My 5 Fave Parts of Obama’s 2013 State of the Union Address

The yoga class I took just before last night’s State of the Union (SOTU) address wiped me out. I fell asleep immediately afterward. Which is good because I had a chance to think overnight about the parts that resonated most with me.

sotu-en 2013

I’ve been tough on the president in the past, disappointed with his timidity and unwillingness to set a big bold agenda.

The other good thing about writing the day after is that others have fact checked. And the de rigeur liberal critique  as well as Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) really awful other-party rebuttal have been duly hashed and rehashed.

With the benefit of reflection, here are my three favorite parts of the speech.

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1.    SOTU and women: On the domestic front, the president mentioned two hot button pieces of legislation poised to pass if Speaker Boehner (R-BadLoser) ever brings them up for votes:

We know our economy is stronger when our wives, mothers, and daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace, and free from the fear of domestic violence.  Today, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act that Joe Biden originally wrote almost 20 years ago.  I urge the House to do the same.  And I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a living equal to their efforts, and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year.

(This drew a “Huge Yes!” from Pamela Scharf when I posted it on Facebook.)

And on the global front, but equally true at home:

We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all.  In many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day.  So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades: by connecting more people to the global economy and empowering women; by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve and helping communities to feed, power, and educate themselves; by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths; and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation.

2.    SOTU and gun violence: This drew the biggest cheers as Obama did his rhetorical best: build to a revival preacher’s crescendo. And the backdrop of Gabby Giffords  and parents of slain children brought everyone but John Boehner (go figure, for once he showed no emotion) to tears.

It has been two months since Newtown. I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different. Overwhelming majorities of Americans – Americans who believe in the 2nd Amendment – have come together around commonsense reform – like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun. Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because they are tired of being outgunned.

Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. If you want to vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun.

One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton. She was 15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette. She was so good to her friends, they all thought they were her best friend. Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.

Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote.

Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.

The families of Newtown deserve a vote.

The families of Aurora deserve a vote.

3.    SOTU and minimum wage:  Did the proposed $9 minimum wage surprise you? It did me.

We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages. But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we’ve put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong. That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, nineteen states have chosen to bump theirs even higher.

Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead. For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets. In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher. So here’s an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year: let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.

4.    SOTU and early childhood education:  This warmed my former Head Start-teacher heart.

Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their own. So let’s do what works, and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind. Let’s give our kids that chance

5. The part of SOTU I liked best.  Karl Rove (who reminds me of the Riddler because he keeps popping up with his evil grin, every time you think a superhero has finally vanquished him), used a twitter hashtag #notserious to telegraph the Tea Party message of the day. A typical corrosive Rove tweet:

Karl Rove@KarlRove

Is it me or is this not one of POTUS’s better efforts? Lackluster response from even Dem’s side. #SOTU

Since you asked, I’ll answer, Karl. It’s you. The president’s speech was not just #serious. It hit a political home run. Now the real test–let’s see what action Congress takes, and how hard Obama fights for his agenda.

What do you predict? Tell me.

3 Comments

  1. Aletha on February 14, 2013 at 12:20 am

    My favorite part was near the beginning.

    It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few…

    Yes, this government has been working just on behalf of the few, has it not? That was such a revealing slip. I doubt he meant what that says, but it is too close to the truth, nonetheless. That was presumably a dig at Republicans, but since he has been the President for over four years now, and the Senate has been controlled by his party all that time, and the House for almost half that time, he cannot blame Republicans if the government has been working on behalf of the few, at all. The elite few do not need the help of the government, but they have gotten lots of help, bailed out for their greed-inspired mistakes that caused so much misery, on the backs of everyone else. Meanwhile the rest of us are presumably expected to be grateful for crumbs.

    Part of the reason VAWA has been held back by Republicans is because one of its new provisions will cause a shelter for battered women to lose its federal funding if it refuses to shelter gay men or transwomen. In this case, I would say the Republicans are right, but for the wrong reasons. Was it necessary to throw in new provisions Republicans would balk at? No, but it made great political theater, giving Democrats yet another opportunity to scream about the Republican war on women. It would be nice if the Paycheck Fairness Act were passed, but I do not see that happening, so why, if he is aiming high, could he not have proposed the ERA instead? Too controversial, perhaps? He did not see fit to mention the Freedom of Choice Act either. I wonder why.

    I also thought it was quite revealing that Obama talked about doing something about climate change, yet bragged again about how much oil and gas USA is producing. What is his solution, cap and trade? Another half measure guaranteed not to work.

    Our war in Afghanistan will be over soon, he promises. The war in Vietnam ended the same way. Nixon tried to prop up the government in South Vietnam, which promptly collapsed after US troops left and the North took over, just as the Taliban will take over in Afghanistan. In both cases, the entire effort was a complete waste, but Obama will claim he ended the war responsibly, and that Afghan women benefited from our intervention. Some did, in some ways, temporarily. Afghan women were better off when the Soviet Union controlled Afghanistan, but USA made sure that did not last.

    Yes, Gloria, the speech was a home run; the masterful manipulator at his finest. If anyone thinks I am being unfair, my challenge on my blog to read through my response to the previous State of the Union speech and defend the President still stands. I have cross-posted the above on my blog.

  2. Suz on February 18, 2013 at 8:57 am

    It affects a wide variety of folks but none more so than women – all the women in low paying retail, women cleaning and cooking, struggling single moms with jobs, and many more. I saw the figures and realized this is more a women’s issue than I thought.

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