Opinions : Column
State of the Union 2011: A student's perspective

Writer Trevor York, '12.
January 27, 2011

On Jan. 25, President Barack Obama gave the annual State of the Union address, entitled "Winning the Future," before Congress and America. The address lasted about an hour and a half and was broadcast on all major networks.

Typically, the purpose of this speech is to give the American people an update on the nation and to describe where we are headed in the future. However, this address was slightly different: Representatives of the House sat intermingled instead of separated into groups of Democrats and Republicans -- as is the case in most addresses -- portraying a sense of unity to the American people.

President Obama began his speech with a tribute to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-AZ, who remains in critical condition after being shot in the head. President Obama used this tragedy as a reminder to Congress that they must be "bound together as one people" in order to get work done for the American people and to create new jobs for the struggling economy.

The state of the economy

Following the call for unity, President Obama began somewhat of a positive remark on the current state of the economy by stating, "We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again."

Although this statement sounds very optimistic and encouraging for the American people, our economy can still not be described as "roaring." However, it is changing for the better. In the past year, the DOW has gone up 2,000 points and shows great signs of recovery after the deep recession of 2008.

Mr. President also guaranteed Americans that the federal budget will be cut over the years and that our government will become more streamlined. He plans on accomplishing this by cutting tens of billions from the Department of Defense, cutting health care costs and eliminating tax loopholes.

President Obama took cutting the budget a step further by vowing to America that he will cut $400 billion in the next 10 years. This number sounds somewhat signifigant to most people, but President Obama cannot seriously think that $400 billion will make any important difference in our deficit.

Our nation is currently $14 trillion in debt. If we were to cut $400 billion in 10 years, that would equate to $40 billion a year. Cutting $40 billion from $14 trillion is a drop in the bucket, and although President Obama meant well, our government will have to cut substantially more than $10 billion from our budget this year.

"'I'm not sure how we'll reach that better place beyond the horizon, but I know we'll get there. I know we will.' We do big things." --President Barack Obama

Although for many high school students talk about the U.S. federal deficit gives them the urge to change the channel, our country's current deficit is simply too enormous to ignore. The sad fact is that it doesn't even affect the people who are to blame for this debt: Wall Street bankers, irresponsible homeowners and bank titans such as Chase and Bank of America.

This deficit directly affects the younger generation of college and high school students, because they will be the ones with higher taxes, the ones with little or no Social Security. So the federal debt is not only a problem for people who contributed to the economic downfall, but for people who had nothing to do with the 2008 recession, for people who may have been in junior high at the time. That is the generation that will grow to inherit this truly unreal debt of over $14 trillion.

The state of energy

After speaking about the economy, President Obama went on to set rather optimistic goals for American energy in the coming years. For one, the President said that it should be America's goal "to have one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015." President Obama plans on doing this by moving the billions of dollars given to oil companies each year to green energy companies that will produce renewable energy for our nation.

Another goal of President Obama's is that 80 percent of American households be run by clean energy by the year 2035. He says America can achieve this through the use of nuclear energy, clean coal and natural gas.

The state of education

Next, President Obama touched on the subject of education in America. He stated, "Over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school degree." President Obama grimly described our nation's current education crisis, as the U.S. has fallen to 9th place among countries in the proportion of young people with a college degree.

President Obama then set out several guidelines for U.S. education, beginning with parental support of education: "It's family that first instills the love of learning in a child." President Obama believes that American schools are substantially behind those of other countries in the studies of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). So, in turn, the President called for 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Obama then introduced Race to the Top, a government fund which he explained thus: "To all 50 states, we said, 'If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we'll show you the money.'" For higher education, President Obama told Americans that he will ask Congress to pass a permanent tuition tax credit, which would supply students with $10,000 for a four-year college education.

The state of the union

Wrapping up his speech, President Obama gave a great thanks to all the men and women who have served in the military during the wars in the Middle East. Mr. President positively reminded the American people that progress is being made in the Middle East, saying, "We have sent a message from the Afghan border to the Arabian Peninsula to all parts of the globe: We will not relent, we will not waver, and we will defeat you."

President Obama ended his speech with his most memorable words of the night: "We are a nation that says, 'I might not have a lot of money, but I have this great idea for a new company.' 'I might not come from a family of college graduates, but I will be the first to get my degree.' 'I might not know those people in trouble, but I think I can help them, and I need to try.' 'I'm not sure how we'll reach that better place beyond the horizon, but I know we'll get there. I know we will.' We do big things."

For a full transcript of President Obama's 2011 State of the Union address, check out the White House press release.

For more politics, read the Jan. 26 column, Meet Speaker John Boehner.

Good article, Trevor

Posted by "Alexandra Barisic" on January 28, 2011 at 0:01 a.m.

I watched the State of the Union speech and I think this article is very accurate in the message and attitude that Barack Obama gave to the American people.

But I found the speech to be rather disappointing. Obama talked about a better future for America by introducing all these new ideas. But I was really frustrated when he did not go deeper into anything. He basically said the amount of money that would be used to finance the project or program without saying where is would come from.

I must admit that I thought Obama's speech was just a load of meaningless words. I don't feel like he is going to pursue anything that he talked about.

Another problem I had with Obama's speech is the fact that towards the end, he brought up the man who helped with the success of getting the miners out of the mine in Chile. He also shared how he did not want to get any attention for his good doings so he flew home before he could get any recognition.

That was a very humbling move on that American's part and, if he did not want any recognition down in South America, I do not think it was appropriate of Obama to make a comment about it in his speech, no matter how honoring it may be.

Well done, Trevor!

Posted by "Annalise Rosik" on January 27, 2011 at 0:01 a.m.

This article is very informative! I'm glad you wrote this because I did not get the chance to hear his original speech. In reading this, I learned a lot. I know you had to cut stuff from it and I know how hard that can be, but you summarized it well.

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