Student Political Union discusses State of the Union address


John Wilhelm

Student Political Union (SPU) members (from left) freshman Raffi Toghramadjian, freshman Ellis Tomlinson, freshman Liam McVea, sophomore George Stiffman, senior Connor Allen, sophomore Will Donaldson, freshman Andrew Michael, junior Zeeshawn Abid, senior Nick Cohen, junior Haris Hussain, Upper School debate teacher Aaron Shuler, senior Bryant Carlson, senior Carter Rients, senior Lowell Naas, junior Shaan Bijwadia, and junior Jordan Hughes regularly discuss controversial and politically divisive topics like the State of the Union address. “This [speech] is the first major thing Obama has done, where he’s departed from his platform of change,” Bijwadia said.

President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address to Congress on Jan. 28—a speech intended to inform the representatives of matters that the President believes are important, or demand immediate action. The speech addressed a myriad of topics, ranging from the financial health of the country, to enacting immigration reform.

“One of the biggest things that came out of the speech was the minimum wage raise for federal workers,” senior Connor Allen said. Obama made the wage raise his first point in the speech, urging for an increase to $10.10 per hour, up from the current $7.25. “It makes it very likely that some form of wage raising will occur,” Allen continued. “I’m a fan of raising the minimum wage.”

Some raised questions as to how feasible a wage raise is. “He said the same thing in 2008, and it didn’t happen,” senior Lowell Naas said. “It probably won’t happen.”

Obama also made a major departure from his previous speeches by heavily referencing his possible of executive order. “Obama cited twelve instances where he was going to use his executive power to get the ball rolling on things, and asked Congress to get behind him on these things,” senior Nick Cohen said. “He’s no longer going to sit around.” The executive order is a provision given to members of the executive branch to help move along operations within the federal government. In some cases, an executive order can function as a law without involvement of the other two branches of government.

“If you look at the way that he said he’d use executive orders, he basically said ‘if you get nothing done, I will do something,’” junior Asad Masood said. “He’s telling Congress that stopping all progress isn’t going to make things happen, and if they want something done the way they want it done, then they should start working together.”

For many, the speech raised more questions about what Obama has accomplished within his two terms. “This [speech] is the first major thing Obama has done, where he’s departed from his platform of change,” junior Shaan Bijwadia said. “When ran in 2008, when he ran two years ago, everything was about change. But it feels like at this point, he’s saying ‘nothing’s changed.’ It feels like Obama has realized that there’s nothing he can do.”

For others, the speech evoked mixed feelings. “I was impressed with the clear-cut policies, and the real changes that he provided. It wasn’t all general,” sophomore Will Donaldson said. “But I was unimpressed with some of the ideas he proposed that seemed contradictory to one another.”

Overall, Obama put forth a multitude of ideas, that were taken with astoundingly mixed feelings between, and along party lines. “My biggest question that came off the speech [is],” sophomore Shaymus O’Brien said, “If Obama is going to take the bull by the horns, why did it take him so long to do it?”