Broadly Speaking: Responses to the SOTU

After the State of the Union, Time to Get to Work
by Benjamin Todd Jealous, NAACP

Tonight, as I sat in the audience while President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address, I listened intently.

But I also watched -- and what I saw was just as powerful as everything that I heard.

I witnessed the faces of senators as he discussed the state of our economy. I saw Michelle Obama's face grow solemn with the mention of the Tucson tragedy. And in the face of the President, I saw the same strength and courage that so many Americans have displayed in these difficult times.

As he did in Tucson last week, the President made a noble effort to move our country past petty political posturing tonight. He reminded the nation that that we are one people, and that we must care for each other -- our beliefs, our health, our livelihoods -- as we would ourselves. He reminded us all of what it means to be American.

Read the whole statement here…
Join NAACP's call for a fair economy here…

From the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 25 — The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force responded to President Obama's State of the Union speech tonight.

Statement by Rea Carey, Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

"President Obama spoke pointedly tonight of the dire need to get our economy moving again. We couldn't agree more and urge his administration and Congress to work together to ensure that everybody — including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people — have the opportunity to contribute their talents, skills and expertise to this nation’s workforce. The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ which the president noted tonight, was a tremendous victory that will put an end to systemic discrimination against competent, qualified lesbian, gay and bisexual service members. But let us not settle there. Fact is, the state of the union for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people remains largely one of inequality, as we can still be fired from or denied employment in many parts of the country for nothing other than bias, and marriage inequality relegates our families to second-class status. If the president is truly serious about job creation and boosting America's economic well-being, he must provide leadership and action in helping to pass employment protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and ending the costly and unjust federal marriage ban. Our country can and must do better. The president should pave the way."

More from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is currently calling on the president and Congress to:

    * Stand firm in protecting the Affordable Care Act.

    * Pass employment protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, particularly in light of the nation’s current unemployment crisis.

    * Repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

    * Pass legislation such as the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act to grant benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees.

    * Pass federal anti-bullying legislation such as the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act.

    * Strengthen Social Security: no benefit cuts.

    * Pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation, including measures like the Uniting American Families Act and the DREAM Act.

    * Pass pay equity legislation such as the Paycheck Fairness Act and pass paid sick-leave legislation that supports working people.

Read more here…

What We Must Hear Next: The Fight for a Fairer Economy

by Amy B. Dean

While I admired so much of what I heard from the president last night, after the applause dies away, we have to face the next difficult stage of this national conversation. It's the kind of conversation that gets to the tough decisions and real problems only alluded to last night.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama explained that in the past two years we have faced "the worst recession most of us have ever known." Historians and economists might differ in how they compare the recent economic crisis to the Great Depression. Nevertheless, Obama's descriptions of our economic difficulties have a political effect. They lead people to liken him to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the president who dealt with the last century's most profound economic downturn.

Yet, as the State of the Union made clear, there is a critical difference between the two presidents. While both have similarly spoken of the gravity of unemployment and economic stagnation, we need to hear next if President Obama will follow FDR's lead in highlighting the institutions that can bring about middle class prosperity in America. We need to know how the broad vision President Obama outlined last night will become a concrete plan to strengthen the government's role in creating greater fairness in our economy.

Read more here…

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued the following statement on President Obama’s State of the Union message tonight.

Tonight President Obama called on the nation to look forward and spoke to our nation’s prospects and vulnerabilities: we are faced with opportunities for progress, but paralyzed by weak job growth and an economy that is increasingly out of balance for middle class families.

We strongly support the President’s vision on infrastructure to create good jobs and succeed in a global economy, and working people are ready to work with him and hold him to his promises.  We look forward to comprehensive and substantial proposals to rebuild our nation’s schools, bridges, and highways and invest in high speed rail, a smart electrical grid, universal broadband and the green jobs of the future.  We will  join the President as partners to help build bipartisan support for a sustained and strategic investment in America’s future. Labor and business, Democrats and Republicans should all be working together to ensure that we make the investments we need now to secure our future.

President Obama certainly understands our need to be competitive in manufacturing, new technology and skills.  But he must also understand that last-century trade deals that reward and encourage corporations that outsource American jobs will do little to generate net new jobs in the United States or raise living standards here or abroad.  Working people will continue to urge the President and his administration to stick to his campaign promises of reforming trade deals, so they do more than boost profits for multi-national corporations.

We firmly believe that we should not be cutting government spending when the economy is so weak.  This economy is failing to create jobs at an adequate pace to dig us out of the hole we’re in, and a spending freeze at this time will slow down job creation and growth – further worsening the deficit.  This is simply the wrong medicine at the wrong time. And it is essential that the President acts on the commitment he outlined tonight to strengthen and preserve our essential retirement security programs – Social Security and Medicare. All working people will continue to fight any proposals that aim to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Read more here…

Statement on State of the Union by Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune:

Washington, D.C. –

“Tonight President Obama laid out important priorities for putting Americans back to work, renewing America’s role as a global leader in innovation and protecting the health of our nation’s families.  There is no better way to do that than with a clean energy economy.

We agree with the President that with soaring oil prices, national security concerns, and disasters like the BP Gulf disaster, now is the time to move beyond dirty energy.  And as the President stated, one important way to start is by eliminating subsidies for Big Oil.

Whether it is investment in wind and solar power or improved transportation choices and infrastructure, there is strong support among the American people for a clean energy economy that works for America. While the Sierra Club is firmly opposed to the misconception that coal or nuclear power can ever be clean, we want to use this moment to focus on the strong message the President sent about true clean energy sources and how these innovations will lead to new prosperity and good jobs.

As the president mentioned, investment in technology like high speed rail and electric cars are critical to breaking our dangerous addiction to oil, creating jobs and cleaning up our air.  The production of EVs has already created more than 2,000 jobs and those numbers are expected to grow dramatically as we move towards a goal of one million EVs on the road by 2015.

We are also encouraged by the President’s promise to enforce commonsense safeguards to protect our air, water and health.  Americans’ fundamental right to clean air and water faces its greatest threat in 40 years at the hands of corporate polluters and their cronies in Congress – the President must stand firm against those who would roll back clean air standards, block clean energy job creation and endanger our health.

However, the Korea Free Trade Agreement mentioned by the President favors corporate interests over American families and businesses.  This outdated, failed trade model unfairly favors foreign investors and corporations, granting them the power to directly challenge laws made to protect the public interest and the environment.

The President and Congress face a stark choice: keep America tethered to 19th century economic policies and dirty energy sources that make us sick, or bring America into the 21st century and put us on top in the global clean energy race.”

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