President Barack Obama wants action. And if congress is not going to help him, he will do it by himself, writes Mikayla Bouchard.
In his fifth State of the Union address given before a joint session of congress, President Obama outlined his plan for 2014 – one that focuses on economic revitalisation, an end to the widening inequality gap in America and a theme of social citizenship.
America does not stand still and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families – Barack Obama
“What I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all. The notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead,” President Obama said
Coming off a year of political difficulty and gridlock – from the botched affordable care act rollout to the 16-day government shutdown – his speech was heavy on action but not necessarily new on substance.
Many of the ideas that he put forward have been previously discussed, like the closing of Guantanamo Bay and immigration reform, yet this year he says he will not shy away from bypassing congress to achieve these goals.
“America does not stand still and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do,” he said.
With the 2014 midterm elections approaching, President Obama’s speech was largely partisan as it pushed unemployment benefit extensions, raising the minimum wage and widening the number of Americans covered under the affordable care act.
He also did not hesitate to criticise the stalemate that lead to the government shutdown, a comment widely applauded by his fellow Democrats.
“…tell America what you’d do differently. Let’s see if the numbers add up,” he said.
“But let’s not have another forty-something votes to repeal a law that’s already helping millions of Americans… The first forty were plenty. We got it.”
Outside domestic issues, President Obama also widened his scope to discuss the negotiations with Iran, and warned congress of his intention to veto any new sanctions that might threaten the diplomatic talks.
He also touched on the continued removal of troops from Afghanistan and limitations to both the drone programme and surveillance programmes.
“…we counter terrorism not just through intelligence and military action, but by remaining true to our constitutional ideals, and setting an example for the rest of the world,” he said.
Let’s not have another forty-something votes to repeal a law that’s already helping millions of Americans – Obama
The most poignant and applauded moment came near the end of his speech.
He finished on a unifying note, highlighting Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg, an Army veteran who was severely wounded in Afghanistan and has endured years of difficult recovery.
“Men and women like Cory remind us that America has never come easy. Our freedom, our democracy has never been easy,” the president said.
“We make mistakes. We get frustrated or discouraged. But for more than two hundred years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress.”