Tonight at the beginning of his State of the Union Address President Barack Obama will tell us, "The state of our union is strong."
He should thank people like Jack LaLanne.
Though Jack LaLanne died this past weekend at age 96, it is life stories like his that make our union strong.
Jack LaLanne has been called "the godfather of fitness." More than any other person he promoted exercise and nutrition in American life. A self-confessed junk food addict Jack LaLanne opened his first public gym in 1936. It was an American first. His television show, "The Jack LaLanne Show," ran for over thirty-five years. As we watched we swung our arms to the voice of LaLanne counting "one, two, three, four…" He changed us.
To promote his cause Jack LaLanne became known for doing stunts that demonstrated his physical prowess. He once did 1,033 push-ups in 23 minutes. He swam from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco handcuffed and shackled with a thousand pound boat tied to his belt. At the age of 70 he swam one mile with 70 boats attached to his belt.
Yet more importantly, Jack LaLanne showed us how one person can inspire whole generations. Not through words but through actions. As a truly American story Jack LaLanne lived an exemplary life of meaning and purpose. He is just what we all need.
President Obama's words tonight will not stimulate new jobs. Nor will more political promises. Individuals like Jack LaLanne caused whole industries to form. LaLanne dreamt of a healthier world so he acted. He helped to create health clubs, nutrition consultants and home fitness equipment.
Obama tonight needs to point to the backbone of America's strength, its people. When "we the people" act, good things happen. Tonight we need to know Jack.
Rather than sitting down and just listening tonight, grab your chair and try a few deep knee bends. Until we all start acting like Americans we should not feel entitled to feeling like Americans.
"Everybody now, one, two, three, four."
Blog live tonight at citizenu.org
for more features.