“The State of the Union is strong.”

U-News Staff

On Tuesday, President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress to deliver his annual “State of the Union” speech.

The speech focused on the hardships Americans faced, both with the conflict in the Middle East and the 2008 financial collapse. Yet, President Obama also highlighted changes in American society, primarily due to policies initiated by his administration that have also made the country stronger.

“It has been, and still is, a hard time for many. But tonight, we turn the page,” President Obama said.

As with most “State of the Union” addresses, President Obama took the opportunity to present his goals in the coming year, many that are considered non-starters now that Republicans control both houses of Congress. With the economy steadily improving and energy costs at an all-time low, many within the White House felt it reasonable for the President to be provocative in his speech.

“[President Obama] feels better about things,” one top aide said. “He feels like what we’ve been doing is taking hold. That gives him confidence.”

Obama proposed numerous initiatives designed to help low and middle class families, including free community college for all American students and a $3,000 tax credit for families with children. Ultimately, these things would be funded by closing tax loopholes, increasing the capital gains tax, and increasing the tax rate for high-income individuals.

Human rights were a focal point for the President’s speech. History was made with this “State of the Union” address when President Obama was the first ever to mention the words “lesbian,” “bisexual,” and “transgender.” It was also the first time a “State of the Union” address referred to same-sex marriage as a “civil right.”

The president was also not shy in calling out Republicans who have blocked his initiatives in the past. Now that the GOP has control of Congress, President Obama stated that he would not be afraid to use his veto pen should any bills dismantling the Affordable Care Act or rolling back Wall Street regulations appear on his desk.

Republicans criticized the president after the speech, saying that it was another example of how Obama was living in a fantasy world. Responding to the speech afterward, Republican Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa said that the Republican-controlled Congress would ensure that the president’s overreaching policies would be stopped.

“We heard the message you sent in November — loud and clear. And now we’re getting to work to change the direction Washington has been taking our country,” she said.

Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012 and potential candidate for 2016, wrote on Facebook that, “True to form, the president in his State of the Union speech is more interested in politics than in leadership.”

President Obama is expected to bring his 2015 budget to Congress in the next two weeks to outline his new initiatives and detail how they are going to be paid for.