An effective State of the Union speech

February 14, 2013 

Expectations are always high when President Barack Obama steps to the stage in the U.S. House of Representatives for an address to a joint session of Congress. In his State of the Union speech Tuesday, he met those expectations with specific, positive and what should be bipartisan ideas.

The president’s ideas as pushed before members of the House and Senate, with Republicans at times sitting on their hands and at other times reluctantly joining in applause (an improvement on behavior past), contained some renewed ones such as passing some of his job creation strategies contained in a jobs bill that Republicans rejected in part.

But there were new initiatives, all of them, the president said, reasonable and without additional buildup to the nation’s debt. They included raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour. “No one,” the president said, “who works full time should live in poverty.” That was his emphasis during a Wednesday stop in Asheville, part of a brief tour to promote his objectives.

He proposed, as both an unemployment and infrastructure initiative, a “Fix It First” program to repair the nation’s bridges and put people to work. He said he wanted to get private industry to partner in projects to work on pipelines, ports and schools. He wants as well a program to help people refinance their mortgages, something he says too many with acceptable credit aren’t able to do.

Obama’s suggestion that the government should ensure that every child in the United States gets a preschool education is one with clearly demonstrated benefits. Time and again, studies have shown (some related to Head Start, others independent) that kids who attend preschool, particularly if they are from disadvantaged backgrounds, do better not just in the early grades but later on. Such a program, he said, would have benefits from boosting graduation rates to reducing teen pregnancy.

On immigration, noting bipartisan talks, the president rightly believes that if they meet strict requirements (including learning English) illegal immigrants should have a path to citizenship, though he stressed the tightening of borders as a priority.

Obama saved his most soaring rhetoric for guns, for thorough background checks and limits on bullet magazines and high-powered rifles. Gabrielle Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman wounded by a gun, and others whose lives had been torn by gun violence were in the gallery. “They deserve a vote” on gun control, the president said, several times. It was a fitting end to a speech with clear and sensible blueprints, if only Republicans in Congress will help build on them.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service