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A Look at The State of the Union Address - 2011

Now in year two of his presidency, President Obama delivered an interesting State of the Union address. Going in, President Obama had the tough task of addressing the United States current status while attempting to shape the nation’s future philosophy and direction. With a rebounding economy, our troops on schedule to return home, and various international matters being cleared up, the President took aim at directing focus back to domestic matters.

With a chamber in solace over the recent wounding of Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford, the chamber decided to mix things up by avoiding the split room that has always been the norm during such speeches. In an attempt to show solidarity, and to rebuff the growing theme of separation which triggered the Gifford shooting, Republicans and Democrats sat next to one another during the speech. While it was a nice gesture, yes, the standing up and applauding for certain topics by specific members still reared up and showed separation. Anyhow, with that said, let’s look at some of the noteworthy statements from the 2011 State of the Union Address.

“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.”

I would love to whole-heartedly agree with this, however, it’s difficult when I see many neighborhood stores closing and people continuing to be let go from their jobs. Here is hoping it this positive rebound makes it self more apparent.

“But we have never measured progress by these yardsticks alone. We measure progress by the success of our people. By the jobs they can find and the quality of life those jobs offer. By the prospects of a small business owner who dreams of turning a good idea into a thriving enterprise. By the opportunities for a better life that we pass on to our children.”

Relating to my point above. The economy may be rebounding based on figures, numbers, results, and balance sheets, however until job opportunity improves, it all seems like more meaningless political chatter.

“That's the project the American people want us to work on. Together”

Yes. More jobs ASAP. And yes, we don’t care what color, party, or team comes up with the solution, just make this happen.

“Many people watching tonight can probably remember a time when finding a good job meant showing up at a nearby factory or a business downtown. You didn't always need a degree, and your competition was pretty much limited to your neighbors. If you worked hard, chances are you'd have a job for life, with a decent paycheck, good benefits, and the occasional promotion. Maybe you'd even have the pride of seeing your kids work at the same company.”

Yes, those times are indeed no longer. A growing concern are the baby boomers who have been laid off, and do not have degrees or technical skills necessary in today’s world. Such a huge generational gap that can leave many hopeless.

“We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I'm asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don't know if you've noticed, but they're doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday's energy, let's invest in tomorrow's.”

Agreed. Why our government continues to fund oil companies who are making millions upon their billions is beyond me. How about we begin holding Wall Street responsible for some of the government dollars needed to regulate the once falling economy? Yes, I know not an issue in the address, but had to get that in there.

“Maintaining our leadership in research and technology is crucial to America's success. But if we want to win the future – if we want innovation to produce jobs in America and not overseas – then we also have to win the race to educate our kids.”

Our Education is in dire need of reform. Somewhere along the line, education in our country has taken a backseat. How ironic when education and information are easily at anyone’s disposal via the internet.

“That responsibility begins not in our classrooms, but in our homes and communities. It's family that first instills the love of learning in a child. Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done. We need to teach our kids that it's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair; that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline.”

Amen.

“One last point about education. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens. Some are the children of undocumented workers, who had nothing to do with the actions of their parents. They grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet live every day with the threat of deportation. Others come here from abroad to study in our colleges and universities. But as soon as they obtain advanced degrees, we send them back home to compete against us. It makes no sense.”

“Now, I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration. I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows. I know that debate will be difficult and take time. But tonight, let's agree to make that effort. And let's stop expelling talented, responsible young people who can staff our research labs, start new businesses, and further enrich this nation.”

The topic of illegal immigration and children of illegal immigrants continues to be a hot issue. While I agree regarding the point of us spending federal dollars on educating immigrants and visa students just for them to return home ad compete against us, there needs to be a healthy balance between creating opportunity for immigrants and providing for the students we have here domestically. There are many students in this nation who have the wits, but are unable to attend due to closed doors and no opportunities.

“Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying – without the pat-down. As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already underway.”

Imagine that. Once upon a time, railroads were a new form of traveling. And today, railroads look to be the new form of traveling. Go figure.

“Within the next five years, we will make it possible for business to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98% of all Americans. This isn't just about a faster internet and fewer dropped calls. It's about connecting every part of America to the digital age. It's about a rural community in Iowa or Alabama where farmers and small business owners will be able to sell their products all over the world. It's about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device; a student who can take classes with a digital textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor.”

We often take for granted the use of internet and technology, however over 70% of the world and 30% of the United States do not have access to high-speed internet. It sounds simple in context, but technology will change the way the world works in so many facets.

“But now that the worst of the recession is over, we have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable. Every day, families sacrifice to live within their means. They deserve a government that does the same.

So tonight, I am proposing that starting this year, we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years. This would reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, and will bring discretionary spending to the lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was president.”

An action long overdue. And because of how late it is, we will see many public programs that we enjoy get cut. Medicare will most likely be one of those programs. Nonetheless, our President is correct, we all cut things in our homes to get by, so should our government. 

“Thanks to our heroic troops and civilians, fewer Afghans are under the control of the insurgency. There will be tough fighting ahead, and the Afghan government will need to deliver better governance. But we are strengthening the capacity of the Afghan people and building an enduring partnership with them. This year, we will work with nearly 50 countries to begin a transition to an Afghan lead. And this July, we will begin to bring our troops home.”

“We must never forget that the things we've struggled for, and fought for, live in the hearts of people everywhere. And we must always remember that the Americans who have borne the greatest burden in this struggle are the men and women who serve our country.”

Let’s hope this July is indeed the final deadline for our troops to begin to come home. Somehow along the way, especially in this current generation, we have gained a sense of entitlement throughout our culture and society. President Obama’s statement is sobering that yes, these freedoms we currently enjoy were struggled for, and fought for. An endless and unconditional thank you to our men and women in the armed services.

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