State Of The Union Youth Response: 'Obama, Keep Your Promises'

Two teen participants in the Junior States of America (JSA), a student-run political organization for high school students, sounded off on Obama's State of the Union Address.

Shawn Rusterholz

Senior at Freehold Township High School in Freehold, New Jersey, and JSA's operations manager along the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S.

Barack Obama’s State of the Union address last night was not given by President Obama, but instead candidate Obama. In an excellently crafted speech, Mr. Obama did not provide a call to action for the people of the United States to stand up and demand change within their system of government, but simply to support the Democratic ticket come November.

For three years, President Obama has been in office. Why the inspiring speech now? Why after three years of a do-nothing administration (which enjoyed a two-year control of Congress) does Mr. Obama expect for everything to change all of a sudden? Better yet, why does it seem he only wants to try now? The answer is quite obvious –- his contract is up in November, and he wants the American people to renew it.

In the address, the president referred to having to “fight obstruction with action.” After three years of failing to do so, after three years of allowing the infamous “do-nothing” Congress to pass a record low of bills into law, President Obama has proved that he is not a leader. President Obama has yet to show the American people that he is willing to fight for them. Instead, he has stepped back and simply criticized the inaction, rather than fighting to bring the country and its political system together.

The president spent a long time discussing the future of energy and resources in this country, namely the importance of capitalizing on the country’s own resources, in the road to energy independence, as well as renewable resources. However, the president failed to mention the Keystone project -- the same Keystone project that had received bipartisan support in Congress, would have created 20,000 jobs fairly quickly, and would have put the country on track to energy independence. This is the same Keystone project that Mr. Obama had vetoed, in favor of the special interests. Mr. Obama missed an important opportunity to put the United States on the right track, but he failed to act, instead sticking to partisanship and regression, a constant trend of the past three years.

The president should still be commended on his remarks about securing the future of education in the United States by tackling post-secondary education. President Obama not only touched on how the costs of the traditional four-year college should be limited, but most importantly, he discussed how in the realm of post-secondary education, it is not only four-year colleges that should take the spotlight. Too many young Americans graduate college only to return home with student loans pilling up and no job opportunities. This is greatly due to the state of the economy, but also because of the fact that traditional college is over-stressed in the American education system –- essentially, too many individuals are spending tens of thousands of dollars on a college education when it will not help them. The President’s call for community colleges to receive an upgrade and become relevant in the American economy will lead to a better-trained workforce for a one day more productive and prosperous economy moving forward.

Additionally, President Obama brought up his support for the STOCK Act, which would limit insider trading by members of Congress and has been slowly dying in Congress over the recent weeks. This piece of legislation is one of the first important steps to getting the money out of Washington and getting the special interests out of the American political system. If there was one point mentioned in Mr. Obama’s speech last night that all Americans should agree on, it is this issue.

Overall, stepping away from this year’s State of the Union address, there is one thing that the American people most importantly must hold the president to. Mr. Obama pledged to “fight obstruction with action,” and three years after taking office, it is time for him to do so -- to work with Congress, ensure that progress is made, and to prove that government can in fact be effective. After three years of waiting, late is still better than never. Mr. Obama, listen to the American people -– keep your promises.

Julianna Joss

Junior at the Orange County High School of the Arts in Santa Ana, California and Southern Empire Region Mayor in the Junior State of America.

As President Obama delivered his 2012 State of the Union, I sat with my eyes locked to the television screen, attempting to absorb every word. Sadly, not many of my fellow teenagers spent their Tuesday evenings in this way, failing to see the connection between the current state of events and their daily lives. The workings of everyday politics may seem overly complex and irrelevant to this nation’s youth. However, in listening to President Obama address the nation, I realized that the current state is in critical condition for all of our respective futures. As a 16-year-old high school student, there is nothing more daunting than entering adulthood in a nation saddled with overwhelming debt, double-digit unemployment, and a governmental system that is simply broken.

We are programmed to believe that with hard work and a solid education, we will all become successful, contributing members of society. However, in the current state of affairs, is it still possible to live idealistically and believe that our country will aid us in achieving our long-term goals?

The truth is that our needs will not be served unless the nation’s government undergoes a fundamental change. I was pleased to hear President Obama directly and openly acknowledge the faults and flaws under the current system. He pointed out how both parties are firmly locked into their own respective ideologies, inhibiting our country from moving forward and solving its problems. While President Obama has not always demonstrated the most definitive and commanding leadership, I was heartened to hear him encourage our legislators to meet in the middle. Ultimately the needs of our generation cannot even be properly addressed unless the nation’s leaders are able to view past their partisan blindfolds and look toward solving the issues at hand.

As a student, I see the value in advancing education, raising standards, and bettering our teachers. As a future college student, I do not want to see the interests on student loans doubling or college tuition skyrocketing. As an upcoming contributor to the American workforce, I do not want to frantically search for a job or struggle to support myself. Obama explicitly addressed each of these issues in his speech. However, until the legislators find middle ground and move forward, progress toward fixing issues most pertinent to my fellow teenagers and I will be inhibited. Behind the optimistic political rhetoric of our president there lies a daunting necessity for action. Politicians, I encourage you to release yourselves from the handcuffs of party politics, to reach across the aisle, and collectively address the needs of the country with bipartisan cooperation. It is time to ease the partisan tensions in order to focus on the issues that affect our youth: reducing the national debt, improving education, and creating jobs. To the youth of the United States, it is time to wake up from your apolitical slumber and take to heart the president’s call to action of solving our problems as Americans, not as political ideologues. While the president can plea for this reform to an audience of millions, the paradigm shift ultimately begins with us.