Opinion

State of the Union preview

Flickr/Chuck Kennedy: President Barack at the 2011 State of the Union

It was a difficult first year for President Barack Obama’s second term, which ended on a series of negative, or at the very least bumpy, notes. The two-week government shutdown and the highly anticipated, yet ultimately embarrassing, Obamacare rollout, as well as an increasing rift between the Republican and Democratic parties, plagued the end of 2013 for Obama.

On Tuesday, Jan. 28, Obama is set to give his annual State of the Union Address.

Flickr/Chuck Kennedy: President Barack at the 2011 State of the Union
Flickr/Chuck Kennedy: President Barack at the 2011 State of the Union

Many news outlets are speculating that President Obama’s State of the Union Address will be optimistic, contrasting with the divisive political sphere of 2013 and looking ahead at issues Obama plans to address in 2014. Predictably, Obama is projected to focus primarily on income inequality and solutions to long-term unemployment. According to emails to supporters, Obama’s State of the Union address will urge Congress to confront issues of economic mobility in 2014.

Obama “will lay out a set of real, concrete, practical proposals to grow the economy, strengthen the middle class, and empower all who hope to join it,” writes Dan Pfeiffer, White House adviser.

While I cannot disagree that this is a pertinent issue in 2014, there are a few issues that I would hope to see President Obama address.

The economy has seemed to take a turn for the better since 2012; however, I think it would be a mistake for the president to focus solely on these minor economic fixes. President Obama has had five years to remedy the economic downfalls since 2008’s Great Recession, and it is no longer his “inherited problem.” I think it is time that we ask ourselves if we are really happy with the progress made since Obama took office in 2008 and if the economic increases we saw in 2013 are permanent.

A second major issue lies with foreign policy. The United States is certainly not as involved in the Middle East as we were just a few years ago, but are both wars over? Obama’s foreign policy has not been at the forefront of discussion as of late due to the major political events, like the government shutdown, occurring at the end of 2013; however, this should not mean that these issues are not important in the political sphere. Americans tend to forget that troops are still in Afghanistan, and it would be reassuring to see President Obama address concrete plans for foreign policy directly in his speech on Tuesday.

I believe it would be valuable to see the president discuss issues of harshly divided partisan lines during the State of the Union. The Republican/Democrat Party lines have grown shockingly farther apart. These differences were in part responsible for some failures in 2013. Thanks to an influx of negative media coverage from both ends of the political spectrum, compromises between parties seem like something out of a fairytale.

The Great Party Divide has citizens concerned and, even worse, has more and more people disinterested in current affairs. If President Obama were to address this outright during his speech, I think it would send a positive message to both parties and help restore some faith in politicians.

It is unlikely that President Obama will address all or even many of the pertinent issues occurring right now in our government, but I certainly hope he touches on at least some of those mentioned. It would be a refreshing start to 2014 to see Obama genuinely discuss the issues that plagued 2013 and I hope to hear a concrete strategy as to how he plans to avoid them in 2014.

Christina Tenuta is a contributing columnist. You can contact her at ctenuta@luc.edu

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