Addressing the State of the Union

Sienna Jackson / Roundup


Riding a wave of popularity after his emotionally stirring speech in Tucson, President Obama posited a theme of unity and progress in the 2011 State of the Union Address, of “winning the future” in the face of the nation’s many challenges. 

Who can argue against unity? Throughout the president’s address, it was clear that the speech had been carefully crafted to appeal to each side, or at the very least to not ruffle anyone’s feathers. 

By picking and choosing between popular Republican and Democratic platforms and avoiding recent hot topic issues such as gun control, Obama delivered a speech that was all-inclusive, but lacking in conviction. The president was careful to take a centrist stance throughout the speech as he addressed a cautious nation and a Republican majority in the House of Representatives. 

With a focus on the economy, spending and jobs, and with less than a paragraph devoted to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama’s speech offered little substance wrapped in polished rhetoric about American bipartisanship. 

The great bulk of the content of the president’s speech focused on making America more competitive on the global stage through higher standards of education, encouraging American industry and entrepreneurship, and even a quasi New Deal plan for future infrastructure projects such as high speed rail and expanded Internet access. 

This talk of American innovation was bolstered by references to Google and Facebook as following in the legacy of Edison and the Wright brothers, and analogies of small business owners adapting to meet tough economic challenges. 

But the actual meat of how these goals were to be accomplished was lacking from the speech; the means for making the president’s centrist vision a reality were instead only alluded to in an abstract and rhetorically attractive way. 

In the end, supporters and detractors of the president from both sides of the aisle were confronted with positive rhetoric they had no choice but to clap for. Because really, who is going to boo a speech peppered with feel-good phrases like “winning the future”?

In all, the president’s address to the nation was a safe one, which isn’t unexpected: after all, with a Republican majority in the House and a 53 percent approval rating going into the speech, Obama seems to be shooting for the center in preparation for the next election.