Thursday, January 28, 2010

New Voices on the State of the Union

Disclaimer: Today's post includes the opinions of the noted authors, which are not representative of the thoughts, policies, or beliefs of anyone (or any organization) but ourselves.
On Tuesday, we encouraged all U.S. citizens to take the time to listen to (or read) President Obama's first State of the Union. As promised, you can read or watch the speech online if you missed it. (C-SPAN also has a prepared version of the text of the speech, this does not include any ad libs.)

Some of the New Voices regulars share their thoughts on the national address below.

Kimberly's reaction from her apartment.

President Obama reminded me of who he was on the campaign trail. The speech was one of the most humorous presidential speeches that I have ever heard! My favorite line was “and if there’s one thing that has unified Democrats and Republicans, it’s that we all hated the bank bailout. I hated it. You hated it. It was about as popular as a root canal”.

Outside of the humor, Obama tackled the major issues: jobs, the banking industry, expanding the middle class, the economy, and most importantly (to me) health care. As a student of public health, I have been a little disappointed in how the health care bill has been progressing through Congress. I am glad that we have gotten this far in reform, but I hoped that President Obama would have put more involvement in its details. Even though the bill has been passed through partisan lines, I’m pleased that Obama called on both sides of the aisle to stay the course, and not walk away from health care reform.

With sincerity, he acknowledged the problems that his administration has had thus far. Despite the roadblocks, he made it clear that he is laying the foundation for our nation’s “new economy” of research and innovation. I’m looking forward to seeing the fiscal support and policies that will make that statement a reality.

Sarah's take from Local 16 in DC.

In 2008, the majority of U.S. citizens were desperate for change. From soaring unemployment to costly international conflicts, Americans felt the country needed a new course. Obama’s promise of hope for a better tomorrow won him the election and inspired millions. As the election wrapped up, it was clear the American people would be in for a letdown, but not because Obama is not capable of bringing us the things we need. Many people I spoke with seemed to have a poor concept of the time frame such dramatic change would take. And as I expected, in less than a year, people lost hope that things would be any different by 2012.

In the State of the Union address, I was glad that Obama acknowledged the growing lack of faith Americans have in their government and reminded the people that the change they desired is inevitably going to be ‘messy and complicated’. But I was happier that Obama reminded those in government that he needed their help, even though important votes would not necessarily be the popular decision, but were necessary for the future of the country. Obama said, “The only reason we are is because generations of Americans were unafraid to do what was hard; to do what was needed even when success was uncertain…”

With the 2010 elections approaching, our Members of Congress are in a tough spot. However, I think elements of Obama’s speech reminded us of the way he excited the nation, and as a result suggested the best way for the legislative branch to facilitate the process. Congress needs to sell the American people on the changes that are happening. Many of the changes they have put into bills, such as health care reform, will actually improve our lives and security, we just need to hear it from them, because if people truly understood the majority would support these bills and again be hopeful and eager for change.

Heather's impressions from a friend's couch.

I am definitely an oratorical snob, but even so, I felt like the president delivered a decent speech. What I found interesting was how much of the speech was directed at Congress. Though the constitutional function of the SOTU is to address Congress, many presidents address the network television cameras; until the end, President Obama did not. Why does this matter?

The truth is, Congress has the bulk of the responsibility when it comes to getting legislation signed, sealed, and delivered to the American people. As the president mentioned, if Congress doesn't act, he must issue executive orders to get things done. I'm pretty sure this is why Article II, Section 3 is in the Constitution anyway.

Politically, President Obama needed this speech to win him back some popular support; we'll see how long the polling boost lasts. He proposed controversial topics (getting rid of Don't Ask, Don't Tell) and admonished the people who were holding up change (hello, Senators, your president is talking to you). He also made a clear statement in opposition to a recent Supreme Court decision (to allow corporations unlimited contributions to candidates).

There weren't any big surprises. As far as I know, everything he mentioned were things already passed in the House of Representatives or that have been announced by the White House in recent weeks. However, I think it was a smart play to stick to pre-released news. For one, most Americans have no idea it isn't new news and secondly, because it gave him an opportunity to elaborate personally.

All in all, he re-set his tone. There weren't really any gimics, he was light, he was charming, he was hoping for change. It's a similar story to the one we heard last year around this time. With a year under the administration's belt, will 2010 see some of the big changes in Washington we keep hearing about?

Your thoughts?

No comments:

Post a Comment