Davis Mattek, senior, Salina High School Central, Kansas|
A new decade lies before us; Americans are troubled, we are anxious, and we want answers. We have been through the worst recession since the Great Depression, young men and women have been slain overseas in multiple wars and the cost of living has risen exponentially. We are scared, we are aimless.
On February 27, President Barack Obama took the national stage to quell the anxiety of the masses by delivering his State of the Union address; and for this American, he succeeded.
Many feel as if Barack has let them down. He promised sweeping change and reform, forever changing the political and economic landscape of America. A year later, it’s easy to see that this didn’t happen and Obama conceded during the speech that change is coming slower than most would like. Within his first year in office, however, our president has achieved tasks of Leviathan proportions; succeeding in propping up massive financial institutions whose collapses would have meant the downfall of America’s economy.
But after a tumultuous first year, the president has much left to accomplish. During the address, he states that he is “more hopeful about America’s future now more than ever.” He then introduced several ideas that Americans should be excited about. The president announced plans to provide tax credits for numerous institutions and groups -- to small businesses for hiring more individuals or raising wages, to corporations for providing healthcare and to homeowners who make their homes more energy efficient. He also announced a plan to be sent to Congress to create more American jobs. His economic philosophy is sound and should provide hope for millions of Americans who wonder where their next meal will come from.
The task of reforming the nation’s financial institutions is going to be vital to the rest of Obama’s presidency. The same banks that drove us into economic oblivion will no longer be allowed to recklessly gallivant with private citizens’ money if Obama’s proposed legislation is passed. These plans are vital to the future of our nation; the re-institution of laws written in the 1930s by Franklin Roosevelt that were desecrated by the Reagan Administration will keep our country safe for years to come.
The section of the speech that will garner the most attention is Obama’s vow to entirely freeze government spending within the next three years. The burgeoning deficit left by George Bush and then added onto by our current commander-in-chief has reached the two trillion dollar mark. Using an executive order, he will begin a bipartisan fiscal commission to begin trimming fat in the government budget. Obama’s proposed reforms to cut spending are something that every American who plans on drawing Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid should be glad to hear.
His pledge to end the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy for gay men and women in the military was a long time coming. One of the many promises he made during his campaign, it looks as if it may actually become a reality. This is something his most liberal constituents were hoping he would address, and he hit a home run. However, this was not the most impressive the president was while delivering the speech.
The largest monkey on Obama’s back has been healthcare. The bitter debate has turned many Americans off from politics. Yet this is where Obama shone the brightest. He explained the importance of insuring that each American be guaranteed the right to healthcare, that we all should be able to count on being healthy.
Our president was frank and charming. But most importantly, he meant business when he said “I will not walk away from Americans”.
Davis Mattek, a senior at Salina Central High School, plans on attending college, majoring in English, and pursuing a career in literature.
Sydney Parriott, age 17, Salina High School Central, Kansas
Beaming with his familiar confidence, President Barack Obama, the man of the hour, approached the podium. My eyes glued to the television screen, this was one of few opportunities I’ve taken to actually listen to our commander-in-chief. I wouldn’t consider myself an expert in modern-day politics, so I felt I shared the same oblivion as many average Americans who tune in.
Though normally I am a self-proclaimed conservative, I found myself respecting some of the points the president made. Regardless, the speech still raised pressing questions and a few eyebrows.
Right off the bat, Obama was quick to speak of American hardship, saying that the worst of the economic crisis was over. He addressed the most pressing issue: the failing job market. As he called it, “the number one focus of 2010,” employment reform set to establish unemployment programs, tax breaks and increased tax credit. While that all sounds fine and dandy, he never described how he would specifically do that. I was curious as to where the $30 billion paid to small banks to promote loans in rural America would come from. Whether this was an absence of a proper solution, I couldn’t be sure.
Throughout the entire speech, I noticed a common theme: a lack of detail. Brilliant ideas, which often come with a hefty price tag, were acknowledged but not explained. Most of these ideas, as I predict, will never be followed through. It’s what I like to call “political fluff.” For example, he expressed plans for the government to further invest in clean energy, yet he also plans to cut all government spending for three years, starting in 2011 -- two seemingly contradictory ideas. Having watched the president occasionally during his 2008 campaign, his vague rhetorical tactics seemed all too familiar. I’m aware the president cannot mention every minute detail within an hour and a half, but it still left me wondering and worried. Our immense deficit seems to be looming in economic purgatory.
Another hot-button issue was the proposed health care reform bill. He said that the only true reason for its unpopularity was because of America’s lack of knowledge on the subject. Once again, little was said to inform the apparently “ignorant” public of what makes this bill a suitable standard. The topic was quickly tossed aside.
Though I consider my political philosophy to be conservative, I also recognize myself as socially liberal. As such, I was pleased to find that Obama abandoned his “middle of the road” strategy, for a more left-wing social approach towards the end of his speech. This would be his plan to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gay men and women in the military. Ending civil injustice at home will hopefully unite our country in this time of great economic peril.
I may lack political understanding, but I truly believe my stance on the State of the Union address is one shared with many Americans. I remain hopeful for the positive impact that President Barack Obama promises for the American people. Next time, I would hope for clarification. In the words of Obama, “I won’t accept second place for America.” With this, I can certainly agree.
Sydney Parriott goes to Salina High School Central and is 17 years old. She plans to attend the University of Missouri and major in broadcast journalism.