By Camille Carrillo and Alexa Lomberg
“By the end of this decade, 2 in 3 job openings will require some higher education, 2 in 3. And yet, we still live in a country where too many bright, striving Americans are priced out of the education they need. It’s not fair to them, and it’s not smart for our future.”
Obama advocated for his plan to make two years of community college free nationwide, citing that 40 percent of students choose community college, and those students have a right to graduate debt-free — young or old, parents or veterans. He referenced the success of a free community college system in Tennessee, a Republican-led state, where “two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is.
“Middle-class economics works. Expanding opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work, as long as politics don’t get in the way. “
Obama referred to the constant political gridlock between Democrats and Republicans that often limits legislative action in Washington D.C. He further emphasized, “That’s what middle-class economics is — the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”
“I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we are a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen — man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino and Asian, immigrant and Native American, gay and straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability.”
Obama also advocated for his work monitoring the new technology of drones, rejecting stereotypes of Muslims, defending free speech and condemning the persecution of minorities — “women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.” Never before in the State of the Union address has a president said the words “transgender, lesbian and bisexual.”
“I want our actions to tell every child, in every neighborhood, ‘Your life matters and we are as committed to improving your life chances as we are for our own kids.’”
“I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists — that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what — I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities.”
The president slammed those who still don’t believe in climate change or who claim “we don’t have enough information to act.” He said we will continue to see rising sea levels, hotter heat waves and severe droughts if behavior doesn’t change.
“The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security,” Obama said. “We should act like it.”
He pointed to the work he has done over the last six years — more efficiently producing and using energy and setting aside public lands and waters. He recalled his work with China, where he facilitated uniting the world’s two largest economies to cut carbon pollution and overall emissions.
“If you truly believe you could work full time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest working people in America a raise.”
Throughout his speech, Obama stressed that the middle class needs to be supported — whether through tax cuts or raising the minimum wage — and that changes need to be made and continue to be made. He also discussed the gender pay gap as a part of his argument that middle and lower-class Americans need an equal opportunity in the context of a recovering economy.