If President Clinton has mastered one thing in his seven-year tenure as at the helm of the world's only superpower, it has been the skill of appearing presidential. Whether being questioned by a grand jury, shaking hands or kissing babies, Clinton is able to project the image of a statesman. Nowhere is he better at this than at the annual State of the Union Address.
Thursday night, Clinton went before the American public and told the nation what it wants to hear: We are prosperous and secure and poised to remain that way at least until he's out of office. Clinton touched on key issues such as the national security budget, healthcare, gun control and education. He also lauded federal support for technological advancement and ensured a bipartisan standing ovation by heaping praises on U.S. servicemen and servicewomen. Yack, yack yack. Yada, yada, yada. And an hour and a half and 191 applause interruptions later, class was dismissed.
Considering that last year Clinton was in danger of losing the presidency altogether, the mere fact that he is still around is quite an accomplishment. Even more amazing is the fact that Clinton enjoys an approval rating in the mid 60s -- unheard of. But other than his ability to be presidential, there are few things to which typical citizens can point that would justify such a rating. America doesn't know exactly why it likes Bill Clinton; it just does.
But considering that Clinton will not face reelection, this State of the Union was more about his trying to avoid becoming a lame duck and securing himself a legacy. Unfortunately, that will be a hard row to hoe in 2000, as he continues to face Republican opposition in both the House and the Senate. So regardless of Clinton's exhortations concerning the 2000 budget and his pet-project legislation, his last year in office could very well be more of the same as far as actual Washington politics is concerned.
The one thing that did stand out in Clinton's speech, however, was his citing of projected statistics for racial composition in the United States over the next several years. If his reckoning is right, there will be no racial majority in California by 2010 and the same will be true of the entire United States by 2050.
If Muslims paid attention to any part of the State of the Union, hopefully they listened to those predictions. Muslims will continue to contribute significantly to the multiracial, multicultural make-up of America. And no amount of legislation and budget allocation can stem the tide of humanity. And if indeed America achieves such diversity in such a short period of time, there will be some major changes in the composition of our lawmaking bodies and in the general societal direction of the nation.
For Muslims, this means a great moment of opportunity is upon us and it is important to recognize that if Clinton sees the change coming, then others have as well. Muslims need to stake a claim. And in the wake of the Clinton era, Muslims will need consider where future leaders stand on the process of diversifying this nation. Muslims will need to look past the facade of the statesman and the rhetoric of the State of the Union. Muslims will have to read the roadmap.
Ali Asadullah is the Editor of iviews.com