President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address to Congress last Wednesday in Washington D.C. to unveil an agenda of technological innovation, education advancement, rebuilding of infrastructure, and national debt reduction. There was a focus on pleading for unity between Democratic and Republican legislators on these issues as well as an emphasis on the need for overall improvement to dominate in the future.
“We will move forward together, or not at all – for the challenges we face are bigger than party and bigger than politics,” Obama said.
Obama spent the majority of the hour-long address focusing on the economic recession and reassuring a skeptical American public about plans to reduce the deficit and eliminate wasteful spending.
Recognizing that it is a significant issue, he said “The steps we’ve taken over the last two years may have broken the back of this recession — but to win the future, we’ll need to take on challenges that have been decades in the making.”
In addition to proposing a five-year freeze on the federal budget, Obama spoke of cutting corporate tax and healthcare spending reduction in order to consolidate and reorganize. He said, “Every day, families sacrifice to live within their means. They deserve a government that does the same.”
Obama also said that the United States can no longer afford tax cuts for the wealthy. As for future goals, he announced a plan to double exports by 2014 to both increase revenue and provide Americans with more job opportunities.
As for the healthcare reform, he acknowledged that it could use improvement but was optimistic about the future. Vowing to protect Americans from being exploited by insurance companies, he reinforced that the days of being denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition are now over. The plan is also set to reduce the cost of prescription drugs and allow for children to stay on their parent’s plan for longer.
A need to reinvent the energy policy became evident in his request for Congress to invest tax dollars previously going to oil companies into biomedical research and clean, reusable energy technology. By 2035, President Obama hopes to have 85 percent of America’s electricity derived from clean energy sources.
To attain these new advancements, he introduced an education mandate to restructure the system from an internal standpoint. Calling upon parents, teachers, communities, and school board representatives, Obama urged encouragement of youths to excel in academics, particularly in the fields of science and technology.
He said, “We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair; that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline.”
To repair inefficient school systems and promote improvement, he introduced the “Race To The Top” program, which is set to offer federal financial support to any school that presents an innovative and creative plan on how to do so. He said he wants to “replace no child left behind with a law that’s more flexible and focused on what’s best for our kids.”
He briefly discussed feelings about immigration in reference to education by mentioning the hundreds of thousands of international students and illegal immigrants that are educated in American universities.
Obama said, “They grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet live every day with the threat of deportation – But as soon as they obtain advanced degrees, we send them back home to compete against us. It makes no sense.”
To improve the general success and quality of life for Americans, which he called the true way to measure progress, Obama said that technological innovations and rebuilding of infrastructure must occur. In an effort to move people, products, and information more efficiently and reliably while attracting foreign investment, he plans to redouble previous efforts and give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed railroad systems.
Additionally, noting programs such as Google and Facebook as proud American achievements, a push toward advancement of the digital age and access for everyone is also to be implemented in an effort to keep pace with international competition such as China and South Korea. “We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world,” he said.
The theme of moving forward continually resonated throughout the speech. Encouraging cooperation amongst the parties, President Obama said that all should recognize that there is a common goal to be met. He said that although there is a great deal of work ahead, it is because of the American people that the future looks hopeful.
Leah Skye is a third-year student majoring in communications. She can be reached at LS685444@wcupa.edu.