Approximately 100 students packed the east lobby of the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism on Tuesday night for a live viewing of President Obama’s State of the Union address. Students of all political leanings gathered to watch as the president listed his legislative agenda before the 113th Congress.
In addition to outlining his plans for the upcoming year, the president highlighted issues that will likely prove paramount throughout his entire second term.
Obama began his speech by addressing the economy and job creation. The president encouraged the return of manufacturing jobs to the United States, citing top American companies such asFord and Apple as examples of businesses committed to strengthening the U.S. job market.
The president also continued to emphasize themes of bipartisanship and across-the-aisle negotiations that have been central to past State of the Union addresses. Still, his speech served to reinforce some of the chief policy goals of the Democratic Party: comprehensive environmental reform, increased federal funding toward early-childhood education and tighter gun control legislation.
Obama’s plans resonated with many students. Arvind Iyer, a graduate student majoring in biomedical engineering, was optimistic about the plans.
“It is great to hear stuff about investment in education. The pre-school emphasis today was a welcome addition,” Iyer said.
The president committed a significant portion of his address to climate change and clean energy and made clear that environmental policy will play a more prominent role on the national agenda than it did in his first four years. He urged Congress to act on behalf of future generations by addressing the causes of increased global temperature, such as reducing carbon emissions. However, Obama was sure to announce that changes in environmental policy will come regardless of whether Congress chooses to act.
“I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take,” Obama said.
Education was a prominent aspect of this year’s speech as well. Though calls for lowered college costs are not new for the president, he took his message beyond just the reforms necessary for pursuing higher education.
“Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America,” Obama said.
Obama went on to stress the need for more rigorous high school curricula, citing Germany’s education system as an example of the more technical, job-ready high school programs that many countries have implemented.
As for the issue on many Americans’ minds, the president was unwavering in his insistence on passing stricter gun control laws. Referencing some of the more notable — and recent — instances of gun violence, Obama urged members of Congress to look beyond the confines of party politics and vote on behalf of a safer future for the country.
Students also resonated with the goals the president has for foreign policy.
Christian Aguilar-Castellanos, a sophomore majoring in biochemistry, believed the president’s announcement to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year was the most important part of the address. Yet, he expressed doubts in the plan’s implementation.
“My biggest concern has to do with foreign policy,” Aguilar-Castellanos said. “I know that Lockheed Martin and all those military contractors are thinking, ‘How are we going to keep this cash cow from getting away from us?’ That worries me.”
EJ Levin, a freshman majoring in international relations, remained optimistic with the points discussed in the president’s speech.
“Obama touched on a lot of points during his speech,” Levin said. “I’m interested to see which he’ll be able to follow up on, but I’m optimistic that we’ll see some big reforms in his second term.”
The president concluded his address by encouraging cooperation among Americans as they work to achieve new goals in the coming years.
“It remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter in our American story,” Obama said.