Tired. That was how I saw President Obama during his State of the Union Speech. This speech was very different from last year’s, which was hopeful of big legislation. Grand calls for change have disappeared, the smiling Senator who inspired a country back in 2008 giving way to a second term President sick and tired of fighting Republicans on every issue. They have been committed to making Obama’s presidency a failure and have led to the least effective Congress in history. Obama’s State of the Union speech reflected an understanding that House Republicans will never work with him on issues that are on his agenda. He asked Congress to “give America a raise” and restore ordinary Americans’ faith in Washington; he also called for tax and patent reform and readdressed the need for action on climate change. But these calls seemed hollow, and the only cooperation that Obama appeared to hope for was on immigration. As a result, Obama’s speech focused more on problems that he can influence directly in order to distance himself from a Congress of inaction. Obama highlighted a number of executive orders, such as raising the minimum wage to $10.10 for federal contract workers. The President also tried, as he had in other State of the Union speeches, to change the narrative of his presidency, which many people have seen as a failure or disappointment. He highlighted some accomplishments, such as having the lowest unemployment rate in over five years, cutting the deficit, and putting America on the path to energy independence. All in all, the State of the Union was a speech full of content and uplifting tones, and delivered by one of the best speakers of our time. But the whole time I couldn’t help but think that the State of the Union has become a pointless affair, an act even; for one night, Congress and the President pretend that they can get along in front of the cameras. Republicans stand and clap the man who they’ve been so committed to destroying the last five years. Will this speech change the political gridlock in Washington? The outlook isn’t good.
—Sebastien Lasseur ’16 is Communications Director of The Vassar College Democrats