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Monday, January 17, 2022

Columns

State of the Union: General topics dodged re-election speech


As presidential messages go, President Barack Obama’s wasn’t particularly noteworthy. There weren’t any fireworks, streamers or dancers. Champagne was noticeably absent. In the midst of the gymnasts performing on the other side of the fence, the incumbent’s party was an especially modest neighborhood barbecue.

But in their stead was something more necessary for our country: a politician shining light on both the good and abysmal corridors lining our nation’s establishment. If efficiency was his goal, the man-in-office hit a homer. And rather than any sort of gut-busting revelation, the political sphere could do with some quiet and meaningful introspection.

If you were looking for surprises, you spent an evening on the couch in disappointment. The “food stamp president” highlighted the issues he’s come to identify with as well as those that have risen since he’s been in office. The backlash of globalization on American jobs, the country’s reluctance to utilize its own fuel reserves and the uppercut education has taken in our society’s social spectrum. Rather than innovate with impossible solutions to unsolved problems, Obama chose to readdress the issues at hand with the frankness they deserved and with the methods he proposed for handling them proving even more frank.

Not surprisingly, Congress received a substantial amount of attention — more for what it’s failed to accomplish than its successes. Its successful attempts at piddling with the nation’s financial security were praised for what they were worth. Along with this attention came a reprise of all the error, including the assurance that, following his re-election, the mistakes wouldn’t make a second appearance. If there was any cause for alarm, it would have been the silence surrounding the upcoming election. Obama spent less time dissecting his potential competitors than he did praising President Bush Jr. If not for the date and time positioned at the bottom of the broadcast, one might have thought that they were watching a president speaking to his audience about the most immediate issues at hand.

And in all honesty, what was there to say? With four suitors at the door sporting new policies, wives, psychological predispositions and religions on a daily basis, there would have been nothing to pinpoint. It would have been a waste of breath and energy to address even one of them. Knowing this, Obama chose to do just that. Rather than throwing dirt and scuffing shoes, the president talked about his presidency instead. The message served its purpose: a skeleton of how the country is doing at this moment in time. It wasn’t glamorous, but that’s only appropriate. We’ve seen better days. Even still, in the midst of ongoing troubles in state and commerce, it was refreshing to see a politician address every guest in the room, purple elephants and all.

Whether describing the reprieve of the 1 percent, of the consternation of everyone else, that sort of straightforwardness is 100 percent admirable.

Bryan Washington is a sociology freshman and may be reached at [email protected]

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