Five Highlights from the State of the Union Address

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For those of us who gloss guiltlessly over politics news throughout the year, the president’s State of the Union Address offers us a chance to catch up on things. This year, in his sixth address, Obama hit some of his usual rhetoric — reforming education, bolstering the economy – but the speech also took some surprising turns. If you missed the address last night, we’ve picked out a few of Obama’s most important quotes to get you up to speed.

1. “The typical family this year should save $750 at the pump”

The cost to fill your tank dropped steadily over the end of last year, and all of our wallets are grateful for it. Plunging oil prices, fuel-efficient vehicles and a weak hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico are all major factors, but Obama failed to note the one huge elephant in the room: natural gas fracking. Despite heated divisiveness over fracking due to health risks (Cuomo even recently banned it in New York), more and more American companies implemented the technique last year, skyrocketing gas production within our own borders and reducing our reliance on foreign imports.

2. “Our combat mission in Afghanistan is over”

Drink if you’ve heard this one before. Obama has pressed this point since he first entered his term; and while he’s mostly followed through on his word, reducing our troop presence in Iraq and Afghanistan from 180,000 to 15,000 — note his acute phrasing. For reasons attributed vaguely to “counterterrorism operations” and “security measures,” a few thousand troops will occupy Afghanistan for a while longer at least. Unfortunately, as long as we maintain a military presence overseas, whether they’ll be forced to engage in combat isn’t necessarily up to Obama or the soldiers.

3.“Lower the cost of community college – to zero”

Ah, yes. The big proposal. With 40 percent of students nationwide enrolled in community college, this is pretty sensational news. But let’s not forget that Obama has made similar statements about education reform in previous addresses — three out of five addresses, actually — and that many of those proposals never produced anything substantial. So here’s to being hopeful. (I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll catch up to Germany someday.)

4. “Give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise”

America’s job market has come a long way since the last recession, but it’s still far, far from perfect. Obama hopes to rectify as much as he can before he’s booted out of office, and that includes the gaping gender pay gap and the debate on proper wages. Lurking somewhere around Capitol Hill is a proposal to hike the hourly minimum from $7.25 to $10.10. Unsurprisingly, Republicans blocked the bill on its last circuit through the Senate.

5. “Our activities are changing the climate”

Environmentalists around the country knocked over their dinners cheering when Obama flatly laid out his position on the global climate crisis. Among other points, Obama noted that “14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century” – a huge slap in the face for politicians who continue to deny the existence and impact of global warming. Our sustainability efforts might seem meager as individuals – recycle a bottle here, plant a tree seedling there – but backed by the legislative authority of the government, there’s a small chance humanity won’t eradicate itself in the coming decades.

Student, writer, lover of all things weird, gross and scientific. Senior at Penn State studying English and Print Journalism.

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