Tuesday's State of the Union address was one of the most powerful speeches President Obama has ever delivered. It seemed to send chills down the backs of millions of Americans and remind all those watching of his powerful "Yes We Can" speech of 2008. From his performance Tuesday night, one thing was clear: campaign Obama is back and ready for action. Although the president covered a number of topics and developed strong talking points for his campaign, his speech contained a powerful underlying theme: a promise of a better future for Americans.
Obama referenced the American dream, and the promises that dream entails, stating simply, "The defining issue of our age is how to keep that promise alive."
Once political formalities were over, Obama jumped right into the largest issue facing America today: our weak economy. The president made it clear that job growth, even if slow, will be high on his agenda. He proposed a rather radical way of creating jobs: kick-starting America's manufacturing industry. For most young Americans, it seems impossible to think of not buying goods made in China. Obama further hopes to reform the corporate tax code so that companies that produce goods in the U.S. get a tax break while those to take jobs off American soil must pay a tax hike. But the tax break may not be the only thing bringing jobs back home. Obama told the chamber the simple facts, explaining, "We can't bring back every job that's left our shores. But right now, it's getting more expensive to do business in places like China. Meanwhile, America is more productive." This would pull possible millions of jobs back to the U.S. This is a real hope for America's future -- to yet again be an industrial power would do wonders for an economy the continues to suffer from slow growth.
Even if jobs were to be brought back to the United States, the current work force may not have the training to do those jobs, an issue Obama addressed in his speech. Obama showed his clear dismay that education budget continues to tighten while other nations expand and advance their education systems. He made clear strikes against the current system's problems -- namely, teaching to the test, teacher layoffs, and the lack of creativity and passion in classrooms. One of the most powerful points he raised dealt with dropouts. He called upon every state to not let students give up on their education: "We also know that when students aren't allowed to walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma. So tonight, I call on every State to require that all students stay in high school until they graduate." A powerful idea, seeing as only a little over 70 percent of students graduate on time.
Obama quickly moved from high school education to higher education. Many American families struggle to pay for even the cheapest state schools because college tuition costs keep going up. The president made a bit of threat to colleges, saying, "If you can't stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down." His statements truly lend hope in a world where education is so very needed but more often than not out of reach for many of America's youth.
The last major issue Obama addressed is expansion of American energy. Development of domestic renewable energy sources has always been part of Obama's platform, and throughout his first term a number of federal grants and tax breaks were awarded to renewable energy companies. Not only have these investments lead to the creation of a number of jobs, but they've decreased American dependence on foreign oil. Yet Obama contended that it was not enough, and he called on both sides of the aisle to increase the investment in these programs. He even noted that Congress is not ready for a clean air act, but they have to be ready to save money, and renewable energy will do just that: "Their energy bills will be $100 billion lower over the next decade, and America will have less pollution, more manufacturing, and more jobs for construction workers who need them. Send me a bill that creates these jobs." With environmental issues being so hot-button, this is the least one can hope for.
Although Obama discussed a number of things -- immigration, infrastructure, Iraq withdrawal, congressional accountability, and global terror decrease -- his main focus of the night was on protecting the American dream and giving the people a promise of a better future. In his closing remarks, the president called upon all Americans to build up this country together, explaining: "No one built this country on their own. This nation is great because we built it together. This nation is great because we worked as a team. This nation is great because we get each other's backs. And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard."
Hopefully as Obama's first term draws to a close, the divide in Washington will narrow and a better tomorrow will happen.
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