The yoga class I took just before last night’s State of the Union (SOTU) address wiped me out. I fell asleep immediately afterward. Which is good because I had a chance to think overnight about the parts that resonated most with me.
I’ve been tough on the president in the past, disappointed with his timidity and unwillingness to set a big bold agenda.
The other good thing about writing the day after is that others have fact checked. And the de rigeur liberal critique as well as Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) really awful other-party rebuttal have been duly hashed and rehashed.
With the benefit of reflection, here are my three favorite parts of the speech.
1. SOTU and women: On the domestic front, the president mentioned two hot button pieces of legislation poised to pass if Speaker Boehner (R-BadLoser) ever brings them up for votes:
We know our economy is stronger when our wives, mothers, and daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace, and free from the fear of domestic violence. Today, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act that Joe Biden originally wrote almost 20 years ago. I urge the House to do the same. And I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a living equal to their efforts, and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year.
(This drew a “Huge Yes!” from Pamela Scharf when I posted it on Facebook.)
And on the global front, but equally true at home:
We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all. In many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day. So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades: by connecting more people to the global economy and empowering women; by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve and helping communities to feed, power, and educate themselves; by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths; and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation.
2. SOTU and gun violence: This drew the biggest cheers as Obama did his rhetorical best: build to a revival preacher’s crescendo. And the backdrop of Gabby Giffords and parents of slain children brought everyone but John Boehner (go figure, for once he showed no emotion) to tears.
It has been two months since Newtown. I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different. Overwhelming majorities of Americans – Americans who believe in the 2nd Amendment – have come together around commonsense reform – like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun. Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because they are tired of being outgunned.
Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. If you want to vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote. Because 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.
One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton. She was 15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette. She was so good to her friends, they all thought they were her best friend. Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.
Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote.
Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.
The families of Newtown deserve a vote.
The families of Aurora deserve a vote.
3. SOTU and minimum wage: Did the proposed $9 minimum wage surprise you? It did me.
We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages. But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we’ve put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong. That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, nineteen states have chosen to bump theirs even higher.
Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead. For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets. In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher. So here’s an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year: let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.
4. SOTU and early childhood education: This warmed my former Head Start-teacher heart.
Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their own. So let’s do what works, and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind. Let’s give our kids that chance.
5. The part of SOTU I liked best. Karl Rove (who reminds me of the Riddler because he keeps popping up with his evil grin, every time you think a superhero has finally vanquished him), used a twitter hashtag #notserious to telegraph the Tea Party message of the day. A typical corrosive Rove tweet:
Is it me or is this not one of POTUS’s better efforts? Lackluster response from even Dem’s side. #SOTU
Since you asked, I’ll answer. It’s you, Karl. The president’s speech was not just #serious. It hit a political home run. Now let’s see what action Congress takes, and how hard Obama fights for his agenda.
What do you predict?
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