Obama’s last address inspires hope

Shannon Stroud,
Editor-in-Chief

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Last night, the world watched as President Barack Obama delivered his final State of the Union address.

Throughout every politician’s career promises are made, lines are drawn, stances are taken, opinions waver and those promises, intentional or not, are broken. When Obama first ran for office in 2009, his political campaign inspired hope and now in 2016, his final speech did the same: inspired hope and change in American citizens.

The State of the Union was a much-needed break from the presidential race. As candidates like Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, and Jeb Bush campaign, as a voter, all I hear left and right are the things that are wrong with the country I live in. As I listened to Obama’s speech it was a positive reminder that yes our country has its issues, but there has also been a lot of progress since our previous president.

These are the five points that I took away from his speech.

1.  Guantanamo Bay is really expensive

“I will keep working to shut down the prison at Guantanamo. It is expensive. It is unnecessary. And it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies. There’s a better way,” Obama said in his speech. According to a report by former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the detention at Guantanamo costs roughly $397 million a year. According to that report, this includes money spent on maintenance, personnel, contracted work, military commission and Department of Defense funded studies. In 2014, there were 155 people detained, that means roughly 2.6 million dollars is spent on each detainee, according to an article by PolitiFact. $397 million dollars, that’s thousands of students’ tuition — shut it down![mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#878787″]“But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice.”[/mks_pullquote]

2. Obama is all for peace between the parties

Obama wants everyone to get along. Polarity between the Republican and Democratic parties act as distractions from the issues at hand and have stifled progress instead of aided in their resolution. “Too many Americans feel that way right now. It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency — that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better,” said President Obama. He expressed that he understands that regardless of peace between the parties there will still always be disagreements. He stated that we are a country of different beliefs, attitudes and interests, and at the end of the day there will be arguments. “But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice.”

3. He loves students

In January 2015, Obama proposed that two years of community college be free for all responsible students; in his speech he stated that he would continue to fight for that this year. Throughout my college career, I’ve worked multiple jobs and was able to graduate debt free, but it took 6 years to graduate. There are thousands of students who can’t afford college or refuse to go to school because they don’t want to make it out of college only to drown in a sea of loans.[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#491413″]“And we have to make college affordable for every American. ”[/mks_pullquote]

Obama said, “And we have to make college affordable for every American. No hardworking student should be stuck in the red.” If Obama wants to pay for school, then by all means, higher education for all!

4. He believes in the American people

At the end of his speech Obama reminded us why he loves America. Throughout the speech he stated that America is the most powerful country in the world, he also stated that we had one of the strongest economies in the world, but that’s not why he loves America. Obama loves the American people. He concluded, “That’s the America I know. That’s the country we love. Clear-eyed. Big-hearted. Undaunted by challenge. Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future. I believe in change because I believe in you, the American people.”

5. America loves the first lady’s outfits

No matter what Obama said, the world only seemed to care what his wife was wearing. Despite the fact that this was Obama’s last address to the nation as president, social media timelines blew up about Michelle Obama’s marigold dress. The dress was created by Narciso Rodriguez, a gay man whose parents fled from Cuba to find a better life in the U.S., according to an article by the Washington Post. Social media blew up with how beautiful the First Lady looked that night, just reminding us that whatever President Obama says, the world will always love Michelle.[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#0f2756″]”I believe in change because I believe in you, the American people.”[/mks_pullquote]

Obama’s address felt like a pep rally. As he finished, I felt inspired by his words but it also made me want more. I want more for myself, I want more for students, I want more for victims of gun violence, I want more for this country. Obama may not have had the opportunity to implement all his hopes during his time as president but I hope that whomever takes on the next term will continue the work he has started.