President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama spoke to the American people this January in his annual State of the Union Address, though his true audience was Congress and more specifically the Democratic Party. There were hot topics that needed to be addressed to appease his party and to influence Congress. The chief emphasis of the speech was the nation's economy, also briefly speaking of domestic resourcefulness and concluding with our military efforts. Much of the focus was on America's unemployed. The nation's unemployment rate was described as being 'the lowest in five years' (6); however, lack of evidence weakens this assertion.
He is a very articulate speaker but his speech itself lacks substance, so in order to keep the listeners engaged he starts with one of the two styles used to inspire his audience ' the human interest stories. He briefly describes examples of a teacher, farmer, auto worker, and entrepreneur who have 'done their part' in some way to better America. This is a method used to convince the audience that he too can relate to their individual hardships. The second style used by the president to engross his audience is the use of assertive slogans such as 'Opportunity for All' and 'Year of change.' These slogans can be found peppered throughout the LIVE presentation. The entire address was written in sequential order so that it easily flowed into the next topic, with plenty of pauses for dramatic effect. He used all of these tactics as a way to persuade the American public that he is relaying important information but really said nothing new, believable or significant.
He focused much of his speech on the nation's economy more specifically the national unemployment level. He says that he believes this 'can be a breakthrough year' (7). In 2008 the nation's unemployment rate was 5.8% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistic. In an article written by Mary O'Leary she states that 'Republican candidates are correct when the say that the nation's unemployment rate is higher since Obama took office'Obama assumed office on Jan. 20, 2009 with the 7 percent rate, which continued to grow to 9.4 percent in August 2010, a three-decade high, and only started to slowly go down throughout 2011 to 8 percent in January 2012 and now to 7.8 percent in February.'
The president read from a letter he received from Misty DeMars an unemployed mother of two, 'She'd never collected unemployment benefits' she and her husband used their life savings to buy their first home. A week later, budget cuts claimed the job she loved.' The most powerful statement in Misty's letter to the president is when she writes 'I am not dependent on the government'Our country depends on people like us who build careers, contribute to society' (35).
The president goes on to describe the increased efforts of job creations. 'The best measure of opportunity is access to a good job. With the economy picking up speed, companies say they intend to hire more people this year' (17). According to an article written by Jonathan Berr in the Daily Finance 'American's believe that 'now is a bad time to find a job' the article also states 'We estimate that the rate of job growth would have to roughly triple between now and the end of 2015 just to restore labor market conditions'five years from now 'to what they were at the start of the recession (roughly a 5% unemployment rate and higher labor force participation).'
The president introduces us to Andra Rush who 'opened up a manufacturing firm in Detroit. She knew that Ford needed parts for the best-selling truck in America, and she knew how to make them. She just needed the workforce. So she dialed up what we call an American Job Center ' places where folks can walk in to get the help or training they need to find a new job, or better job. She was flooded with new workers. And today, Detroit Manufacturing Systems has more than 700 employees' (32).
Throughout the speech there are a lot of proposals but nothing tangible to say that a change is truly coming. When speaking of minimum wage and social reform the overall feeling is that the speech is empty. Obama says that he is 'committed to making Washington work better' (9). He says 'we're partnering with mayors, governors, and state legislatures on issues from homelessness to marriage equality' (14). He pledged 'to connect 99 percent of our students to high-speed broadband'without adding a dime to the deficit' (42). All of the previous examples seem more like a wish-list for Washington rather than a concrete laid out plan for change; they are not new issues and are not likely to see any action.
The president stated that both citizens and businesses would benefit from a simplified tax code that would help create more jobs. He states that 'no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty' (40). Proposing an increase of the federal minimum wage from $7.85 to $10.10 but urging state legislatures to act on their own and not wait for Congress to 'Give America a raise' (44). He speaks of pay inequality for females stating that many times women are the main breadwinners yet they make $0.77 less an hour than a man; this finding is based on the 2009 Gender Pay Gap. The Washington Post says that it is slowly reducing due to women being hired in lower-paying professions.
The president discusses the need for improvement within our educational system. He advises that 'in this rapidly-changing economy, we have to make sure that every American has the skills to fill those jobs' (30). President Obama urges Congress 'give these hardworking, responsible Americans that chance. They need our help, but more important, this country needs them in the game. That's why I've been asking CEOs to give more long-term unemployed workers a fair shot at that new job' (38). The only catch to this is that many times education doesn't equal hands on experience and vice versa. He concludes this topic by declaring 'it's not enough to train today's workforce; we also have to prepare tomorrow's workforce, by guaranteeing every child access to a world-class education' (39). Meet Estiven Rodriguez, a young man who had terrific teachers and tutors, who could not speak English until he was 10 years old. 'This son of a factory worker just found out he's going to college this fall' (38).
There is always one citizen invited to sit with the First Lady this is a strategy that has been used in every State of the Union address since President Carter. In his final and most powerful human interest piece, President Obama introduces Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg who served ten deployments in the Army. Cory was nearly killed in Afghanistan, suffered through a coma and is now blind in one eye. 'Day by day, he's learned to speak again and stand again and walk again ' and he's working toward the day when he can serve his country again' (77). Cory's story was met with a standing ovation.
Stories like the ones we are presented with of Andra the auto worker, Misty the unemployed mother, Estiven the young college student and Cory the military hero are meant to make the American public feel something-anything really. They are intended to make the audience feel that everyone matters, that we are the people and that our constitution still holds true.
The speech itself falls flat and so in order to placate the American public, Congress and the Democratic Party the President uses one last attempt at pulling the heartstrings of his partisans by stating that 'if we work together; if we summon what is best in us, with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow ' I know it's within our reach' (80). Overall, this last statement merely reinforces the hollowness of his speech
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