State Of the Union sounds hopeful…and political

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State Of the Union sounds hopeful…and political

Lucy Newman, The Eagle Senior Writer

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President Obama gave his annual State of the Union address to Congress this past Tuesday.
The speech was well-said and inspiring, and there were several
instances when even Obama’s antithesis John Boehner, the Republican
Speaker of the House, stood up to clap. Obama gave a hopeful
projection of what could happen in the next few years; he presented a few
goals that he plans to achieve; and recounted the progress that
America has gone through on issues such as the economy, health care,
and obesity. The speech was a mixture of policy proposals, anecdotes
relating to various exemplar citizens, and a few instances of humor.

Some of the goals for the coming years that Obama mentioned in his speech included
ensuring that all children receive early education, raising the
minimum wage, having diplomatic discussions with Iran over nuclear
weapons, producing more energy in America, and reforming immigration.
Many of the ideas reflect what Obama discussed in his State of the
Union address last year, or in other speeches. In general they
reflected what public opinion is mandating. Despite political tensions
surrounding many of these issues, Congressmen on both sides of the
aisle often stood up to clap for Obama’s proposals.

The most inspiring moment of the speech came towards the end when
Obama told the story of Cory Remsburg, who he had met at a ceremony
honoring the 65th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy.
Remsburg had since been injured by a roadside bomb, and had become
partially paralyzed. But when Obama called attention to the honorable
service that this courageous young man has done for our country, his
father helped him stand so that he could receive the audience’s
standing ovation. Many members of the audience had tears in their

Looking beyond the eloquent facade of the speech, of course, the
address was primarily a means to a political end. The speech was able
to rally democratic support for Obama’s policies and, looking forward,
for the democratic candidates in 2016, without alienating his
opponents too much. In this way, Obama’s speech was typical of that of
any savvy politician. It is hardly possible to be more politically
correct for an hour and a half than Obama was tonight.

However, one issue that Obama touched on that could possibly have a
negative impact on us Pennsylvanians especially is that of natural gas
drilling. Natural gas drilling requires a process called hydraulic
fracturing, or fracking, that pollutes the air, the water sources,
and destroys the land. The Marcellus Shale is a natural gas vein that
runs below much of Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh. Politicians
like the idea of gas drilling because it means that energy is being
produced in America rather than in the Middle East. Obama added that
renewable energy sources are already being developed, and must be
developed further. Yet his assurance that “Businesses plan to invest
almost $100 billion in new factories that use natural gas” is seen by
many as far from reassuring.

Also significant in the speech was Obama’s discussion of America’s
role internationally. With regards to Iran, he said that we are making
diplomatic progress and need to insure that we attempt to negotiate
the issue of nuclear weapons peacefully before attempting sanctions.
He is scaling back drone programs, because he recognizes that it is
important that we use our weapons carefully. He also proposed that with
the Iraq war over and the war in Afghanistan nearly finished, we
should finally close the prison in Guantanamo Bay once and for
all. America, Obama said, is the strongest country in the world, and
as long as he is in office he will not hesitate to use force when
necessary. But, he will only use it when absolutely necessary. “We
counter terrorism not just through intelligence and military action,
but by remaining true to our Constitutional ideals, and setting an
example for the rest of the world,” Obama said.

As per custom, a republican House member gave a brief rebuttal speech.
Chosen to do this was Cathy McMorris Rogers, a new player on the
stage for Republican politics. Her speech, filmed such that her
background is the living room of a home with a fireplace perhaps as a
nod to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fireside chats, focused primarily on
the theme of individualism. Change, she told viewers, should come not
from the government but from the people. It was a typical Republican
message. She used her own life experiences in struggling to save for
college and in raising a child with down syndrome as an emotional
appeal to her audience. She did not present any grand proposals, but
the speech was short and elegant.

This new step in the political dance in Washington seems to be a step
forward. Both Obama and Rogers agreed that a societal
gap – whether you call it “income equality” like Obama did or
“opportunity inequality” like Rogers – is causing many of society’s
problems. They disagree on the way to address that problem, but at
least the politicians of both parties recognized that the problem is
there. Americans can at least be hopeful that some of these good ideas that
Obama mentioned will be achieved in the months to come.

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