s
significant about that visit wasn’t the speech, or some new stance on
the issue that has been the one consistent question on the part of the
commonwealth — statehood — but rather, the fact the president chose to
visit the place at all.
Not since John Kennedy was president in 1961 has a sitting chief executive visited the island. That’s almost 50 years since the leader of that territory — the president to all Americans — visited in some official capacity.
I find that amazing and sad at the same time. It’s sad because this nation needs to feel like a country again — the “united” in United States has frankly exited stage right. We are so consumed with our own individual identities, self-worth and self-absorption that we have lost all track of what makes us distinctly American and, more importantly, how we share that kindred spirit with each other.
So kudos to the president for this move. While it wasn’t bold in any foreign or domestic policy sense, it does say a lot about this Administration’s desire to reach out to all in the land. Sure, there were political motivations. But are the Republicans more upset at the White House trying to secure a strong Puerto Rican demographic in Florida — a key swing state — or are they mad they didn’t think to send one of Obama’s GOP predecessors there first? Hello, George W. Bush …
Suspend the political calculus for a moment and see this visit for what it was — an important check-in by the commander in chief on a spot of land that is very important to us as a nation.