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Obama’s State of the Union: Energy, Education, and the Economy

President Barack Obama's State of the Union address was rousin and inspirational, singalling a step forward for the U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union address was rousin and inspirational, singalling a step forward for the U.S.

The 42.8 million viewers who tuned in to watch Barack Obama’s State of the Union address this week heard the U.S. President touch on some of the nation’s most pressing concerns. Principal among Obama’s topics was the need to keep America moving forward economically, as the nation has been since the recession of two years ago. An emphasis on education was the foremost way the President suggested that was possible, but Obama also had some interesting things to say about energy sources, subsidies, and tax cuts.

Obama stressed the importance of “winning the future” for America and American children. But he was quick to acknowledge the new political reality of a strengthened Republican presence in Congress, and while he noted that Republicans and Democrats had broken with tradition and were sitting together for his address, Obama emphasized the need to “work together tomorrow” as well.

Part of “winning the future” according to Obama means competing with China and India, who have “started educating their children earlier and longer, with greater emphasis on math and science.” But he said that the fact that those countries now compete with the U.S. for jobs and to create new technologies should not be discouraging, but should be seen as a welcome challenge.

And the President was quick to differentiate his country from some of the emerging competitors to the east. “We are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea – the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny,” said Obama. “It’s why our students don’t just memorize equations, but answer questions like ‘What do you think of that idea? What would you change about the world? What do you want to be when you grow up?’ The future is ours to win.”

Again and again, Obama highlighted education as the key to the future and the method of achieving his country's goal, which is “to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.”

To that end, Obama promised to continue supporting innovators, scientists, and investors. Recalling a previously competitive era between nations, the President described the present as “our generation’s Sputnik moment.” And continued, saying, “two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race.”

Comparing the U.S.A.’s competition with the Soviets to the modern day competition with China and India is interesting. There’s no Cold War on, but clearly Obama thinks the thing that is most rousing to the American populace is fierce competitiveness, as opposed to, say, the idea that rival nations might collaborate, cooperate, or share. On the other hand, competition has long been the driving force of progress both in terms of evolution in the natural world and in human society. Maybe we’re not ready to transcend that basic aspect of our nature just yet.

Obama was remarkably progressive in some of his statements, particularly where the oil business is concerned. He talked up the development of water and solar energy, and he spoke of his desire to “break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.” He continued to say that he was asking Congress to “eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies.” And then he quipped, “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.”

Obama continued to address the need for innovation in terms of education and getting better results out of students. He also acknowledged that, while there was much for the education system to improve on, “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.”

On the subject of coping with the deficit, Obama asked Congress to make some big changes. “We have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable,” said the President. “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.”

Obama also spoke about cuts to military spending, as well as the need to recognize the role of the wealthy. He spoke about eliminating some of the tax cuts for the richest 2% of Americans, saying “before we take money away from our schools, or scholarships away from our students, we should ask millionaires to give up their tax break.”

Overall, President Barack Obama’s state of the union address has got to be considered a success. His emphasis on education and innovation as the keys to what has made the U.S.A. great was both rousing and wise. By addressing the possibility that oil companies and the super-rich are less needy than working class citizens, Obama also set one foot in a positive direction. Hopefully the next step continues down a similar path of progress and accountability.

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President Barrack Obama's 2011 State of the Union address in its entirety.
Last modified on Thursday, 11 October 2012 13:48

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