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Thursday, December 2, 2021

Nation

Key takeaways from Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Address


President Barack Obama at the Las Vegas Presidential Forum in 2008.  |  Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

President Barack Obama at the Las Vegas Presidential Forum in 2008. | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In one variation or another, ‘This was the most confident Obama we’ve seen,” seemed to be the go-to summation of President Obama’s “State of the Union” address.

In prior addresses, the President hasn’t been enjoying an economy in an upswing or a nation that seems to be adopting his party’s overarching social values: gay marriage (with 7 of 10 citizens living in a state where it’s legal, said Obama) and majority support for women’s contraceptive rights.

For college students, it can be overwhelming to navigate around the speech’s subjects that don’t directly impact them, let alone take an hour and a half out of their night to watch television.

Here’s some of the key takeaways for college students from President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address:

Obama proposed free community college for “those that are willing to work for it.”

It was one of the first concrete proposals Obama brought up tonight. He said that his ultimate goal is to make “college to be as “free and universal in America as high school is today,” citing Tennessee and the city of Chicago as examples that, put simply, free college works.

But there are some alarming statistics that weren’t addressed in his speech: a study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics in 2010 looked at the nation’s public community college enrollment. Of those students (who began enrollment in as early as 2003), around 25 percent earned a degree or certificate after six years of enrollment.

This isn’t just an alarming statistic for those enrolled in college – it isn’t a sustainable pattern to see in higher education. In his address, Obama said that by 2020, two of three jobs will require “some form of higher education.”

Aside from tuition, expenses like food, transportation, books and the general cost of education can deter students from higher education.

TIME reports that the free tuition initiatives of Chicago and Tennessee also included strict monitoring of “student progress, careful alignment of courses to transfer and job requirements… and help for students to make better choices about what to study.”

In his State of the Union, Obama didn’t give too many specifics on his national free tuition initiative – only that the U.S. needs it in order to be nationally competitive in education and innovations.

“Some are young and starting out. Some are older and looking for a better job. Some are veterans and single parents trying to transition back into the job market,” Obama said. “Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt.”

The President wants to see some major improvements in childcare and paid sick leave.

Obama said the United States is the only “advanced country” that doesn’t offer paid maternity leave and that 43 million Americans aren’t offered paid sick leave.

Currently, Texas doesn’t extend maternity leave beyond what’s federally mandated in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the latter of which protects an employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for “serious medical conditions.” However, the employer must meet some qualifications in order to offer these benefits to its employees, and the employee must complete 1,250 hours of work with the employer to qualify.

“Today, we’re the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home, Obama said. “Let’s do the right thing.”

Obama wants to improve the United State’s port system.

The President didn’t get into specifics, but he said his “bipartisan infrastructure plan” would create “30 times as many jobs” annually nationwide and focus on building and improving infrastructure, including our nation’s ports.

There was no mention of a federal oil and gas tax, and Obama’s only mention of foreign trade was that the U.S. is steadily increasing its independence from foreign oil.

As native Houstonians and residents of the country’s second-largest port in terms of tonnage, this might perk some ears around the Bayou City. Currently, the gas tax sits at 18.4 percent, and some are pushing for an increase in this tax to pay for infrastructure projects like the ones proposed tonight.

“21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure  —  modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest Internet,” Obama said. “Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this. So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline.”

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