Students watch, react to State of the Union

By Sarah Wojcik

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address was delivered to the American people Tuesday at 9 p.m. and many Oakland University students, professors and even alumni showed up to enjoy refreshments and watch the speech in the Fireside Lounge.

Obama’s speech, which lasted approximately an hour and a half, covered the five main topics of education, infrastructure, innovation, deficit reduction and reform of government.

For the first time in history, both Republicans and Democrats sat together instead of separated.

“The competition for jobs is real, but this shouldn’t discourage us,” Obama said. “It should challenge us.”

He supported his statement by encouraging Americans to “out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.”

Obama wants America to invest in biomedical research, information technology and especially clean energy technology.

He plans to cut the billions in taxpayer dollars that Americans currently give to oil companies. Instead, he said, we should use the money to invest in biofuels and break our dependence on oil.

Obama’s significant energy goals include being the first country to have one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015 and, by 2035, have 80 percent of America’s electricity come from clean energy sources.

In regards to education, Obama called for strengthening children’s home environments to “instill the love of learning in a child.”

Obama expressed his support for Race to the Top, a “law more flexible and focused on what is best for our kids.”

Obama also asked Congress to make permanent the tuition tax credit, worth $10,000 for four years of college.

His hope is that, by the end of the decade, the U.S. will again have the highest percentage of college graduates in the world.

As for illegal immigrants and the DREAM Act, Obama says we should “stop expelling talented, responsible young people who can staff our research labs, start new businesses and further enrich this nation.”

The president voiced his plans to renovate America’s infrastructure and, by doing so, create more jobs.

“Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail,” he said.

Obama pled to both Republicans and Democrats to lower the corporate tax rate, simplify the individual tax code, and he said he will give Americans access to track how their tax dollars are spent.

Obama set a goal of doubling American exports by 2014 to help businesses sell more products abroad.

One of the more radical moves Obama made in his address was to propose a freeze on annual domestic spending for the next five years, including cuts to military spending, community action programs, Medicare and Medicaid.

He also acknowledged a need for America to transcend to a new level of engagement in its foreign affairs.

Obama spoke of forging new, stronger alliances with countries like South Korea, Russia, Brazil, Chile, El Salvador and Sudan.

However, junior Alex Green, a biology and international relations major, was disappointed the president did not address specific issues such as “negotiation with Iran about the nuclear issue, U.S. stance on the Sudan issue, relations with the new administration in Lebanon.”

He said that the U.S. would begin to bring troops home from Afghanistan in July.

Addressing terrorism on the same plane, Obama’s message to al Qaeda was “we will not relent, we will not waver and we will defeat you.”

In closing, Obama stressed the importance of our democracy as outlined by the Constitution and the “American Dream,” of rising from rags to riches through ambition and ingenuity.

Other OU students were pleased with the president’s ambitions.

“I like the fact that he talked about reallocating the funds from the oil companies to clean energy initiatives for future jobs,” said freshman George Wilson, a studio art major.

Junior Mike Gazdik, treasurer of the OU College of Democrats and a political science major, also liked Obama’s green initiatives.

“I think the biggest thing that we can do for our local economy and the environment would be to achieve the goal of having one million electric cars on the road by 2015,” he said.

Gazdik also liked the idea of Democrats and Republicans sitting together.

“We need to show that, through everything that happened in Arizona and despite our differences, we are still a nation of people with similar interests and goals,” he said.

Jim Arapostathis, OU alumni and former president of the OU College of Republicans, felt somewhat differently about the seating arrangements in the House gallery.

“For appearances’ sake, I can see the aesthetics of it,” he said.

As for the speech, Arapostathis said he noticed that Obama gave a huge effort to pivot to the center and felt it was a maneuver in response to his party’s midterm losses.

“In principle, his goals seem great, but I doubt his resolve in pursuing such centrist goals because I believe he is truly left-hearted,” Arapostathis said. “I think it’s a political ploy to help himself get re-elected.”