President Obama’s State of the Union Address

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Like the incredible orator that he is, President Obama delivered his 2015 State of the Union address with an air of confidence, boldness, and an off the cuff zinger to his Republican counterparts. Opening the speech discussing America’s advancements, the President emphasized the growing economy, low unemployment rate, the increase in high school graduation rates, increasing health coverage and independence from foreign oil. Instead of delivering a laundry list of proposals however, Obama stated he wanted to “focus more on the values at stake in the choices before us.” Thus, he proceeded to focus on the state of the economy, tax loopholes, trade deals, the need for increased cyber security, battling climate change and efforts to battle terrorism with increased coalition building.

An underlying thread throughout his speech was the notion of middle-class economics defined by Obama as “the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” His focus on helping working families feel more secure in a world of constant change propelled his numerous new initiatives forward, even if only within the realm of his oral speech. Despite the Republican-controlled House and Senate, Obama was not backing down going as far as warning Congress against reversing his policies on healthcare, financial regulation and immigration by promising vetoes. Going on the offensive, the President asked lawmakers to see not only the economic benefit, but the economic necessity of providing free community college, child care and paid parental leave to millions of middle-income Americans, raising the minimum wage, and ensuring women are paid the same as men for doing the same work.

As article after article, responses and analyses surfaced after the State of the Union address came to a close, it became apparent that many were perplexed by the elephant in the room: an emboldened Obama in the midst of what many would claim as the “biggest electoral repudiation of his presidency.” Forget the ambitious agenda, the expansive initiatives, the relative progress he boosted of, what seemed to rub people the wrong way was his unfazed and unapologetic boldness. Yes, I met his optimism about legislation he wants passed in his remaining 2 years with skepticism, but it came from a place of hopelessness at the pace of change rather than at what he was proposing. Out of all the issues President Obama touched upon, his closing comments were the ones that hit home for me. He said, “Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns. Imagine if we did something different.” How easy would it have been for Obama to reign in the issues he cared about most in order to cater to the majority that sat in front of him. How simple would it have been to wade back into complacency and accept a loss as the reason to compromise his efforts to combat the war against social injustices? Many forget that change does not come with complacency and that as a Black man, Obama is accustomed to operating from a position where he is not in the majority. The great march from Selma to Montgomery and the passage of the Voting Rights Act that the president highlighted did not come from individuals stepping aside from the front lines or watering down what they were fighting for. Though compromise is often needed on both sides, the plight of those suffering from the laws and policies many claim are right and just, does not end when one piece of legislation does not pass. In two years, President Obama might not make as many changes as he promoted, but his boldness is a good way to start.

To read the full text of the State of the Union, visit http://time.com/3675705/full-text-state-union-2015/

 

AnnysaPicAnnysa Rodriguez is currently pursuing her Masters in Social Work at Boston College with a concentration in Children, Youth, and Families. An advocate for youth, Annysa has worked in numerous capacities from facilitating and running career development workshops to her current position as a College Success Advisor at Steps to Success where she works to enhance the educational outcomes of students. She is thrilled to be delving into more policy related work during her internship at Wheelock.