President Obama’s final state of the union address Tuesday night has been widely regarded as unconventional. Experts say past presidents have offered a standard formula consisting of a proclamation of a “strong” state of the union followed by accomplishments of the presidency, daunting domestic policy objectives and finally, calls for action.
President Obama, however, reiterated concepts reminiscent of his journey into office. He called for generalized change rather than specific policy objectives. His “call to action” was not directed at the Republican Congress, which would be unlikely to heed his policies by the end of the term, but rather to America as a whole, and it is important that millennials especially pay attention.
This State of the Union address was significant to our generation because we have grown into young adulthood with the Obama presidency. Millennials were barely old enough for college when Obama first became president, and his second term was the first election that many of us could legally vote in. As time has passed since 2008, millennials have established a political identity, and policy objectives valued by the younger generation have solidified. Now, as many young adults continue their journey through college and into the working world, we can now more than ever feel the urgency in the need for change and share the responsibility by participating in the upcoming elections.
Obama ended his speech with a poetic plea for cooperation in democracy. He said, “The future we want — opportunity and security for our families, a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids — all that is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together. It will
only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates.”
He continued, adding his commitment to continue to push for change: “But I can’t do these things on my own. Changes in our political process — in not just who gets elected but how they get elected — that will only happen when the American people demand it. It will depend on you.”
This push to take responsibility is more relevant than ever to millennials. We are entering a world of change and consequently we will have to live with the decisions of the future face of Washington.
This is why it is so important to take to heart the message of change in this speech and engage as active members of the political process. This could mean simply becoming more informed, practicing better judgment when reading about candidates online or taking the time to understand domestic and foreign policy issues and how they relate to fellow Americans around us.
Obama finished his State of the Union by revealing the nation’s status as “strong.” It seemed like a strategic move to wait until the end, signifying that although we have come a long way, there is still a great need for change moving forward.