The Daily Gamecock

State of the Union looks to future

Obama: American innovation, clean energy, focus on education in sciences key point in speech

President Obama addressed issues concerning America and outlined a plan for progress in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, and he even managed to crack a couple of bipartisan-friendly jokes.

Obama focused on jobs and the growing economy, citing the progress that has been made with tax cuts. He also encouraged American innovation, a nation that produced Edison, the Wright brothers, Google and Facebook.

The President also discussed the importance of higher education for the future’s economy. According to Obama, all new jobs will require education that goes beyond high school education, yet a quarter of students aren’t graduating high school over the next 10 years. Science, technology, engineering and math classes are going to become the fields of focus. A new program, “Race to the Top”, is an initiative for schools to improve teacher quality and student achievement by fostering competition between schools nationwide.

“We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones,” Obama said.

Clean energy will also be an area that will strengthen security, protect the planet and create jobs, Obama said. He set a goal that, by 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources, saying that it would be a combination of wind, solar, nuclear, clean coal and natural gas.

“Instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s,” Obama said.

Obama brought up health care and said that it can be made better or more affordable. He said that the bookkeeping burden on small business is unnecessary and that he is not willing to go back to the days where someone could be denied coverage because of a preexisting condition.

Obama said the final step in winning the future is to ensure that the nation is not under a mountain of debt, and the way to do it is to eliminate deficit spending. To do this the Government will freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years which will hinder the salaries of federal employees, cutting community action programs and reduce defense spending. The freeze will result in the national deficit being reduced by more than $400 million, Obama said.

“All these investments — in innovation, education and infrastructure — will make America a better place to do business and create jobs,” Obama said.

While Obama highlighted significant issues, historically, the purpose of the State of the Union address is not to outline a specific plan, but to offer broad outlines.

“The State of the Union address is largely symbolic and sets the tone for what the agenda will be and how it will play out,” said Dr. Robert Oldendick, a government and international studies professor at USC.

The House of Representatives is now dominated by Republicans and the amount of Democrats in the Senate have been reduced, meaning it will be more difficult for much of Obama’s proposed legislation to pass. “In order to get anything accomplished over next couple of years he needs to move from where he was in the first two years of his term into a more centrist position,” Oldendick said.

But despite ever-strict party lines, Democrats and Republicans broke form tradition and sat together in honor of the Tucson tragedy, where six people were killed and 12 others were injured including congresswoman Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The attendees at the Capitol Building adorned ribbons in honor of Giffords.

“Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater — something more consequential than party or political preference,” said Obama.