By: Anand Balaji
The State of the Union address is one of the most powerful speeches given annually in American politics. Despite the importance the address has towards outlining our nation’s future, a majority of teens choose not to tune in, unless required to do so by their history teacher, because they believe the speech contains nothing relevant to our generation. On the contrary, the president’s address contains pertinent information that is applicable to our daily lives.
What a lot of younger citizens fail to realize is that while many aspects of the State of the Union are not directly relevant to our lives, much of it will become of extreme importance whenever we enter the workforce. A discussion of the American economy is always one of the largest parts of the address and this year President Obama revealed some economic proposals that would have a resounding impact on all Americans. He announced that he would push for an increase in the minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour to $10.10. The announcement spawned a polarizing response with some Republican congressman urging for a repeal of the minimum wage altogether. This information could be very useful to know and make a summer job in high school or a part time job in college a lot more attractive for students.
Another interesting proposal made by the president was to increase government funding to the areas of infrastructure and green technology. Members of our generation should keep in mind that we will be living in this nation for the rest of our lives and assuring that our basic infrastructure remains intact is an issue all citizens should be concerned about. The San Francisco Bay Area received a “C” rating in 2011 for the state of our local infrastructure (includes railroads, bridges, water distribution etc.) by the American Society for Civil Engineers. Green technology is also a huge issue in our country’s future and Obama’s call for increased investment in that sector is a decision intended to allow future generations to live in a sustainable world. Interestingly enough, those that argue against government funding for green technology will often draw upon the failure of Fremont-based company Solyndra for ammunition. The Obama administration invested an estimated $535 million into the company, which subsequently went bankrupt as a result of poor management and stirred a national uproar.
As always, the State of the Union contained a substantial portion on the status of our country’s education system, an issue that is directly relevant to students. It may upset students that unlike in previous years, where he used very firm and pointed language, he did not stress the need for colleges to lower tuition rates as heavily. The president has announced, however, his plan to implement a federal college rating system, which students across the country can use to make decisions about where to go to school.
Obama followed by discussing his military strategy for the rest of his presidency and while it may seem like a very far-away issue, it’s important to keep in mind that military issues divest a large portion of government funds away from important programs (Iraq and Afghanistan cost a combined total of over $4 trillion).
Overall, the speech was successful in conveying Obama’s plan for economic, domestic, and military prosperity in our nation. While points of his speech were intentionally vague and unspecific, any citizen, especially those of our generation, would greatly benefit from listening to the address in its entirety. The key to becoming informed and responsible citizens when we are adults is to start gathering information now. Tuning in for just one hour a year can grant tremendous insight into our national situation and assist citizens in finding ways to improve their own lives.