7 Best Moments at the 2013 State of the Union

His tribute to gun-violence victims and the Desilene Victor shout-out made our list.

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Getty Images

(The Root) — If you missed the State of the Union address, not to worry. We pulled out the most important moments from the 6,443-word speech. Below are the highlights. 

1. His Call to Action on Climate Change

Though the president has referenced climate change sparingly in the past, in his most recent State of the Union he devoted minutes to laying out the case for why it will be one of his priority issues in his second term. The passion he displayed in doing so, particularly while referring to disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, gave hope to progressives and all Americans that this is not just an issue he is planning to pay lip service to, but one he intends to make a key part of his legacy.

2. Declaring Preschool a Human Right, Not Just a Privilege

When the president said he wanted to “make high-quality preschool available to every child in America,” it was probably the most profound commitment he made to ending poverty in this country in his speech. Battling America’s dropout rate, as well as its sky-high incarceration rate, doesn’t begin during the high school years but long before.

Funding more preschools will ensure that we fund fewer prisons in the years to come. The president acknowledged this reality, saying, “And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives … Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than $7 later on — by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.” In doing so, he forced Congress to confront this reality, too.

3. Holding Colleges Accountable

A great deal has been written about how to address America’s growing student loan crisis. While the president has accomplished more on this issue than just about any other, truly solving the crisis requires holding colleges accountable in a meaningful way.

The president committed to doing so in his speech. By releasing a White House scorecard to help families deduce which academic institutions are the most cost-efficient — a new initiative that he announced in his speech — he may ultimately do more to drive down the cost of college than any piece of legislation could. Sometimes shame can be a more effective incentive to do the right thing than the law.