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Obama pushes broad liberal agenda in speech

In his State of the Union address, the president discussed a goal to promote low tuition rates

President Obama stressed the importance of preparing students to meet the new demands of globalized markets to alleviate the nation’s persistent economic problems in his annual State of the Union address Tuesday night.

The president also urged legislators to unite and reform policy on gun control, immigration and social services, calling for bipartisan compromise in the 113th Congress.

“To grow our middle class, our citizens must have access to the education and training that today’s jobs require,” Obama said, proposing that Congress incentivize the nation’s institutions of higher education to keep tuition rates low by reforming the Higher Education Act. Colleges with greater “affordability and value” should receive the most federal aid, he added.

The U.S. education system needs to prepare students better to contribute to the engineering and technology industries, Obama said. To achieve this, Congress needs to incentivize these industries to bolster growth and interest across the country, he added.

Outlining goals for his second term, Obama focused on elevating the American middle class in particular through economic policies aimed at strengthening the nation’s manufacturing, technology and research industries.

“The agenda that he laid out was much more ambitious than I was hoping for,” said Taylor Daily ’13, former president of Brown Students for Obama. “This is the kind of agenda I was dreaming would happen.”

“It’s not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth,” Obama said.

Justin Braga ’16, a member of the Brown Republicans, said he appreciated the president’s remarks about extending opportunities for the middle class but said he was disappointed by what he called a lack of specificity in many proposals, adding that there is a “dichotomy between what the president says and how he acts.”

“I’m glad he’s talking about the middle class,” Braga said. “I just think that it’s enough of talking. … We need to start acting on these things.”

Braga said the president’s proposals for education reform were a good sign, but, “as a conservative,” he believes education is best regulated at the state level.

“States have the capacity to address the needs of the people closest to them,” he said.

The Brown Democrats hosted a screening of the speech in Metcalf Auditorium. Many students at the screening were excited to hear Obama’s endorsement of equality for gay and lesbian members serving in the nation’s armed forces.

“I was particularly moved by the president’s mention of personal stories of people affected by gun violence,” said Sofia Fernandez Gold ’14, president of the Brown Democrats. “He did a good job of highlighting gun control legislation and the importance of passing it right now.”

She added that it was difficult to hear the president urge legislators toward bipartisanship, given how polarized Congress remains.

Obama implored legislators to vote on gun control legislation — regardless of their position on the issue — to pay respect to gun violence victims across the country. The president paid homage to the victims of the Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo., shootings, adding that his agenda will be completely ineffectual unless Congress moves “to protect our most precious resource — our children.”

“In the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun,” Obama said.

“This country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations,” he said. “It remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter in our American story.”



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