Did the president state the"state" of the union? In a word, yes. But did he please the union? Two words: yes and no. Depends on which side--er, who you were sitting next to.
I was always taught that the best negotiation is when two parties leave the room getting most of what they want and leaving something behind. Both win; both have to give in, compromise.
I believe this is what the president was asking of Congress and of our nation. In my opinion, the president was presenting an honest message, incorporating unity. Many congressional members felt that the tone of the address, along with the response, was changed by the seating chart changes. To quote Megyn Kelly, it was the "date of the union." And definitely unity. I don't believe I have ever witnessed a president give credit to both Democrats and Republicans, and on more than one occasion. The president noted that the American people desire and expect Congress to work together to get things done. This is true. These are things we know, but did it fall on deaf ears? Can Congress work together for the best interest of the American people rather than their political careers? [Take the U.S. News poll: Was Obama's State of the Union Speech a Success?]
I was at the State of the Union, and afterward, in the great hall of statues of leaders past, congressional members left and right were happy, and yet they were not. Perhaps the president went too far, pleasing too many? Perhaps the president played it, dare I say, too safe?
He addressed education, as we knew he would. I love how he tied education to jobs and our own economy. When you connect the dots between education and the priority of education in countries such as China and India, you can't help but think: Hey, that makes sense. When we turn over items we buy for less, they say "Made in China" or "Made in India." If you rent a DVD nowadays, most likely the graphics were created by some IT grad in Bangalore, India. Those countries get it. Education is truly an investment in the future of a nation. As the president said, South Korea refers to teachers as "nation builders." And of course the president asked us to step up to the challenge, to raise the bar, to do more, and to do it better. But how can we? With a divided Congress and the right believing education should be financed on a state level and not a federal level (how the heck are Pell Grants going to be distributed on a state level!?!?), it is the number one target on both state and federal levels every time budgets and line items get cut. Education is their bull's-eye. Forget that there is a direct correlation between crime and a lack of education. (Check out how many inmates dropped out of school)
Yes, he addressed healthcare and stood firm on his position that no one should be denied health insurance due to a pre-existing condition, something I wholeheartedly agree with. And Republicans know it would be political suicide to take away from sick children or adults who have coverage and a pre-existing condition. But he also admitted that if something needs fixing with healthcare reform, he's open to fixing it; just don't scrap it and start over; it's a waste of time, a waste of money. Amen. [Read a brief history of the State of the Union addresses.]
And just like Madonna keeps reinventing herself (quite successfully I might add), so too shall America. Or at least it must if it wants to survive in the global economy, with the viral world reaping the benefits of its online universe.
And the crowd roars. Congress stands and applauds, until... until the suggestion to pay big oil less is proposed, or until the president suggests that we "not just pour money into a system that isn't working," talking about replacing the No Child Left Behind bill with better legislation like the "Race to the Top." And when illegal immigration is put out there as an issue that needs to be addressed, there is agreement in the chamber: but how? Well, we all know how the right feels about the Dream Act. Doesn't the president have a point? Why do we allow someone to come here for an education to go to their home country to be our competitor!!!?
And then the crowd roars again—lower the corporate tax rate without adding to the deficit? How, Mr. President? You Congress, that's your job; you figure it out. [See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.]
The president said something that I believe the right longed to hear, that the government spends more than it takes in. And that is how we have been living, America. That is what got us in and kept us in trouble. So the president proposed a spending freeze, and then, well, he went too far—Democrats don't want all spending frozen, and Republicans want spending cut.
The president's speech tonight proved that you can't please all of the people all of the time, but you can please some of the people some of the time. Perhaps. And time—which is all we can all agree we've got for now, America—time will certainly tell.