Highs and Lows of Obama’s State of the Union Speech

Good speech. The president addressed some much-needed issues, but glossed over a few important ones, too.

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U.S. President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 28, 2014, in Washington, D.C.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Tuesday night was State of the Union time again, which meant two things:

President Barack Obama had to pull off the most difficult oratorical balancing act there is for any president: delivering a substantive policy speech that manages to inspire and move Americans.

And it means that we do what we do after every State of the Union address—grade his performance. Here is a list of highs and lows from the president’s speech:

High

Giving voice to “men of color.”

For much of his presidency, Obama has faced criticism from many in the black community, including yours truly, for not more candidly acknowledging the specific problems that plague African Americans, men in particular. Issues like racial profiling and unemployment have disproportionately impacted men of color, but rarely has their story been told by this president, or any president, particularly before a racially diverse national audience. But with the simple words, “And I'm reaching out to some of America's leading foundations and corporations on a new initiative to help more young men of color facing especially tough odds stay on track and reach their full potential,” the president gave voice to the millions of men of color whose voices have previously been silenced and forgotten.

Low

Barely there gun control.

The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left 20 children dead occurred just over one year ago, and in response, in his 2013 State of the Union address, the president made gun control a major focus. Shortly before his speech and right on the heels of the Newtown, Conn., tragedy, was also the shooting death of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton. Her parents attended last year’s State of the Union as guests of first lady Michelle Obama, and the first lady attended Hadiya’s memorial. This year, though, there was only a brief reference to as-yet-undone gun-control legislation. 

High