February 14, 2013
This Tuesday night, an enthusiastic group of Hamilton students and Clinton locals gathered in the Sadove Living Room and Sun Porch to watch President Obama deliver his first State of the Union address of his second term.
A modest yet energetic group of about 30 students and 15 locals from Organizing for Action attended the watch party, sponsored by the Hamilton College Democrats. This event, similar in structure to the last semester’s campaign events including a convention speech, debates and election night coverage, certainly saw a smaller crowd.
However, despite the lack of a winner at the end of the night, the night provided an opportunity for people to come together, listen to President Obama’s agenda and discuss their own opinions. Tracy Mazerolle ’15, who planned the event for the College Democrats, was happy with the event.
“Between the attendees from the Hamilton community and the wonderful OFA folks that came, we thought the turnout was pretty good, especially given that other great events were happening on campus at the same time. We had also anticipated a smaller turnout in comparison to last semester’s events partly because the State of the Union Address lacks the inherent ‘suspense’ that accompanied the debates and election night,” Mazerolle said.
This event comes after a politically charged election cycle for both America and the Hamilton community. The College Democrats and Republicans teamed up all of last semester in an attempt to increase the political involvement on campus, hosting a debate between students, watch parties for broadcasts related to the election among other events.
“I think a lot of it has carried over to this semester as well,” Mazerolle said when addressing the activism on campus. “Although I think our school has a healthy political atmosphere in general, it’s really encouraging to see the Hamilton community so interested in politics when big events are happening.”
In Sadove, the gathered crowd appeared to enjoy the approximately one-hour long speech that, according to ABC News, saw the President interrupted by applause 74 times (maybe more by some of the enthusiastic locals).
“He presented numerous concrete ideas for change that made a lot of sense to me, and his speech was nothing short of inspirational. I found his discourse on improving our nation’s gun laws particularly moving,” Mazerolle said in support of the speech.
Obama laid out a bold progressive agenda calling for a response to climate change, an immigration reform package, an increase in the federal minimum wage while also calling on Congress to act to avoid next month’s sequesters.
“The greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next. Let’s agree, right here, right now, to keep the people’s government open, pay our bills on time and always uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America,” Obama proclaimed.
The most emotional part of the speech came at the end, when Obama identified the victims of gun violence. Many victims, including Gabby Giffords and the families of children from Sandy Hook, were in the chamber for the address and received a standing ovation from the 113th Congress. Obama’s speech included a repeated refrain that these victims “deserve a vote” on measures to attempt to curtail gun violence, just one of many policies laid out that will face strong opposition from the President’s opponents.
Amongst politicians, thoughts on the speech seemed to split down party lines, with Democrats applauding the President’s agenda while Republicans offered familiar critiques of spending.
“President Obama, he believes it’s [our free enterprise economy] the cause of our problems, that the economic downturn happened because our government didn’t tax enough, spend enough, or control enough. And, therefore, as you heard tonight, his solution to virtually every problem we face is for Washington to tax more, borrow more, and spend more,” Florida Senator Marco Rubio said during the official Republican response.
As critical as some Republicans were, many Democrats were just as complementary of the speech.
“What we saw the President do was return to what I think is really a message of hope, something that really sets apart the great Presidents from the rest of them,” said Hamilton alumnus and Democratic Congressman from Pennsylvania Matt Cartwright ’83. It was Cartwright’s first State of the Union address as a member of Congress.
The night, which highlighted the many problems facing America and the many different opinions as to how to best solve them, opened a dialogue about the issues that Obama will attempt to tackle over the next four years.
Whether or not Obama will be able to implement his vision remains to be seen. What was clear is that the Hamilton Democrats were pleased with what he had to say on Tuesday night.