President Obama delivered a passionate address last week, charged with ambitious plans for the next two years of his Presidency, thoughts unobstructed by the looming dread of another presidential campaign he would have to run.
Six years ago, it would have been difficult for President Obama to imagine himself standing in front of the joint body of Congress delivering yet another State of the Union Address after not being elected once, but twice as the President of the United States of America.
The theme of the night appeared to be doing as much as possible in the remaining two years, making as much of a direct impact on the quality of as many lives as possible. These issues ranged from childcare and daily life to the greatest threat our only planet faces and the partisan push to deny this legitimate threat.
The President’s economic piece began by citing the rebound that the nation’s economy has recently seen, from the drop of gas prices to the unemployment rate being lower than it was before the recession. He called attention to raising the minimum wage, something that many cities have approved for the coming years (Seattle at $15/hour, D.C. & San Diego at $11.50/hour, and San Francisco at $10.74/hour).
The President also did not shy away from the fact that the U.S. remains the only advanced country that does not guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to workers, something that affects 43 million American workers.
Finally, the President called out the inexcusable fact that in 2015 there is still debate over whether or not a man and a woman ought to deserve equal pay for equal work. Thus, Obama recapped positive economic growth trends while also setting realistic goals and ambitions that the American population should keep in mind in the coming years. This, consciously or inadvertently, may create expectations of the type of society we are striving to create, possibly leading to discontent if these realistic goals are not met.
On May 9th, 2012, President Obama became the first sitting President to openly endorse gay marriage, citing his “evolving” views on the topic. Less than three years later, he once again made history by, for the first time in a State of the Union Address, mentioning the unacceptable persecution of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals. While it ought to be rather apparent that this should have been a realization that humanity stumbled upon quite some millennia ago, 2015 is better than later.
The President then turned the nation’s attention to one of the largest topics of the evening: the future of the nation. Obama began by overtly pointing to what he deemed to be the greatest challenge for future generations, namely climate change. Instead of skirting around an issue that large pockets of Congress does not even believe exists, the President stressed the importance of funding cleaner and greener energy in the coming years, lessening our dependency on fossil fuels.
President Obama then turned his attention to the inhabitants of the future, the children’s generation. He began by emphasizing the importance of creating a better childcare system, referring to the universal childcare system that was enacted during a time when his own grandfather was fighting in World War II and his grandmother had to join the workforce.
He conveyed that this issue is not for others to worry about at a later time, but a pressing matter. “It’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us,” Obama said.
With increased attention given to the suffocating college debts that most college students graduate with, the President recapped his bold plan for free higher education that recently made national news. Explaining how two-in-three jobs will require higher education, Obama noted how the twentieth century boomed thanks to making high school free for American youth. He proposed extending the idea of “free schools” to one higher level, that of college.
Before the masses hurl another socialist label on our incumbent President, it is important to seriously consider the implications of instituting free higher education in our nation. Free community college tuition would provide more opportunities than limitations through taxation. The act can be seen as a sentiment that millions of Americans feel: no one should be denied an education merely on the basis of a financial situation. Without explicitly stating it, education has slowly been nudged over alongside other inalienable rights that the President hopes can be shelved with the other resources that can make the American Dream a waking possibility.
President Obama once again called attention to our nation’s differences in sex, age, race, identity, orientation, and ability, and made one final effort to call what may be one of the most divisive identities in the United States government today in an effort to continue striving for and creating a better America.
“I want [future generations] to grow up in a country that shows the world what we still know to be true: that we are still more than a collection of red states and blue states; that we are the United States of America.”