Beyond the pomp and circumstance of the event, there was nothing particularly spectacular about President Barack Obama’s sixth State of the Union. There were no grandiose promises and no groundbreaking new direction for his administration.
But there was a mention of Youngstown and after looking at Twitter and Facebook, it seems like that’s all it took to get people excited about the speech.
The first big point that the president made was on the state of unemployment, which is at its lowest point in five years. Well, kind of. Currently, the national unemployment rate sits at 6.7 percent, right around where it was in October 2008, the lowest rate in Obama’s presidency. But that 6.7 percent doesn’t include the 525,000 people leaving the labor force. So, yes, that number is slightly skewed, but unemployment has been steadily dropping since 2009.
Obama also flexed some political muscle, threatening to go beyond legislation and use executive orders if Congress isn’t able to get things done.
“So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for American families, that’ what I’m going to do,” Obama said.
Is that the best move, to go beyond Congress to make sure that the agenda is met? Who can say, but it seems a bit much right now. Approval for Obama is right around 43 percent and only time will tell how forcing the agenda regardless of whether or not Congress is on board will help or hinder that number.
There was also some talk about preparing students for college and life after graduation. The president mentioned that he’s working to cap monthly student loan payments at 10 percent of their income and make college more affordable. We’ll have to wait and see how that plays out in the long run, but let’s just say, we’ll believe it when we see it.
Emphasis on American energy — namely natural gas — was strong early on. Preaching that we must lessen dependence on foreign energy, Obama spoke strongly on investing in the natural gas industry to the tune of $100 billion — mainly for new factories — and sustaining industry growth.
Before the standard “God bless America” closing remarks, Obama preached bipartisanship will create a better future. It almost seemed like he was looking beyond his presidency and at what legacy he will leave behind in 2016.
“When our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did,” Obama said.
That isn’t a far cry from his first campaign slogan of “Yes we can,” but the speech ended on a note more similar to his 2012 slogan: “Change we can believe in.”
He ended with one sweeping statement. “Believe it.”
It’s good to be optimistic, but can we really believe it? Is this more hot air or is it something that will be realized in the next two years?
We’ll believe it when we see it.