March 15, 2022

By Shiloh Johnston, Staff Writer

President Biden addressed Congress and the nation in his first State of the Union address on March 1, 2022. The televised address, which was given in person at the Capitol Building, satisfied the President’s constitutional obligation to inform Congress on the state of the United States and to suggest ways to move the country forward. 

Traditionally, viewership numbers for these addresses have been in the tens of millions. Politically interested citizens turn to these speeches to stay informed on our country’s current issues and the progress that the President’s administration has made on accomplishing its proposed agenda. In recent years, however, viewership of the State of the Union across all demographics has waxed and waned. 

In an information-intensive climate with narrowing attention spans and a widening landscape of interests, this hour-long address filled with bureaucratic jargon and ceremonious standing ovations may seem like it is not relevant to many Americans. This year, however, Peralta students and the wider community would do well to watch a recording of the speech or read a summary to see what President Biden had to say.

In a recent study conducted by Pew Research Center on the most important issues according to the American public, many of the top concerns relate to things that will certainly affect our daily lives. In addition to strengthening the economy and dealing with the global pandemic, the study found that “improving education” was in the top five most important issues for Americans. Biden tackled this issue directly. 

“Let’s increase Pell Grants” the President said, adding that we should “increase our historic support of HBCUs (historically Black colleges and universities).” Biden also urged Congress and the nation to “invest in what Jill –our First Lady who teaches full-time –calls America’s best-kept secret: community colleges.” 

This should be of particular interest to Peralta students, as dropping enrollments and financial troubles associated with the pandemic may threaten district funding. One element of the broader discussion over education that was missing in the speech was the unfulfilled promise that the President made to forgive a significant portion of student loans. Biden also did not directly address his promise to provide two free years of community college that was cut from the Democrats’ social-spending bill last year.

In addition, Biden spoke about possible solutions for rising inflation, which affects the price of groceries and other everyday items. The President criticized a common method of reducing inflation that “[drives] down wages and [makes] Americans poorer.” Biden claimed that he has a “better plan to fight inflation. Lower your costs, not your wages.”

The President’s plan to lower costs hinges on his administration’s goal to bring back jobs to the United States that have been outsourced or otherwise lost. Peralta graduates who are looking to enter the job market should stay informed about Biden’s progress on this plan as it will likely affect their professional prospects in the near and distant future.

In addition, Biden pointed out his decision to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who is also the first public defender to be nominated, will play a pivotal role in deciding on issues that affect reproductive rights and the LGBTQQIA+ community.

The President’s remarks on federal policies concerning the pandemic are also worth noting. He stated that “[thanks] to the progress we have made this past year, COVID-19 need no longer control our lives.” This is far removed from the President’s position on COVID at the beginning of his term in office. It demonstrates the government’s decision to change policy as the virus becomes endemic and echoes a country-wide push to ease restrictions and mask mandates. 

The President also made remarks concerning US foreign policy that could significantly impact American lives. In the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine, an event that will likely irreversibly change the world, Biden addressed the fears that we will send troops to fight overseas by reaffirming that “our forces are not engaged and will not engage in conflict with Russian forces in Ukraine”. In reference to the powerful economic sanctions that the United States and the West have imposed on Russia, Biden asserted that “we are inflicting pain on Russia and supporting the people of Ukraine. Putin is now isolated from the world more than ever.”. This will likely directly affect members of the Peralta community, as the U.S. response will likely increase the cost of everyday expenses including the price of gas.

The overall message of President Biden’s address was clear. In a speech filled with responses to emerging conflicts and a long lasting pandemic, Biden wanted to make sure that he focussed on the hope for a better future. 

“I want you to know that we are going to be okay”, he assured the public, “we are going to be okay.”

While the public’s interest in the State of the Union has decreased in recent years, this specific address is one that every American should watch. During this turbulent time with multiple crises and geopolitical instability, we should all be interested and informed on what our government is planning to do about it.