“Fifty-one years ago, John F. Kennedy declared to this Chamber that the Constitution makes us not rivals for power but partners for progress…” was President Obama’s opening line to the 2013 State of the Union address last Tuesday. These words made it clear that President Obama intends to keep calling on both parties to come together for the good of the American people in his second term.
The President proceeded to commend the American people for their “grit and determination.” However, he acknowledged that there are still several issues that America has to address, including the millions of unemployed and under-employed Americans, and the stagnant wages and incomes despite soaring corporate profits.
He also challenged his colleagues to cultivate a prosperous middle class- what the president calls the “true engine of America’s economic growth.” While job creation, investments in energy, research and infrastructure upgrade were high on the president’s list, a focal point of the address was education.
According to Obama, job creation will be pointless unless Americans are equipped with the skills to fill the jobs. He proposed working with states to provide high quality preschool education to every child in the nation.
He called for schools to create partnerships with colleges and develop programs to improve classes in science, technology and math so that students are equipped with skills employers are looking for.
The president addressed higher education, noting “The more education you’ve got, the more likely you are to … work your way into the middle class,” he said. In an effort to encourage colleges to keep costs down, the president asked colleges to amend the Higher Education Act so that affordability and value are taken into consideration when determining which colleges receive certain types of federal support.
However, Dr. Rose Harris, head of Grambling’s political science department, thinks that putting the responsibility of keeping costs down on schools like GSU is unrealistic since GSU is funded by the state not by the federal government.
“We are in a system that gives Grambling the least funding, and a state whose governor keeps cutting higher education funding,” Dr. Harris said.
Despite her doubts about President Obama’s call on schools to keep costs down, Dr. Harris describes his plans for the second term as being “much more bold and much more to the left, than his first term.”
Of course the state of the union address would not be complete without immigration reform.
“Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months and I will sign it right away, and America will be better for it,” Obama said.
Shem Dennis, a junior management major, was glad to hear the president’s bold stance on immigration.
“Immigration laws should be made easier for educated, hard-working immigrants because they’ll be contributing to the country,” Dennis said.
When asked what stood out most in the president’s address, Deshon Mariland, a junior psychology major said the president’s proposal to raise minimum wage to $9 an hour. However, Mariland is cautious and notes that “A rise in the minimum wage does not mean people will be more comfortable because the cost of things will still go up.”
Berkendra Gipson, a senior English major, was pleased with the way Obama made his address relatable.
“He explained it in a way that people at all levels of life could understand,” she said.
Student Government Association president, Johnathan Allen was most pleased by the President’s tenacity.
“I definitely believe the president is more focused and bold this term,” Allen said. He is glad the president has proposed the projects he has outlined so far.
Another key point in the address was the issue of gun control. Obama called for comprehensive gun control reform and encouraged Senators of both parties to continue working towards reform.
The president reminded Congress that all whose lives have been affected by gun violence deserve to have a gun control bill voted on- a declaration that brought many to their feet; some with tears in their eyes.
However, while Dr. Harris gives the president credit for using the public’s sympathy to gain support for gun control, she believes there will not be a total resolution during his presidency. But she believes some part of his proposal will be passed.
The President capped off the address with the words “It remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter of our American story.”