Striving for union

Striving for union

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On Tuesday, President Obama covered a lot of ground in his State of the Union address, from freezing domestic spending for five years, to having a “Sputnik” moment, from getting 80 percent of electricity from clean energy sources by 2035, to lowering the corporate tax rate.

The president opened by congratulating the 112th Congress, and noting the absence of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was shot in the head on Jan. 8. On Wednesday, Giffords was moved from a Houston hospital to continue her recovery.

The Jan. 8 incident, in which six people died, has spurred calls for a more civil discussion and respectful debate.

Certainly, the incident and ensuing discussions were part of the reason that, instead of Democrats and Republicans sitting on different sides of the aisle at the address, they sat interspersed.

Obama noted it in his speech, and referenced that the Congressional balance of power had shifted.

“What comes out of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow.”

His speech certainly contained elements that appealed to everyone — reducing taxes, better education, electric vehicles, cutting spending to reduce the debt, fixing the health-care legislation but not repealing it.

He even reached out to the gay community, following up on last year’s promise to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“Our troops come from every corner of this country — they’re black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American. They are Christian and Hindu, Jewish and Muslim. And, yes, we know that some of them are gay. Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love.”

Obama then went on to call upon colleges to allow military recruiters and ROTC on their campuses, the expulsion of which had spurred lawsuits.

In his speech, the president focused on three major areas: encouraging innovation, improving education and rebuilding American infrastructure.

Among his goals: — Eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars currently given to oil companies. — By 2035, have 80 percent of America’s electricity come from clean-energy sources. — Prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science, engineering, technology and math. — Make a permanent tax-tuition credit of $10,000. — Within 25 years, give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail. — Within five years, deploy high-speed Internet to 98 percent of Americans.

Obama didn’t mention the LGBT community elsewhere in his speech. But he has been quietly making changes. After “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed, the regulations allowing same-sex couples to visit each other in hospitals went into effect. And this week, the Housing and Urban Development agency proposed regulations that would ban discrimination in federally supported housing programs. Even if Obama can’t always get Congress to back him, he has affected positive change for the sexual minorities.

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