The first State of the Union address by President Obama in his second term as President of the United States has just concluded. To read our liveblog that covered the speech live, please click on this link.
President Obama took the stage and immediately announced the progress American has made since the 2008 economic meltdown. Immediately but briefly highlighting the rising car sales and the stabilization of the housing market was a smart step by the President to sort of toot his own horn. For those expecting a speech of anti-business socialism, it’d be hard to go against the economic upturn (though slow) that has been experienced in the past four years.
Another topic that was addressed early on was the sequester. President Obama made a strong case for the preservation of Medicare and Social Security and to help retired American workers as opposed to cut resources from them. I’m not sure that it will change anything but President Obama publicly sticking with Medicare will help him with independents who might be a bit weary on the ideas of cutting social programs.
NoLabels, the sort-of centrist organization that is trying to make waves in Congress, had its presence felt. With members of Congress who are affiliated with NoLabels were wearing orange badges that stated “Fix Not Fight” which is obviously a jab at the so-called partisan fighting that has been blamed for gridlock on Capital Hill. The President did mention how the American public expects its Congressperson to be of the “people over party” mentality and frequently mentioned throughout his various proposals that members of both sides of the aisle agreed with him.
One of the moments that made me feel some optimism was the focus on science. President Obama stated the importance of science when tackling cures for diseases and trying to stop climate change and how those jobs cannot be sacrificed under any means. I truly support that idea yet it was disheartening to not hear climate change seriously debated during the presidential election which makes me think that it’s still far too risky for Congress to actively debate. Remember the President was touting America’s drilling during the town hall debate, so while I’m excited to see what can be done to limit climate change; I’m still pessimistic on the idea of anything worthwhile happening.
Two topics that have been proposed under President Obama were mentioned again and that’s infrastructure and education. President Obama has long been an advocate of promoting public sector jobs to repair America’s bridges and roads so it should be no shock that he continues to tout it.
Education though should be one of the bigger topics discussed by the President tonight. The idea of Race to the Top has been considered a success by the President will potentially be expanded upon to include a scorecard for American families to determine which college/university will bring the “best bang for their educational buck”.
But even more promising was the idea of investing in America’s preschools. President Obama rightfully stated that children who do not get a chance to start their education at a young age will be behind the curve. If children under the age of five can be taught how to read, write and communicate with others; then there is a possibility that progress will rise in the some of the poorest of regions in America.
Then the speech shifted towards the topic of immigration which has been at the crux of plenty of debates over the past few years of the Obama Presidency. President Obama did espouse the need to increase border security and to make the path to citizenship easier for immigrants. However, he failed to exactly deliver a crushing blow to the GOP as his proposals appeared to be a bit vague and not exactly hard-hitting.
Another big tenet of President Obama’s speech was the idea of tackling poverty. The idea of raising the minimum wage to $9/hr. a proposal that was quickly followed by a round of applause. The idea of raising the minimum wage might be one that becomes a bigger story this summer, I like to imagine. President Obama seemed very forceful of the idea and seemed like he was assured that we will raise the minimum wage. Keep your eyes peeled on this topic.
Foreign policy was prefaced with the announcement that within one year there will be 34,000 troops removed from Afghanistan, an announcement that was followed by another standing ovation. North Korea and Iran were briefly mentioned but the for the most part, the idea of eradicating Al-Qaeda and its satellite groups as well as stabilizing Afghanistan seem to be the central focus of the second term for the Obama administration.
Before President Obama wrapped up his speech, the focus of the speech shifted towards the topic of gun control. President Obama seemed much more conciliatory towards the idea of people voting “nay” on background checks and other popular gun control ideas but said that at the bare minimum, “we need a vote”. Then President Obama mentioned how the families affected by the tragedies in Newtown, Aurora, Oak Creek and the Gabby Giffords shooting all deserved a vote.
Naming those names brought emotional balance to the speech but it appears that the Obama administration do not want these ideas to go away. I think we can all agree that there will be a gun control vote fairly shortly and it will be pushed hard.
The speech was closed with some stories about Americans who were exceptional. The story of Desiline Victor waiting in line for hours to just VOTE (at the age of 102) was powerful and she earned that standing ovation. Desiline Victor could very well be the face that triggers electoral reform in this nation that does not include limiting but expanding the right to vote. The idea of voting that was so championed by the previous administration for the liberation of Iraq is now threatened by the same party.
So that being said, what are your thoughts on the speech?