Tonight was President Obama’s final State of the Union. There has been particular hype about his 7th address to Congress, since his speech will likely set the tone as we head into a presidential election year. It also sets up a loose agenda if a democrat does assume office next January. However, this is the first SOTU for Speaker Paul Ryan, who took the reins from John Boehner after he stepped down in October. For all you lovely people, I’ve made a quick summary of his talking points from tonight.
Gabby Giffords was in attendance. Remember, she was the congresswoman from Arizona who was shot in the head while giving a town hall speech in Tuscon in 2011. She has recovered well and is now a gun control advocate.
Paul Ryan was nodding along to Obama’s speech more than Boehner ever seemed to. Shows bipartisanship.
He expressed regret for not being about to prevent hyperpartisanship that has plagued Congress for most of his presidency.
The general theme of this speech is American Exceptionalism: how far we’ve come as a nation in the past 7 years, but also where Obama envisions the next five or so years.
Some key themes:
- “We have the strongest, most durable economy in the world.”
- 14 million new jobs created
- Auto industry has recovered
- Cut deficits by 75%
- “The United States is the most powerful nation on earth. Period. It’s not even close.”
- Vows to go after terrorist networks
- Wants to: show confidence and keep our allies close
- Wants: Congress to authorize the use of military force in the Middle East
- “People do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead. They look to us.”
- “When you come after Americans, we go after you.”
- Does not advocate for nation-building, referencing Vietnam and Iraq
- Worked to dial back the “end of the world” rhetoric of World War III in references to ISIS
- Wants: Congress to approve Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which will work to enhance global trade
- Calls Congress to lift the embargo on Cuba
- Asks Congress to help fund the fight against malaria around the world
- Calls on the American people to reject any policy that targets people based on their race or religion (Yes, this was a definite reference to our good friend Trump)
- Increased early childhood education
- Increased graduation rates
- Reduced student loan payments to 10% of a graduate’s income
- Wants to: build pre-K for all
- Wants to: provide 2 years community college
- “When Sputnik launched…we launched a space program almost overnight and 12 years later we were walking on the moon.”
- Wants to: reignite spirit of innovation to meet new challenges
- New goal: cure cancer. Is giving control to VP Biden (in honor of his late son, Beau)
- Clean energy: wind energy is now cheaper than conventional power, and solar power employs more people than the coal industry
- Basically, climate change IS REAL. Deal with it.
- Wants to: create a 21st century transportation system
- “Democracy breaks down when people feel their voice doesn’t matter.”
- Calls for more across-the-aisle cooperation and a higher level of debate in lawmaking
- Asks for an end to gerrymandering (drawing districts based on the makeup of population)
- Wants to: have viable campaign finance reform and reduce the influence of money in politics
- Wants to: Make it easier to vote
- Calls on American people to make their voices heard to participate in AND call for change in the election process
- Let’s strengthen Medicaid and Medicare
- Affordable Care Act has insured 18 million people
The President closed his last SOTU with a strong call to American Exceptionalism. We are a great country, and we can be even greater. We truly need to come together to create change for us and our future. He concluded, “I believe in change because I believe in the American people. That’s why I stand here confident that the State of our Union is strong.”