State of the Union: On Us

To credit the State of the Union to President Obama is somewhat misleading — the state of the union is a reflection on not only the president’s actions, but also the behavior of the collection of U.S. political leaders, our neighboring nations, and, of course, Americans themselves. Among the constant stream of media speculation over what Obama chose to address and the incoming babble from his opponents in the Republican party, it’s easy to overlook our personal role in the state of the nation that we share.

President Obama made history by using the word ‘transgender’ in condemning discrimination based on religion, gender, or sexual affiliation. Our nation has made immense progress over the years in recognizing that all human lives matter equally, but it also means that we have many more strides to take before being a nation that reflects the discrimination-free country of which Obama spoke.

Climate change is arguably our generation’s most demanding issue. And unlike targeting terrorist groups, it is an issue that we as citizens have a grand opportunity to take charge on. The recent consensus between the United States and China on limiting carbon emissions is a good example and a decent start, but a significant change is going to require the active participation of the American people.

Another hot topic from Obama’s address is the free community college offer for students. For Seattle University students, this is a reminder of a glaring truth that we all too often forget: college graduates are still the minority in America. And in today’s economy, it remains an undeniable truth that a college education is still one of the most valuable assets in America. What you choose to do with your education, who you will affect with your talents, how you use your career to improve the state of the union, is up to you.