What You Need to Know from the SOTU

Disclaimer: This article does not represent the views of Her Campus FSU.

Last Tuesday, President Barack Obama addressed the State of the Union (SOTU). Speaking on a menagerie of topics ranging from foreign oil to homosexual rights, Obama addressed so many issues that it may be hard to figure out what exactly you need to know from his speech. It’s all relevant, but what information is specifically important for Collegiettes and our generation in general? Never fear, because I am here to answer this for you. I’ve laid out a few ideas that I think you may find relevant to your life.

1. “Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work.”

Can I get an AMEN? I think we can all agree on this one. According to the 2012 U.S. Census Bureau, women earn 77 cents for every 1 dollar that men earn. This means that the median annual income of a woman is nearly $12,000 less than that of a man. Even with all the progress made by women’s rights movements, the wage gap still hasn’t budged since 2007. A more recent Wells Fargo survey suggests that the disparity is even greater in our generation, with the median annual income of the millennial woman being a whopping $16,000 less than that of the millennial man. With Obama’s statement above, we can only hope that Congress will realize that the wage gap is still real and that gender equality is an issue that still needs to be addressed.

2. “I am sending Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college to zero.”

Wow! Don’t you wish that you could have gone to community college for free? Jealousy aside, this proposal is relevant to anyone who has a younger sibling who will be graduating from high school soon with plans to get a higher education. This idea has already been tested in Tennessee and Chicago, IL, showing that it IS possible. With this proposal, Obama is urging Congress to help students who want to get a higher education avoid the trouble of student loans, a burden I’m positive many of us Collegiettes are familiar with. On that note, Obama also said that he wants to “work with Congress to make sure Americans already burdened with student loans can reduce their monthly payments so that student debt doesn’t derail anyone’s dreams.” It’s certainly a start.

3. “We condemn the persecution of … people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.”

This may seem obvious to many of us, but there must be a reason why the President felt the need to include it in his speech. Mr. Obama made history on Tuesday night when he became the first President to ever utter the words lesbian, bisexual, and transgender in a SOTU speech. Much of his speech was a call to action to Americans for respecting human rights. He states that every woman should have a right to access the health care she needs. He also states that gay marriage is a civil right. In the statement above, he also condemned the persecution of women and religious minorities. As Obama bluntly put it when explaining that men and women should be paid the same for doing the same work, “Really. It’s 2015. It’s time.” And that’s true. With the LGBTQ community expanding in country of diverse religions, races, and so on, we must all learn to accept each other instead of condemning each other’s differences. 

4. “This country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

And this is the idea behind middle class economics, which the President mentioned in his speech six times. The middle class is relevant, even if you don’t consider yourself to be in the middle class, because according to the Wall Street Journal, a vast majority of Americans DO consider themselves to be in the middle class. When Obama applied middle class economics, we experienced the fastest economic growth in over a decade, doubled our stock market, and the lowest rate of health care inflation in over fifty years, to name a few things. To contribute to the fairness outlined in the quote above, we must help people feel more secure in this time of extreme change – especially working families, which is a term that more than likely describes your own family.

Whether or not you agree with the President’s ideals, it’s hard to argue against the goals outlined in the SOTU: equality, access to education, fairness, and security. Looking at the year ahead, these are good goals to keep in mind. Even in your own personal endeavors, this quote from the end of the SOTU is a helpful reminder:

“A brighter future is ours to write. Let’s begin this new chapter together and let’s start the work right now.”