What President Obama's State of the Union Said about Your Priorities

President Obama in the Oval Office/ White House photo

President Obama’s State of the Union address last night was, by one particular metric, quite strong. Yesterday we published your priorities for the State of the Union – what you told us, by social media and e-mail, that you wanted the president to tackle in his speech. And by and large, President Obama listened. (See this list of your priorities here.) Here’s what he said:

Climate Change

  • President Obama stressed that “climate change is a fact” and talked about shifting to cleaner energy and reducing carbon emissions. It’s important to note, however, that his “all-of-the-above” energy policy and emphasis on natural gas have also raised environmental concerns.


  • Education figured prominently in his speech, most notably with his continued call for universal pre-kindergarten education – an initiative that has been stymied by unwillingness in Congress to fund such a program. He also emphasized his efforts to make college more affordable.

Unemployment Benefits

  • He stated his strong support for extending unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed – something Congress has been unable to agree on.

Minimum Wage

  • He said we must raise the minimum wage – “Give America a raise!” he shouted. Since he can’t do that without Congress, he said he’ll use executive action to raise the minimum rate for federal contract workers to $10.10 per hour, which will affect hundreds of thousands of workers.

Social Security and Retirement

  • He talked little about Social Security, but he did propose a new retirement savings program called MyRA that he can implement with executive action.

Tax Breaks

  • He said numerous times that tax breaks must be reformed – because they encourage companies to move jobs overseas, support fossil fuels, and because many are simply giveaways to the wealthy.

War Funding

  • He did not admit that this year’s war budget was $5 billion higher than the Pentagon even asked for, but he did acknowledge that we must shift from our current state of indefinite war.

What He Didn't Say

  • He failed to address Citizens United and money in politics, or the Trans Pacific Partnership. He failed to discuss data transparency. On that other issue of transparency – surveillance – he said he’ll work with Congress toward “reform.”

For many, the most objectionable part of his speech was his emphasis on taking executive action instead of working with Congress, gridlocked though it may be. What's clear is that making significant headway on any of our major national challenges – whether strengthening Social Security, dealing with climate change, or enacting immigration reform – requires action from Congress. 

What did you think of the president's speech? Leave your thoughts at facebook.com/nationalpriorities.