What is the State of the Union?

In what is considered a time-honored tradition, the President of the United States took to the airwaves last night as he addressed Congress and the people concerning the state of affairs currently befalling the country.

For a full text transcript of the SOTU address, click here.

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

I’d stopped watching the SOTU address many years ago as I’m unable to get my head around all the partisan clapping and applauding (a total of 90 instances of extended cheers and applause) that goes on as if it’s a live audience for Happy Days or Saturday Night Live rather than the solemn and serious venue that it is.  Besides, with all the thumping, it sometimes makes for a long night.  I’d rather read it, get my highlighter out and that way be able to digest better what’s being said, and what’s being done.

I gathered last night’s content fearing the worst; that despite this president’s attempts to put forth an agenda that benefits a majority of Americans of all races, seemingly very little had been accomplished in that regard.  For most of us, I think, time-honored or not, it’s a tradition that is more pomp than circumstance because truthfully, if you want to know the state of the union, you need only look in the mirror.

That’s because we, each of us, are the Union.  We make or break this country and if a majority of us are doing badly then the Union, aka the country, is failing as well.  Mere words on paper I know but at its essence, it’s a profound statement and one that I think this President, more so than many of the others, gets.

“It is you, our citizens, who make the state of our union strong.”

There were other statements made that I think were noteworthy, as the President listed his administration’s past accomplishments and detailed his wish list for the coming year.  Everything including, income inequality, the state of the middle class, the export of jobs overseas, energy self-sufficiency, pre-K education, drone use, the war in Afghanistan, the health of returning veterans, Guantanamo,  NSA spying and voting rights was on the table, as it should be during such a disclosure.  Here are some I thought significant.

“Climate change is a fact.”  Finally, it’s being said, and better still, believed.

To his Republican friends concerning the ACA, “If you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, increase choice, tell America what you’d do differently.  Let’s see if the numbers add up…We owe it to the American people to say what we’re for, not just what we’re against.”   Again, it’s finally being said.

On the newly enacted changes that diminish the Voting Rights Act, “Citizenship means standing up for everyone’s right to vote…It should be the power of our vote that drives our democracy.”

On Guantanamo (closing it) and NSA spying (amending the program), “…we counter terrorism not just through intelligence and military action but by remaining true to our constitutional ideals and setting an example for the rest of the world.”

And finally, on veteran’s affairs, “We’ll keep slashing that backlog (of returning vets) so our veterans receive the benefits they’ve earned and our wounded warriors receive the health care-including the mental health care-that they need.”  It’s a sentiment that’s been said before by others but now, it’s time to fulfill the promise, past time even.

Of course, not everyone agrees with what the POTUS said.  You can read a fact check of the SOTU address, provided by the Washington Post by clicking here.

Still, after reading the full text and even though I was not expecting much, I came away feeling buoyed and optimistic for the future; mainly because of the feeling that I got from a few sentences that stuck in my mind.

“…what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class.  Some require congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you.  But America does not stand still, and neither will I.  So whenever and wherever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”

It’s like I said before, finally it’s being said.  Now comes the hard part; doing so.

Sources:  Full transcript of the SOTU came from the Washington Post, published January 28, courtesy of the Federal News Service; Fact Checking the 2014 State of the Union address, Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, January 28.

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