With two years left in the White House, the president went full throttle, challenging Republicans with both sass and initiatives that will bolster the middle class — his pledge to “restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity for every American.”
And with the knowledge that in 2014 America saw the best year in job growth since 1999, Obama was able to stand tall, delivering initiatives he believes will add to the American workforce — paid sick leave, minimum wage, gender pay equity, and tax hikes for the wealthy to help finance tax breaks for the middle class. The president also expanded on his proposal to make community college free for qualified students.
“Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt,” Obama said. “Understand, you’ve got to earn it — you’ve got to keep your grades up and graduate on time. Tennessee, a state with Republican leadership, and Chicago, a city with Democratic leadership, are showing that free community college is possible. I want to spread that idea all across America, so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today. And I want to work with this Congress, to make sure Americans already burdened with student loans can reduce their monthly payments, so that student debt doesn’t derail anyone’s dreams.”
And he did it all while addressing a GOP-dominated Congress, the first time Obama has delivered a speech while both houses of Congress were under Republican control. With dissent on many faces in the crowd, Obama vowed that he would not tolerate any derailments to enrich the middle-class and continue American growth.
“So the verdict is clear. Middle-class economics works. Expanding opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work, as long as politics don’t get in the way. We can’t slow down businesses or put our economy at risk with government shutdowns or fiscal showdowns. We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got a system to fix. And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, it will earn my veto.”
After all, we’re apparently in a good place.
“We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet. And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save $750 at the pump.”
“We believed we could prepare our kids for a more competitive world. And today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record. Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high. And more Americans finish college than ever before.”
In a nutshell, his address was a hit with Democrats. And for the first time in history, a transcript of the president’s speech was made public before the address (in the past the speech has been distributed to journalists just moments before). You can read the entire thing here. But to save some time, check out GlobalGrind’s list of “things you need to know” from the 2015 State of the Union address.
The First To Say…
Obama made history last night when he became the first to use the words transgender, lesbian, and bisexual in a State of the Union address. He segued into that portion of his address while discussing free speech and respecting “human dignity.”
“That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. We do these things not only because they’re right, but because they make us safer.”
But Obama is clearly a pro at this making history thing. During his second inauguration, he also became the first president to address gay rights.
Obama Gets Serious (& Sassy) About Climate Change:
If you don’t know by now, 2014 was the warmest year on record. In history. That’s a big deal and one President Obama isn’t taking lightly, despite global warming naysayers. His response?
“I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what — I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA and NOAA and at our major universities.”
Burn. Well played on the “I am not a scientist” rhetoric House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio often use. He continued:
“The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.”
Boehner Refuses To Stand or Smile For Equal Pay…or Do Anything For That Matter:
We can’t say we’re surprised. This is pretty much the standard for the Speaker of the House (see here). But what was disheartening was Boehner’s refusal to stand while President Obama called on Congress to strengthen federal equal-pay laws for women and raise minimum wage.
“Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages. That’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. Really. It’s 2015. It’s time,” Obama said.
“And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”
The chamber erupted with applause and standing ovations from Democrats and women. But those Republicans, who have blocked fair pay laws for women four times since 2011, were glued to their seats. In 2015. Let that sink in…
This Wink Happened:
Need we say more?
Obama Mentions Ferguson…Kind Of:
Given the racially charged climate of America (always, but especially after a summer that saw the death of unarmed black men at the hands of white law enforcement), many were hopeful President Obama would address the disenfranchisement and torment of these communities.
And he did. Sort of. Succinctly, but it happened.
“We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York,” he said. “But surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed. Surely we can understand the wife who won’t rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift. Surely we can agree it’s a good thing that for the first time in 40 years, the crime rate and the incarceration rate have come down together, and use that as a starting point for Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law enforcement, to reform America’s criminal justice system so that it protects and serves us all.”
He continued, addressing Congress directly with a dream of bipartisanship and a play on the rallying call “black lives matter.” Except this time it was “all lives.”
“I want our actions to tell every child, in every neighborhood: your life matters, and we are as committed to improving your life chances as we are for our own kids.”
While discussing foreign policy and terrorism, Obama also honored those whose lives were stolen in the Charlie Hebdo Paris attack.
He did not, however, mention the Boko Haram attack in Nigeria that reportedly left 2,000 dead.
Obama Talks The Gutted Voting Rights Act of 1965:
During his speech, President Obama also pushed Congress to restore a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that was gutted by the Supreme Court.
“We may go at it in campaign season, but surely we can agree that the right to vote is sacred; that it’s being denied to too many; and that, on this 50th anniversary of the great march from Selma to Montgomery and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we can come together, Democrats and Republicans, to make voting easier for every single American.”
Republicans have made it clear they will not follow suit. Shocking.
And Obama said this:
Which Prompted This Joe Biden Head Nod:
SOURCE: White House | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty, Gawker