State of the Union is necessary formality
Obama’s emphasis on social, technological progress served to raise morale
The State of The Union Address is a constitutionally-mandated speech. It allows the current president the opportunity to examine the overall political, social and economic health of the nation as well as to outline his future agenda. Originally, the speech was delivered to congress as a written report, but with the onset of radio and television it was broadcast across the airwaves and became a spectacle. For the 2015 SOTU address, television viewership was at a 15-year low, which speaks more so to who’s watching and how they’re watching as opposed to its overall importance. Many Americans opted to stream the address online and tweet about it using #SOTU and #SOTU2015, playing on the nations gradual step into the Internet age and out of the broadcast era. In terms of agenda, President Obama confidently proclaimed that that he will only be pushing forward his own agenda, stating that he has no more campaigns to run — he already won both of them.
All in all, it’s clear that the SOTU is a formality, allowing presidents the chance to call attention to the current state of affairs in the nation, as well as to highlight individuals who embody what is perceived to be the true American spirit. Last night ex-prisoner Alan Gross, a US government contractor who was recently released from jail as part of a prisoner swap with Cuba was one such example. Similarly, community college graduate Rebekah Erler and her husband were used as examples to push forward the presidents free community college agenda, expressing that it is indeed possible to bounce back from hard times with a little bit of faith and education. Briefly addressing recent racial tension within the nation, Obama touched on the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and police officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, saying that everyone can understand the hopes and fears of fathers and wives wanting their loved ones to return home safely and to walk through the streets without worrying about what harm may befall them. The president also discussed America’s decreased dependency on foreign oil, which is reflected in gas prices that plummeted from what felt like $3.50 this past fall to current prices of just under $2 in many places. The president also took a moment to applauded Scott Kelly, an astronaut from Orange, N.J. who is preparing to spend a year in space on the International Space Station. His time in space will help to prepare future American astronauts for exploration on Mars. On his voyage Kelly will be accompanied by a Russian cosmonaut, hailing from a nation that Obama took jabs calling Russia “isolated, with its economy in tatters.”
President Obama also became the first president to ever use the words “lesbian,” “bisexual” and “transgender” in a state of the union address. Emphasizing the importance of respecting human dignity, a value regarded as the last pillar of American leadership, Obama said protecting the freedoms of LGBT individuals is not only the right thing to do, but the safe thing to do. He additionally mentioned the importance of the fight for gay marriage, calling these unions a civil right, and including that seven out of 10 Americans now hail from states where same-sex marriage is legal.
Given the changing nature of politics and current events in the nation, the SOTU is largely designed to update and inform the American public on the current state of both foreign and domestic affairs. Tuesday night, Obama assured the nation, “the shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is Strong.”