‘The Big Picture’

Until now, I have never used my column as a haven for my own political interpretations.

But the State of the Union address last week changed my mind. I believe those who watched it witnessed one of the best speeches ever delivered by the best speaker of our lifetime.

He ended his speech by saying:

“Each time I look at that flag, I’m reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those 50 stars and those 13 stripes. No one built this country on their own. This nation is great because we built it together. As long as we’re joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, our future is hopeful, and the state of our union will always be strong.”

Teleprompter or not, Barack Obama’s speaking skills are outweighed only by his ability to hire speechwriters. And impressionable college students looking to sink their teeth into politics have a leader who can inspire them with words.

And, as college students, I think we have a lot to be thankful for with the Obama administration at the helm.

He encouraged postsecondary education by simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Now, the application requires only the information that the IRS asks for when citizens file taxes, effectively eliminating 20 financial questions.

Also, questions about our parents’ finances were cut for students 24 or married, and questions about selective service were eliminated for males over the age of 26.

As someone who filled those forms out before and after the Obama overhaul of FAFSA, I can tell you the difference is night and day.

He eased the burden of student loans by lowering payments from 15 to 10 percent of the borrower’s discretionary income.

That plan will make some of us eligible for loan forgiveness 25 years from now. It is a step toward young people viewing their futures in terms of what they really want to do and not just how much it will set them back financially.

He is the reason students can remain under their parents’ health insurance until the age of 26, when previously children as young as 19 could be removed from their parents’ coverage.

Obama stated in his State of the Union address that, in the last 22 months, businesses have created around 3 million jobs, a majority of which are not low-level retail jobs, as many skeptics tend to suggest.

Obama offered tax breaks for small businesses to offer every employee health insurance and enacted penalties for large companies who don’t offer it. Either way, we can feel medically secure in a job market that will certainly prove to be dog-eat-dog for us.

He also described in his speech a “blueprint for an America built to last.” In it, he hopes to create more construction and manufacturing jobs for Americans who desperately need them, as well as save companies as much as $10 billion a year on lower energy bills.

I know I want my children, and my children’s children, to grow up in a cleaner world.

Senior Alex Neville is a staunch liberal who agrees that Obama is on the side of the college student.

“[Obama] has done more for college students than anyone,” he said. “He’s making investments for colleges to do research and then rewarding those colleges who make breakthroughs, and he is promoting a tax deduction for college students to help them out. I don’t see how a college student wouldn’t support Obama.”

But sophomore Evan Beil said he feels our country is headed in a “scary” direction, though he says it isn’t entirely Obama’s fault.

“Barack Obama does remain extremely popular among college students. He’s a younger president, a smooth talker, he plays basketball, hangs out with celebrities and by some accounts is a pretty handsome guy,” Beil said. “Sure, I’m a Republican, but I’d rather drink a beer with Obama than with Mitt Romney any day.”

That said, Beil is not a fan of Obama’s policies, saying he has “sidestepped” the U.S. Constitution on multiple occasions.

“Putting a program that gives students the opportunity to take out federally subsidized loans sounds great at face value,” he said. “However, nothing is being done to reign in the cost of tuition nationwide.”

Obama addressed that issue during his speech, saying, “If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.”

Considering he has already done so much in terms of concrete policy change within the college environment, I believe his threats to cut federal funding for colleges who elevate tuition should be taken very seriously.

Paul Sracic, chairman of the political science department at YSU, said the approval of college students could go both ways.

“The president clearly said some things about college education that I believe college students should be interested in,” he said. “But college is also a time where students look into their future, so are they worried about the debt?”

We should be afraid of the debt; it will prove cumbersome for us as we enter the real world and face very high tax rates.

Although Kotlar’s primary goal was to formulate a high-energy punk-rock band, he has been open to the change and said the acoustic band has enough material to record another album.

The band now uses folk guitar methods, along with and ambient delays and volume swells, to create an acoustic sound. Kotlar said it is comparable to Bob Dylan.

Kotlar and Lewis continue to work on music and plan to record an acoustic album called “Up Close and Personal” this summer.

The musicians also hope to host tryouts for new members, but said they are enjoying their time as a smaller entity in the music business.

“I’ve really enjoyed playing music with the band, and I’ve enjoyed music with all of the musicians that came and went,” Lewis said. “I look forward to whatever comes from it. It’s a living, breathing entity.”  

But those high rates will not only help us bounce back from the current financial crisis, but they will also help millions of Americans in need.

Will it cost those of us living comfortably a little money? Sure. But college is also the time where we all manifest our goals and dig deep down inside ourselves to find what it takes to achieve them. 

Before you decide that helping struggling Americans is not on your list of ideals — that this country should continue to consist of haves and have-nots — reread the quote above from the State of the Union address.

If his words don’t trigger your sense of compassion and responsibility for others, then nothing will.

Students: Remember this when you vote in November.

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