President Obama State of the Union Address – Still Hopeful; still strong; still determined

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As the profound speaker that he is, President Obama delivered his last State of the Union address with eloquence, confidence, and a necessary brashness. He began by highlighting the many American advancements over the last seven years. The President emphasized the growing economy, strikingly low unemployment rate, remarkable employment opportunities, and the high number of Americans with adequate health insurance. President Obama avoided the standard invocations of policy proposals, instead he urged his elected counterparts to make this year a “year of action” in order to better the lives, the hopes and the aspirations of the American people. Across the country, Obama plans to dedicate this year towards “partnering with mayors, governors, and state legislatures, on issues from homelessness to marriage equality”.

President Obama State of the Union Address 2016 Screenshot Header
Photo via YouTube Screenshot

President Obama asked Americans to re-establish their belief in the ‘promise of change’ – his 2008 platform that led him to the White House. He asked that the country not allow the election-year “fear and division” to affect his economic and security progress. His speech shaped his legacy and aimed to persuade Americans on the potential impacts of the 2016 Presidential race that will succeed him. He defended all that he was able to accomplish over the past seven years – and asked the public to elect a Democratic candidate to carry out his work to build upon it.

Although the President did not call out specific Republican officials, he cuttingly (and satirically), pushed back at those who have challenged his economic and national security stewardship. He strongly warned against the acts of running Republican candidates by expressing that “voices urging us to fall back into tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us or pray like us or vote like we do or share the same background”  is wrong.  Surprisingly the words of President Obama were later echoed by South Carolina Governor, Nikki Haley. Governor Haley asked Americans to resist the temptation “to follow the siren call of angry voices.” Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, went on to say that “no one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome”

An underlying thread throughout his speech was the notion of Congress not working efficiently to help him in creation of more jobs for the American public. President Obama suggested that “we can take the money we save with this transition to tax reform to create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes – because in today’s global economy, first-class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure.” He reaffirmed that Congress needs “to protect more than three million jobs by finishing transportation and waterways bills this summer”. However, he restored our confidence in saying that, regardless, he will act on his own to “slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible.” His focus on helping working families feel secure and safe in a world of constant change managed to propel his numerous new initiatives forward in a positive light.

As an African American woman who has finally experienced the joys of having a President I can relate to, racially, it dawned on me that we may never experience this moment again. For nearly eight years, African Americans (myself included) were able to take pride in knowing that our President could identify with us as well. Young African American children now have the ability to see a future sitting in the Oval office as their goals and opportunities are now equal. President Obama has claimed his stake in our history books exhibiting more than a journey of slavery, the Underground Railroad, and over 100 products made from the peanut but as the first African American leader of the United States of America. We are free and almost equal at last. Thank you President Obama, for a job well done!

Jada Cash-WilsonJada Cash-Wilson is a Project Coordinator/Graduate Intern in the Department of Government & External Affairs and Community Impact and holds a BA in Political Philosophy. Before connecting with Wheelock, she worked as a Research Policy/Grant Analyst and liaison between the Mayor and City Council for a major city in the mid-west, and as a Legislative Aide for former U.S Senator Carl Levin. Jada aspires to someday make a positive difference in the world.