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Column: Obama’s last State of the Union reflected his legacy, not the future of U.S.

Coming upon his final year, President Barack Obama delivered his last State of the Union address Tuesday night. In this one, instead of focusing on new initiatives he is planning, Obama’s speech reminisced over his achievements during the last seven years and talked about his dreams for the future. While it was a great speech on paper, it lacked any meaningful specifics or plans to help achieve those dreams.

Obama talked about these future goals with only vague ideas on how he will be implemented and even fewer ideas on how he himself will implement them. He reminded the public of his legacy, made definite jabs to some Republican politicians and gave a few plans he means to put into motion in the next year.

However, most of the speech simply echoed what we have been hearing during his last seven years in office, plus some added statistics.

The economy is no longer in decline, but the richest of the rich are sitting on half of the country’s wealth. Education is important and we need to make higher education more affordable. Small businesses need more of a voice. People should have equal opportunities when they work hard. While this is all true, how will these changes occur?

Apparently “not overnight,” according to Obama. He uses the same tired buzzwords to highlight the problems we face without telling us how to solve them.

When talking about clean energy, he uses statistics on how solar and wind energy have become cheaper and are creating new jobs. He made a point about our need to change how we manage energy. Again, Obama gave no explanation of how this is to be done.

He played up his accomplishments during his foreign policy discussion, saying that if terrorists want to know that we’re serious about the fight against terrorism, they should “just ask Osama Bin Laden.”

He made broad sweeping remarks which, when looked into, lacked proper substance. For example, he claimed, “The Middle East is going through a transformation that will play out for a generation, rooted in conflicts that date back millennia.”

In fact, the conflicts do not go back millennia and the problems they are facing are not based on more recent politics rather than century-old hatreds.

Another main point of his speech was that we need to reject any politics that target people of a certain race or religion. He talked about what a huge problem this is for the country and even went on to make a jab about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

“When politicians insult Muslims, … that doesn’t make us safer,” Obama said.

How do we fix this? Does he expect everyone to look to the Constitution to solve their prejudices? Will politicians like Trump who are doing well in the polls stop insulting Muslims because it is not what makes America strong?

A severely surprising exclusion from Obama’s address was the issue of gun control. Gun control has been a huge issue during Obama’s presidency, as he has consistently addressed it and tried to take action again and again to combat gun violence.

In the State of the Union, however, the issue of gun violence was mentioned exactly once and not even in relation to gun control laws. Perhaps he chose to exclude this because he does not have positive statistics to show that he has made a difference in decreasing gun violence.

Was his speech just about his legacy, not necessarily the most important issues?

This State of the Union address seemed like a list of goals that Obama would like to see the country achieve but he is passing the job off, no longer taking responsibility. It needs to be done and someone should do it, but it isn’t going to be him.


Follow Apoorva Bhaskara on Twitter.


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