If one thing can be taken away from the spectacle that was the State of the Union address – aside from Marco Rubio’s water lunge, of course – it was President Obama’s plea for a vote on gun reform legislation. They deserve a vote! became the theme of what was, otherwise, an entirely underwhelming speech. Throughout the 6,500-ish word oratory, President Obama announced a number of new policy initiatives – some we’ve already heard about, and some we haven’t. He talked about Afghanistan and al Qaeda and guns and immigration reform, and he sang the usual cliches of us being the “greatest nation on Earth,” and our military the best “in the world.” But he also proposed a number of new initiatives that would help address inequality – of opportunity and of outcome – election reform, government transparency, cyber security, climate change, and gay rights. All of these things sound great – unless, of course, you’re John Boehner – but they’re also, in today’s political climate, very difficult goals to achieve.
As someone who has voted for President Obama, and as someone who has donated to, and volunteered for, his campaigns, I found myself disappointed by the majority of his speech. Maybe it’s because it was written by Cody Keenan instead of Jon Favreau, but it lacked the pathos we usually associate with an Obama speech. They deserve a vote! aside, it seemed to lack inspiration, and I think that’s partly because the administration realizes that many of their proposals and promises will come up/are empty.
We heard President Obama talk about wanting to invest in secondary and higher education – as we have repeatedly over the years – but he’s never made any mention of actually reforming our broken public education system. The man or woman who will have the greatest impact on the trajectory of the American republic in the 21st century (and beyond) will be the man or woman who discovers how to properly quantify and evaluate teacher, and school performance. Yes, we need to make education more affordable, but the way to do that is to increase efficiency – a sort of Moneyball for the Department of Education. I’m all for responsibly increasing our education budget, but that’s also not the solution. We need a true reformation of the public school system more than anything else.
President Obama also made references to American drone attacks overseas – amazingly, without actually saying the word “drone” – promising the American people more transparency: