Economic opportunity for all Americans was a key theme throughout Obama’s speech.
“Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty,” he said. “Today the federal minimum wage is worth 20 percent less” than during the Reagan years—so it’s time to “give America a raise.”
He also chided Congress for its partisan gridlock, noting that when debate over the size of our government threatens its very ability to function, “we are not doing right by the American people.”
In a recap posted to the Huffington Post, education reporter Joy Resmovits observed that Obama’s speech “ran short on fresh education policy ideas, unlike in previous years.”
“Instead of announcing new initiatives, Obama mostly expanded on proposals he announced during and since last year’s State of the Union address, tying them to his theme of fighting poverty and pushing the country forward despite legislative inaction,” Resmovits wrote.
Educators discussed Obama’s speech live on Twitter using the hashtag #edSOTU. Communications consultant Linda Perlstein (@lindaperlstein) tweeted that “Obama has been using ‘bubble tests’ as a slur since [the] 2008 campaign; would anyone say kids are taking fewer of them since then?”
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten released a statement that read, in part, “By using the first words of his address to honor the dedication of teachers, the president highlighted the importance of educators and our schools in helping our children achieve their dreams. We cannot rest until we fully re-establish the steps on the ladder to opportunity and give working families a shot at the American dream. The president has heard the American people, and we now must heed his call for action.”
Evan Marwell, CEO of EducationSuperHighway, released this statement: “I applaud the president’s historic commitment to equip our students with the technological tools they need to succeed in the 21st century. By modernizing the eRate program, enlisting private-sector commitments, and doubling our investment in school bandwidth, we will multiply opportunities for children, helping to ensure that the 40 million K-12 students who today lack adequate speeds have an equal chance to succeed in today’s knowledge economy.”
Republicans also have also picked up the theme of economic opportunity in recent months, though they have cast the widening gap between the rich and poor as a symptom of Obama’s economic policies.
“Republicans have plans to close the gap, plans that focus on jobs first without more spending, government bailouts, and red tape,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., in the Republicans’ televised response to the president’s speech. “We hope the president will join us in a year of real action by empowering people, not making their lives harder with unprecedented spending, higher taxes, and fewer jobs.”
The full text of Obama’s speech is available here.
(Material from the Associated Press contributed to this report.)