On Tuesday, President Obama will deliver his fifth State of the Union address before Congress. This is arguably the most important speech a president is tasked with giving. It is a time when the president lays out his future agenda and hopes to persuade Congress, and the American people, to come aboard his plan.
This speech will most likely embody the ideas of Obama’s presidency. During his past four State of the Unions he had a failing economy or an upcoming election to worry about. This one comes with an approval rating at 52% and is far enough removed from the end of his presidency where he can say what he is truly thinking. While he will likely address the middle class, the economy, and jobs he may also address gun control and immigration reform. Two issues that have been hot button issues and require bi-partisan efforts on the Hill in order for them to pass.
To further understand why Tuesday’s State of the Union is such a special opportunity we wanted to take a look back at his previous addresses.
2009 State of the Union
What Obama Said: “While our economy may be weekend and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.”
“We are a nation that has seen promise amid peril and claimed opportunity from ordeal. Now we must be that nation again.
The message: We saw optimism as President Obama delivered his first State of the Union. Right of the bat, he needed to defend the $700 billion bank bailout. We were a nation shaken by the worst economic crisis in American history and needed a leader. President Obama had just been elected to issue change to the country and that was what he was prepared to do. He discussed his proposals for how we should deal with the economic issues and reminded us all of where the country has just been.
2010 State of the Union
What Obama Said: “As we stabilized the financial system, we also took steps to get our economy growing again, save as many jobs as possible, and help Americans who had become unemployed.”
“I campaigned on the promise of change ’change we can believe in,’ the slogan went. And right now, I know there are many Americans who aren’t sure if they still believe we can change–or at least, that I can deliver it… But remember this–I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I can do it alone.”
The message: Obama drove home a message of unfinished business. He acknowledged mistakes during his first year and tried to re-assure the American people that his plan was the right way to go. He called on Congress to take another look at the health care reform, as that was a big point of contention during his first year of presidency. He also had to address the “elephant in the room” about the national debt. An ABC News/Washington Post poll at the time found that 56% of Americans were not happy with the way President Obama was handling the federal budget.
2011 State of the Union
What Obama Said: ”This is our generation’s Sputnik moment…a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the space race.”
The message: President Obama’s State of the Union was pointed right at a newly divided government. As the GOP had just swept through all levels of government during the 2010 elections, Obama wanted both sides to rally behind his economic vision together as one and not as two separate parties. He was focused on innovation and reforms that he believed were vital to keeping the United States a global leader. This State of the Union was certainly one of bi-partisanship as it was immediately after then Rep. Gabby Giffords was shot in the head and Republicans and Democrats sat together in a show of support. Thus, the president was using this unity to his advantage but it was clear throughout the speech that the Democrats and Republicans each supported different points and were not as unified as we all wanted to hope.
2012 State of the Union
What Obama Said: “There are plenty of ways to get this done… so lets agree right here, right now: No side issues. No drama Pass the payroll tax cut without delay.”
“You can call this class warfare all you want… but asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense.”
The message: With the president on the campaign trail his message was one for re-election. He touched upon issues that he planned on focusing on during his campaign like taxes, economy, manufacturing, energy and keeping the American dream alive. As Steve Kornacki pointed out in a Salon article: Obama’s 99% Speech “his central message stressed a sharp and basic philosophical contrast with his partisan opponents – one he clearly plans to make the centerpiece of his reelection effort.” That is the income inequality and tax fairness fight where President Obama wanted to showcase how the GOP is a super affluent community that has grown even wealthier as the rest of America has struggled. Kornacki continued to say, “he’s embracing the idea that there is fundamental philosophical divide between the parties on the most important economic questions facing the country.”
As we can see every time the State of the Union is a rare opportunity for President Obama to capture the nation’s attention. Therefore, with him not having anything holding him back he should be able to use it to his advantage and address all the issues that he wants to discuss. Senator Marco Rubio will be delivering the counter remarks to President Obama State of the Union.