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ROBB AUSTIN'S TURN

Annie Could Humble President Obama, and Republicans, Too

November 30, 2010

There’s no place like New York City at Christmas time. The city is alive with the holiday season, the stores, the shops, the hotels, and the restaurants are beautifully decorated.

There’s an air of optimism in New York City at this time of the year. A simple walk through Central Park or along Fifth Avenue can be magical.

Anyone who experiences the sing along with the Salvation Army Band at “21”, or takes in a Broadway holiday show, comes away with Christmas memories for a lifetime.

Christmas in New York is a one of a kind encounter.

I came to understand this a few years ago, and still recall with great passion the Broadway musical Annie, starring 1977 Tony nominee Andrea McArdle, in the lead, as orphan “Annie.”

The depression-era musical is about optimism and hope. It tells the story of billionaire Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks who invites an orphan (Annie) to come to his Mansion for the Christmas holidays, and she quickly steals his heart.  The play is about not giving up hope, and looking forward to tomorrow, despite the hard times of today.

The gap between the rich and poor, the have and have-nots, is a large symbol in Annie, and the answer to that chasm can be found in the play’s uplifting signature song of eternal optimism, “Tomorrow.”

There are parallels to Annie, and what we are experiencing today. As during the Great Depression, millions have lost their jobs, and their homes, and there seems to be no end in sight.

The country however has not lost hope, and sent a message to President Barrack Obama in the mid-term congressional elections. They do not like the direction he is taking the country, and voters are anxiously waiting to see how he responds.

The first test will be the congressional decision on income tax rates. A meeting is scheduled tomorrow at the White House between the President and congressional leaders from both parties to discuss the matter.

Voters have made it plain, they don’t want tax increases on anyone; instead, they want government off their backs, and to spend less taxpayer money.

So far, President Obama continues on a theme of pitting the haves against the have-nots, but what is missing from his message is optimism and hope, or the idea that we are all in this together.

He seems focused on a message of “payback," that somehow those on the high end of the economic scale have received a break other folks have not, and instead of wanting to pull us together, he wants to punish those who are well off by raising their taxes (although he won’t come out and say it like that).

There has been some talk of a compromise, but the issue is far from settled, and we are now heading into a new year with no idea what next year’s tax rates will be.

Never mind that voters made themselves clear a few weeks ago. They do not want tax rates increased on anyone; for fear that it will result in a more difficult economic recovery, and a prolonged period of high unemployment.

In the musical Annie, Daddy Warbucks eventually takes Annie to Washington D.C. where she asks to meet with President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Although Warbucks and the President do not agree politically, she brings them together, and begins to sing “Tomorrow,” only to be quickly hushed from doing so by members of the President’s Cabinet.

President Roosevelt intercedes, saying he wants the government to be optimistic during hard times, and he commands everyone, including Warbucks, and the Cabinet, to sing along with Annie.

No one expects President Obama to “sing along” with Republicans, but as in Annie, the country desperately wants a message of optimism and hope from this White House, too.

Annie saw the best sides of everyone, and despite a “Hard Knock Life,” she held out for a better “Tomorrow."  Her message humbled President Roosevelt, and the billionaire Warbucks, too, and the country ultimately benefited.

Hopefully, President Obama will see things the same way.