It began with mentions of the military and military operations, and for nearly an hour, President Obama delivered a speech to a joint session of Congress and the House of Representatives. As is usually the case, a divided house took turns cheering and standing, or sitting in silence (almost exclusively along party lines.) Of course, the things that got everyone in the room to stand and cheer at the same time were the mentions of our brave men and women who have served in the Armed Forces.
“The shadow of crisis has passed, and the state of the union in strong,” President Obama told the nation. Obama touted lower gas prices, higher fuel standards, an all-time high in graduation rates of both high school and college students. He also took a jab at his Obamacare detractors by stating that health care inflation is at its lowest rate in 50 years.
Then, the President began laying out the framework of his upcoming plan for 2015 and beyond. Obama mentioned that his administration will look to bring affordable, high quality child care to all working Americans. He also announced a plan to lower the price of community colleges to $0.
These new plans are certain to be met with fierce opposition from Republicans who will not want to hear about higher taxes and more government spending.
Unlike many State of the Union addresses, however, this one was less a laundry list of new proposals and details, and more of an attempt to remain upbeat and give a unifying message. None of his messages resonated more wholly than those having to do with one of America’s greatest assets: our veterans.
When the President mentioned how important a continued focus on education is for Americans, he made it a point to talk about how many veterans and their families have taken advantage of the opportunities to get training and education after their service has concluded.
“As new veterans come home. We’ve made strides… slashing the backlogs, making it easier to get new training,” Obama said. He also mentioned that nearly 700,000 military veterans and spouses have used continued education to get training for new jobs.
Perhaps the loudest applause of the night came when President Obama told America “If you want someone who’s going to get the job done, and done right, hire a veteran.”
When the President shifted gears to speak of America’s military actions, he told America:
“We will continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their networks. And we reserve the right to act unilaterally, as we have done relentlessly to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to us and our allies.
At the same time, we have learned some costly lessons over the last 13 years. Instead of Americans patrolling the valleys of Afghanistan, we’ve trained their security forces, who’ve now taken the lead. We’ve honored our troops’ sacrifice by supporting that country’s first democratic transition.
Tonight I call on this congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISOL. We need that authority.”
While many of the finer points of the speech will be endlessly debated over the coming months and years, the support of our soldiers and veterans is something that everyone can get behind, no matter their political leanings.
By Brett Gillin