As members of both political parties and other governmental officials convened on Capitol Hill, campus political groups clustered in the Lerner Piano Lounge to watch President Barack Obama, CC ’83, deliver the first State of the Union address of his second term.
Roughly 70 people attended the event, including many members of the Columbia University College Republicans, Columbia Democrats, Roosevelt Institute, and Columbia Political Review.
Isaac Johnson, CC ’14, said he felt that the speech, which opened with a quote from Kennedy, was spectacular.
“I thought of all his State of the Unions, he appealed most to emotion in this one, and had the most personalized stories in his speech,” Johnson said.
Janine Balekdjian, CC ’13 and Dems president, said she also appreciated the president’s nuanced approach, as well as his constancy.
“I really appreciated his smaller policy remedies that he proposed,” she said. “I really liked his focus on drawing down in Afghanistan and changing our role there—that is something he’s kept on his
Swara Salih, CC ’14 and Dems webmaster, said that the speech was the president’s “most brilliant yet because he took such an integrated approach on so many issues.”
While Obama surveyed many issues, including gun control, economic growth, and education reform, Salih said he was most surprised by the president’s extended discussion of climate change.
“Al Gore must be so happy right now,” Salih said. “I’m happy right now because I love environmental policy.”
However, Salih found subsequent discussion surrounding Syria unsatisfying.
“Just mentioning the same tactic again and again, putting pressure on Assad, without mentioning any plan is not a good tactic,” Salih said. “Thousands are dying, we need a more coherent approach to Syria.”
Malcolm Ray, GS ’13, said that he found Obama’s discussions of military policy similarly murky.
“I thought he was a little vague on the drone policy. He hasn’t been as forthcoming with Congress and the American people as he said he has been in his speech,” Ray said.
However, as Obama addressed various gender inequalities, Balekdjian said she found Congress more blameworthy regarding women’s rights.
“I’m a feminist and a women’s rights advocate, so I really appreciated his support for the Violence Against Women Act, which it is shameful that Congress has let lapse, and also the Paycheck Fairness Act,” she said.
John Kenney, CC ’13 and public relations director for CUCR, said he “appreciated President Obama’s call as to our shared characteristics as citizens.”
“I think one of the problems of politics is when there’s an us-versus-them mentality, and so I really like that he called out that we are all citizens of the same nation,” Kenney said.
The president concluded his speech with the declaration that “we were never sent here to be perfect; we were sent here to make what difference we can,” pushing for Congress to enact bipartisan reforms on issues that have remained unsolved.