President Barack Obama delivered one of his final State of the Union addresses on the floor of Congress. He discussed many key issues from the Ebola outbreak to gay rights to bipartisanship in Congress. Here’s a rundown of the biggest points the President made.
1) Environment: The United States should be doing more to fight against climate change.
Obama labeled climate change as one of the greatest threats to future generations. With rising global temperatures, changing how pollution is affecting the Earth is never more important. The President told elected officials to stop shying away from the subject and actually do something about it.
“I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists,” Obama said. “But you know what? I know a lot of really good scientists.”
2) Net neutrality: Cyber security is a top priority for Obama’s administration.
The Sony hack has convinced the President to increase cyber security across the nation. In his speech, Obama promised to keep the internet free and open for everyone. In light of NSA’s monitoring phone calls and the FCC’s upcoming vote on net neutrality, privacy and freedom in this digital age has never been a more important issue.
“No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids,” Obama said.
3) Education: Community college should be free to those who work for it.
The President believes America is falling behind the world in emphasizing education. Making higher education more affordable will help the United States grow as a world leader. A couple weeks before his address, Obama announced his initiative to make the first two years of community college free to every student who needs it. But this program isn’t for free riders. To participate, students need to attend at least half-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA, and make steady progress toward graduation.
“Community college should be as free and as available as high school is today,” Obama said.
4) Economy: Raising the minimum wage will help many Americans.
One of the central points of the speech was supporting the middle class. Obama called for tax cuts on the middle and lower classes and argued in support of raising the minimum wage. He also mentioned closing the gender pay gap. Doing all of these things will give middle and lower class Americans a more equal opportunity in this recovering economy.
“If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it,” Obama said. “If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”
5) Foreign affairs: Obama argued for closer relationships with countries seen as enemies of the United States.
Last month, the President announced that he would work toward renewing relations with Cuba – finally lifting the embargo placed on the country in the 1960s. As a show of good faith, American contractor Alan Gross was released from jail in Cuba. He attended the State of the Union. Obama also urged for a close relationship with Iran and Russia, rather than implementing stand-offish policies.
“In Cuba, we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date,” he said. “Our shift in Cuba policy has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere.”