A confident, relaxed President Barack Obama delivered a rousing State of the Union address to both chambers of Congress and the American people Tuesday night that struck a populist tone resonating throughout the country, as income inequality has became a major concern among many Americans still struggling to recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The president also forcefully confronted the threat of climate change. In a nod to many on the Republican side of the aisle who deny man-made global warming, the president said “climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could do to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”
“Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled,” said the president as he went on to propose concrete solutions such as raising the federal minimum wage. “Join the rest of the country. Say yes. Give America a raise,” the president demanded of Congress. But he stated that if Congress didn’t act, he would, and he announced that he will increase the minimum wage for federal contractors using executive action. “If I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”
However the president delivered a mixed message about how he is dealing with climate change. After all, how can he achieve the goal of mitigating global warming while at the same time continuing to execute his “all-of-the-above” energy strategy. The president again devoted time in his speech to touting natural gas as a “bridge fuel,” and he mentioned the record amount of oil America is producing domestically. That’s sure to rankle the environmentalist community.
The only renewable source of energy the president mentioned was solar – Obama said America was a global leader in the field and he advocated for a smarter tax policy that promotes clean energy instead of subsidizing the fossil fuel industry.
“Our energy policy is creating jobs and leading to a cleaner, safer planet,” said the president.
Other topics the president touched upon included wilderness protection, energy efficiency, reforming the tax code to protect American jobs, rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, boosting the high-tech manufacturing sector, investing more in federally funded research, fixing a broken immigration system, preventing gun violence, ending the war in Afghanistan in 2014, extending unemployment insurance, reforming early childhood education, fixing the student loan crisis, giving women equal pay, continuing to implement the Affordable Care Act and reforming health care, using diplomacy to avoid military conflict, working for peace in the Middle East, protecting voting rights, and providing mental health care to military veterans.
The president ended the speech on an emotional note by highlighting one of his guests for the evening who was sitting next to First Lady Michelle Obama. Army Ranger Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg was badly injured while serving in Afghanistan, and his story received a standing ovation.
“My fellow Americans, men and women like Cory remind us that America has never come easy. Our freedom, our democracy, has never been easy. Sometimes we stumble; we make mistakes; we get frustrated or discouraged. But for more than two hundred years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress – to create and build and expand the possibilities of individual achievement; to free other nations from tyranny and fear; to promote justice, and fairness, and equality under the law, so that the words set to paper by our founders are made real for every citizen,” said the president as he finished his speech. “The America we want for our kids – a rising America where honest work is plentiful and communities are strong; where prosperity is widely shared and opportunity for all lets us go as far as our dreams and toil will take us – none of it is easy. But if we work together; if we summon what is best in us, with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow – I know it’s within our reach. Believe it.”
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