Obama's Orders: President announces new executive orders in State of the Union

Herb Boyd | 1/30/2014, 11:59 a.m.
President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union address Tuesday evening
Obama speaks at the State of the Union Address on Capitol Hill

Another heartfelt moment arrived when the president stoked his health care plan by citing the successes experienced by Amanda Shelley, a physician assistant and single mom from Arizona. She couldn’t get health insurance, the president said, “but on Jan. 1, she got covered. On Jan. 3, she felt a sharp pain. On Jan. 6, she had emergency surgery. Just one week earlier, Amanda said, that surgery would’ve meant bankruptcy.” He noted further that some 3 million Americans under the age of 26 are now covered by their parents’ insurance plans. More than 9 million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage, he stated.

Climate change, voter suppression attempts, gun violence, the Middle East and al-Qaeda got their requisite mentions, and the president devoted a good amount of time to Iran, as was expected, stressing the need for diplomacy above all else.

He said it was American diplomacy, “backed by pressure, that has halted the progress of Iran’s nuclear program. … As we gather here tonight, Iran has begun to eliminate its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium.” Even so, he observed, “We are clear-eyed about Iran’s support for terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, which threaten our allies,” and obviously Israel is the main ally.

Rep. Charles Rangel praised the president’s speech, noting, “The current recovery process is an opportunity to prepare us as a country for the 21st century global economy,” he said. “President Obama’s proposals tonight, such as raising the federal minimum wage, implementing new retirement savings account, launching manufacturing initiatives, empowering women, making college affordable, not only jump-start the economy in the short term, but also invest in lasting opportunity for all. This means that recovery efforts must do more than simply return us to the conditions that existed at the beginning of this economic crisis.”

Meanwhile, the Republican response to the speech was without any specific plans and was almost as oblivious as the person chosen to deliver it.

Obama reminded the nation, at the close of his address, that America has never come easy. “Our freedom, our democracy has never been easy,” he declared. “Sometimes we stumble; we make mistakes; we get frustrated or discouraged. But for more than 200 years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress to create and build and expand the possibilities of individual achievement; to free other nations from tyranny and fear; to promote justice and fairness and equality under the law, so that the words set to paper by our founders are made real for every citizen.”

The stumbling, the mistakes and the frustration, particularly from Republicans, are things Obama knows firsthand, but he also knows something about promoting justice and fairness and putting his shoulder to the wheel of progress and not quitting.