With this first State of the Union of President Barrack Obama’s final term, the message is clear. We can do this. He said it over and over tonight. As he unveiled plans that “will not cost a penny more,” the guiding premise was that America has some work to do to reclaim its rightful place as the shining beacon of hope for the world.
And he did little to hide his dismay that Congress — specifically the Republican-controlled House — has been a thorn in his side of an ambitious, and perhaps game-changing, agenda. He chastised Congress for spending valuable time creating false fires to put out rather than getting down to the people’s business:
The greatest nation on earth cannot get its business done by drifting from one manufactured crisis to another. Let’s agree together to keep the nation’s business open and pay our bills on time.
What we saw tonight was a modern kind of Manifest Destiny. Obama wants to change the course of how America does business, treats its poor, and leaves things for the next generation. Here are some of the most interesting points I heard tonight:
- “What makes you a man is not the ability to conceive a child but the ability to raise one.” There are people who may disagree with my putting this front and center. But my mouth dropped open a bit when I heard the president say this. It was a rebuke to dead-beat dads, sure. But furthermore it was a line in the sand on a societal system of misogyny that labels parenting as “women’s work” and therefore devaluing the importance of each gender as parents. Why does my daughter’s school automatically call me when she is sick? Because our society deems mothers as the superior parent while simultaneously devaluing fatherhood. From a legal structure that awards custody based on gender to higher incarceration rates in non-white communities, we have created systems in our society that reinforce the mythology that parenting is solely a woman’s job. President Obama reminds us both of the importance of fatherhood as well as the fact that he did not link it to biology. This is very surprising in a SOTU, let alone for a president to consider talking about at all. For its sheer surprise factor and for its, oh let’s go ahead and say it, “audacity of hope” for fatherhood, I put it tops.
- Calling out VAWA and the Paycheck Fairness Act: Holla! “Because women should earn a living equal to [the work they do].” The Senate passed VAWA today (and yet 22 senators voted nay). Obama put the pressure on to pass a comprehensive VAWA. Why hasn’t this passed?
- “No one who works full-time should have to live in poverty.” Can I get an Amen? Obama calls for raising the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour. Let me tell you, as someone who grew up on welfare and food stamps, my parents were always working full-time when we got assistance. The fact that living on minimum wage has left people below the poverty line for 30+ years… It makes us hypocrites when we chastise others in the world for doing less for their poor. Hmm… Perhaps Obama is an SCS fan?
- Support STEM studies! The way of the future is paved with education and jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math. We need to fund initiatives that bring better STEM education from K-12 as well as in higher education. And I would hope it goes without saying, but I know it does, we need to encourage STEM studies for people of all genders!
- Demanding a real response to climate change: President Obama made it clear tonight that he does not care if you believe that Superstorm Sandy was caused by climate change or by an act of God. He is demanding that Congress act, or he will. Twelve of the hottest years on record have been in the last 15 years. Droughts. Floods. Super storms and hurricanes. It’s not the end of days… unless you mean the end of believing that we can sit back and do nothing about climate change. And I was really happy when he said we should push for vehicles that don’t run on gas or oil at all. Let’s hope we see that before my toddler starts driving her own car!