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7 Best Moments at the 2013 State of the Union

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(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.

4. Calling Out the GOP on Women

If the GOP thought that the "war on women" narrative that the president and other Democrats used to win in 2012 would be retired now that controversial Republicans such as Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock (aka the GOP Senate candidates who couldn't shut up about rape) were out of the way, the party was sorely mistaken. When the president urged the House to follow the Senate's lead and pass the Violence Against Women Act, it's possible that he landed the first attack of the 2016 presidential campaign. The reason? Because likely GOP 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida voted against the VAWA, a move that pundits have spent much of today speculating will haunt him with women on the campaign trail. That haunting apparently began just after the State of the Union — Rubio was delivering the official GOP response.


The president also used his address to advocate for pay equity for women, saying, "I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a living equal to their efforts, and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year." That sounds hard to disagree with, but the president likely expects that some Republicans will, and he called them out in his speech.

5. Asking Fathers to Step Up

When the president said, "What makes you a man is not the ability to conceive a child but the courage to raise one," it was one of the most honest, most powerful, least partisan moments of his entire speech. After all, who could dare disagree with that?


6. Paying Tribute to Hadiya, Gabby Giffords, Newtown, Aurora and Others

When the president began calling out the names of victims of gun violence, from Hadiya Pendleton's family to former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and solemnly proclaimed over and over, "They deserve a vote [on the issue of gun control]," there were few dry eyes in the house. It is hard to fathom that gun control won't at least get a vote — and some traction — after seeing the powerful bipartisan response.


7. Giving Props to Desilene Victor

President Obama may have had the microphone, but Florida's Desilene Victor stole the show. When the president introduced Americans to Victor, who was sitting in the audience, he made the case for comprehensive voter reform more effectively than he ever could have on his own. He recounted her story of waiting hours to vote on Election Day, despite being 102 years old.


They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and the picture of a black woman — born long before many black Americans enjoyed the right to vote in the South — still struggling to do so in the age of a black president shamed America and will hopefully move it to action.

Keli Goff is The Root’s special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter

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