A Look At President Obama’s State of the Union Address

Featured — By on February 2, 2012 12:41 pm

Written by Taitu Negus, VoiceWaves Journalist.

Taitu Negus. Photo by Prumsodun Ok.

The 2012 State of the Union address was presented recently by President Obama on January 24th. I didn’t get a chance to watch it on television, but thanks to the wonders of the internet, I searched it up and read the presentation. Politics usually aren’t my forte but being in this economic crisis, I really wanted to see what future plans our government had for the economy. A few things really resonated with me.

I’m currently living with my three younger brothers, my younger sister, and my mother. My mother is looking for employment (as you may have read in another article of mine, Sonya Clark: A Mother in a Bad Economy). This makes our family budget very tight. We make sure to buy our necessities first and get things we may want only if enough resources are left.

I will be turning seventeen later in the year which means that next year I will be eighteen: the legal adult age. Right now, I’m thinking about my future as a young adult and what that means. I want to—need to—become independent and self-sufficient. To be able to do that, everyone, for that matter, needs money. And not just any amount but an amount where you can feel comfortable after paying for basics such as food, shelter, and bills. Of course it would be nice to indulge in luxury items now and then, purchase items that feed our spirits and help us thrive. During these difficult times though, I can barely decipher what luxury is considered to be.

“When kids do graduate, the most daunting challenge can be the cost of college,” President Obama said. School has really been on my mind for a while. It is my hope to receive a rigorous, world-class education through study at a private university. I can’t do so without the prospect of a full tuition scholarship. Furthermore, at my school, all you hear about is the horrible state of the California budget and that the fees for attending even a CalState University are sky-rocketing. I coulnd’t help but feel the resonance of President Obama words, “States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets. And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down.”

Sometimes though, even if we are able to attend college, I feel that there is no way of attaining a higher quality of life. I know people that went to prestigious colleges, but are still struggling to rise into the middle class.

The President went on, “A great teacher can offer an escape from poverty to the child who dreams beyond his circumstance.” I thought this was a wonderful statement because it is true. A teacher, someone who has experienced college as well as the richness of our world, can provide assuring guidance to a child from an impoverished background. Instead of the child spiraling downwards, falling into a pattern of poverty, the child can move forward, out of the hardship they see day to day.

I know a lot of students that are not motivated in school because they don’t feel any support by their teachers. It’s even more complicated when their families aren’t able to provide this support and when things at home are not the greatest. Imagine: where would school fall in terms of priority if you’re living not knowing if the rent will be paid or if you might have to skip a meal tonight to get by? Little do they know that giving up their education can be one of the biggest mistakes a young person can make. Sometimes the school system becomes irrelevant to a young person and they soon see no point in continuing—especially if they know their family cannot afford to send them to a prestigious college. President Obama added further, “Give [schools] the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. And in return, grant schools flexibility: to teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.” Yes, please.

I am fearful and uncertain about my future. I was telling my mother that the population was growing and resources were becoming more scarce. My mother said that that wasn’t the case, it’s the imbalanced and unfair distribution of resources. This made a lot of sense, especially after reading our President’s words.

We live in a country where cast members of reality television shows such as Jersey Shore get paid millions of dollars to make a disgrace of themselves, a society where weddings can cost up to 3 million dollars and end up lasting for only 72 days. On the opposite end of the spectrum, single parents, young adults, families, and all other sorts of hardworking people are getting paid pennies for extremely difficult work, working two or three jobs just to get by. Are our nation’s priorities straight? This is a question everyday people like myself ask all the time.

America prides itself as being a country where, if an individual persists in hard work, they will reach success. But in some cases, it seems as if this “American Dream” is but an illusion that is quickly fading away. President Obama stated, “We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” I couldn’t agree more.

To watch his State of the Union Address, please click here:


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  1. John Arfwedson says:

    This is an inspiring and challenging article. Inspiring for its tone of guarded optimism in the face of a harsh world, and challenging for what it says to the society Taitu hopes to thrive in.
    I’ve taught English to talented juniors at Long Beach Poly High for over 23 years and in my time have been lucky enough to meet a number of students who face the sort of challenges Taitu describes. The vast majority of them have been able to go on to higher education and find their footing in the economic world after school. It’s never been easy in the past, but at least it seemed doable. With the conditions the U.S. has faced since 2008, everything has gotten much harder.
    Our nation will fail if it doesn’t find ways to nurture future leaders such as Taitu. We cannot survive without making a world where she and all her brothers and sisters, from all walks of life, are given a helping hand to succeed.

  2. Jesse Garcia says:

    The part about Jersey Shore really hits home. I’m disgusted by the amount of capital that constantly gets spent on the “lowest common denominator”. That money could definitely be put to better use.

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