On Tuesday, Feb. 12, President Barack Obama delivered one the more forceful and decisive speeches during his time in office. The president called on the U.S. Congress to enact common-sense legislation on immigration, jobs, gun violence and taxes, while encouraging Americans to accept fully their obligation to one another as citizens. Along with his typically lofty rhetoric and demands for investment in new infrastructure, the President described several new goals to revamp the U.S. economy, reform education and bring equal opportunity to workers. Though Obama discussed crucial issues such as education reform, minimum wage and immigration reform, he failed to fully address drone warfare and gay rights, both of which deserved more attention.
Obama called for legitimate, comprehensive education reform. He outlined a system of collaboration between schools, universities and companies that would allow students to earn a technical associate degree upon graduation from high school. Reforms similar to this would improve the education system, strengthen our economy and equip young people with the tools necessary to find work in a suffering economy. However, schools must remain committed to a well-rounded education — emphasizing humanities and liberal arts values and occupations, as well.
Moreover, Obama called on colleges and universities to lower tuition costs, stating that in order to successfully accomplish this feat, “colleges must do their part to keep costs down.” However, it’s imperative that at the federal and state level the government supports higher education. Universities across the nation are already strapped for cash. If the government wants to make lower tuition a priority, it must be willing to help colleges make the numbers work with increased funding.
Obama also called for an increase in the minimum wage — the first since 2009. The president noted that even with tax relief and government assistance, families on minimum wage are below the poverty line. By increasing the minimum wage to $9 an hour, low-wage workers will be able to better provide for themselves and their families — though this increase will not nearly end the hardship of our most needy citizens. Opposition will likely point to increased costs for employers and possible harm to the economy, but as the president noted, corporate profits and CEO’s salaries are at all time high. Businesses must be willing to sacrifice for the better of the economy and the country.
Obama’s address was one of his stronger speeches in both delivery and content. His demand that Congress get things done on a common-sense basis seemed to shine through stronger than ever before. Obama and congressional leadership must implement legislation for immigration reform, work to end gun violence and pass the Violence Against Women Act. While the president has already proposed these measures, he failed to mention key issues that cannot be avoided. Obama only subtly alluded to gay rights, and he brushed over his administration’s controversial use of drone warfare and extra-judicial killings. These topics may be controversial, but the president is no longer facing a re-election, so he must live up to the promises he’s made as a candidate — striving for equality, peace and true progress.