By Oswald Brown
WASHINGTON, D.C. — His Excellency Dr. Eugene Newry, Bahamas Ambassador to the United States, was among the 130 recognized foreign ambassadors to the U.S. present for President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address before a joint session of the United States Congress in the House of Representatives chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday night, January 28
Members of the diplomatic corps had dinner at the State Department before being taken by bus to the U.S. Capitol, where they were seated in designated seats on both sides of the chamber.
The State of the Union is an annual address presented by the President of the United States to Congress and the American people, during which he not only reports on the condition of the nation but also outlines his legislative agenda and national priorities to Congress.
In an interview on Wednesday, Ambassador Newry specifically noted the “great attendance” for the event and the many times the President’s speech was interrupted by applause.
Among the significant points addressed by the President were energy, education, foreign policy, health care, immigration, foreign policy and the minimum wage.
“President Obama spoke like a statesman who is looking beyond the next election to the next generation,” Dr. Newry said.
In his speech, President Obama noted that one of the “biggest factors” in bringing jobs back to America “is our commitment to American energy.”
“America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades,” President Obama said. “One of the reasons why is natural gas – if extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change. Businesses plan to invest almost $100 million in new factories that use natural gas.”
Declaring that it is “not just oil and natural gas production that’s booming,” President Obama added, “We’re becoming a global leader in solar, too. Every four minutes, Another American home or business goes solar; every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can’t be outsourced. Let’s continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don’t need it, so that we can invest more in fuels of the future that do.”
On the issue of education, President Obama said research “shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education.”
“Last year, I asked this Congress to help states make high-quality pre-K available to every four-year-old,” the President said. “As a parent as well as a President, I repeat that request tonight. But in the meantime, thirty states have raised pre-K funding on their own. They know we can’t wait. So just as we worked with states to reform our schools this year, we’ll invest in new partnerships with states and communities across the country in a race to the top for our youngest children.”
Addressing the issue of women in the workplace, President Obama noted that women make up about half of the workplace, but “they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.”
“That is wrong, and in 2014 it’s an embarrassment,” President Obama emphasized. “A woman deserves equal pay for equal work. She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship—and you know what, a father does, too. It’s time to do away with workforce policies that belong in a ‘Mad Men’ episode.”
Referring to the federal minimum wage, President Obama noted that it “is worth about 20 percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan first stood here.”
“Tom Harkin and George Miller have a bill to fix that by lifting the minimum wage to $10.10,” the President said. “This will help families. It will give businesses customers with more money to spend. It doesn’t involve any new bureaucratic program. So join the rest of the country. Say yes. Give America a raise.”
Commenting on immigration reform, President Obama said that if “we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders and law enforcement – and fix our broken immigration system.”
“Republican s and Democrats in the Senate have acted,” he said. “I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same. Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. And for good reason: when people come here to fulfill their dreams – to study, invent and contribute to our culture – they make our country a more attractive place for business to locate and create jobs for everyone. So let’s get immigration reform done this year.”
On the foreign policy front, the President said American diplomacy “has rallied more than fifty countries to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the wrong hands, and allowed us to reduce our own reliance on Cold War stockpiles.”
“American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria’s chemical weapons are being eliminated, and we will continue to work with the international community to usher in the future the Syrian people deserve – a future free of dictatorship, terror and fear.”
Mr. Obama also noted that it was “American diplomacy, backed by pressure, that has halted the progress of Iran’s nuclear program – and rolled parts of that program back – for the very first time in a decade.”
This was President Obama’s sixth State of the Union address. The practice of delivering an annual address in person before Congress started with George Washington, but was discontinued by Thomas Jefferson in 1801. The address was revived by Woodrow Wilson in 1913.