In the annual State of the Union address, held in front of members of Congress last Tuesday, President Obama urged members of both parties to work together and to regain the trust of the American people.
“The question for everyone in this chamber,” said Obama, “is whether we are going to help or hinder this progress,” referring to the advances and steps forward the country has made in the past year.
He cited the budget compromise, made in December, as an example of how Republicans and Democrats can still compromise for the good of the population. This should be an opportunity to continue progress, said the President, not to “create a new crisis”.
The President continued to say that while he realizes both sides won’t get everything they want, progress must be made, regardless.
“I’m eager to work with all of you,” continued Obama, “But America does not stand still, and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunities for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”
The rocky relationship between the president and Congress has been well documented, but Obama recognized the need to put that aside and work together.
“The point is,” said Obama, “there are millions of Americans outside Washington who are tired of stale political arguments and are moving this country forward.” Congress has had infamously low ratings the past few years, and the President is well aware of the dissatisfaction. “That’s what Americans want, for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations,” continued Obama.
Obama also commented on the growing energy production, as well as the progress in clean energy options.
“The debate is settled. Climate change is a fact,” emphasized Obama. While concern of global warming is increasing, it is also an opportunity for high-tech manufacturing jobs, which could help boost the economy. The President noted his eagerness for “the next great American discovery,” which would only arrive faster with the increase of innovative jobs and ideas. He didn’t forget about small businesses, however, stating the large number of government loans granted to small business owners during his tenure.
He then moved on to discuss the need for immigration reform, something that has long been desired.
“When people come here to fulfill their dreams… They make our country a more attractive places for businesses to locate and create jobs for everybody,” said Obama.
Along with helping immigrants gain access to the workforce, he also wants to get Americans back to work and raise the minimum wage for those who are barely scraping by.
“This Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people,” said Obama. According to the President, five states had raised their minimum wage in the past year, without waiting for Congress.
On a related note, he shifted the focus to the persistent inequality for employed women.
“Women make up about half of our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns,” said Obama. “That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment.” Equal pay for women is something that everyone can, and should, get behind, he said.
Near the end of his speech, Obama reminded Congress and his audience that we, as a country, have a long way to go. But those goals aren’t unattainable.
“The America we want for our kids… None of it is easy,” concluded the President. “But if we work together, if we summon what is best in us… I know it’s within our reach. Believe it.”