From Candidate to President
First State of the Union speech faces reality.
Wednesday night, millions of Americans tuned in to watch Democratic President Barack Obama give his first State of the Union address. He spoke to a joint session of Congress in the U.S. House of Representatives Chamber in Washington, D.C.
President Obama sprinkled his speech with humor and several off-the-cuff remarks. As I watched from my family-room couch with a pen and paper in hand, I began to see the candidate I remembered from the presidential campaign trail—but I also saw a new reality.
From my time spent covering the 2008 Presidential election, I will always remember then-Senator Obama as a powerful speaker, inspiring Americans with catchy phrases like “Change We Can Believe In” and Yes We Can.”
On Wednesday, after one year in office, President Obama’s words were similar to those used by candidate Obama. He was positive and hopeful, but also frank. He acknowledged that Americans are increasingly doubtful that he can deliver the change he promised as a candidate.
“None of this will come without cost, nor will it be easy,” he said of his plans to boost the economy and create more jobs. “But this is America. We don’t do what’s easy. We do what is necessary to move this country forward.”
He spoke of ways to cut the federal deficit and proposed a three-year freeze in federal spending. During the election, candidate Obama opposed a spending freeze, while his opponent, Senator John McCain, called for one.
As a candidate, Obama promised to end the war and bring home the troops. Although still promising to bring troops home from Iraq, more troops have been sent to Afghanistan. President Obama addressed that issue, renewing his promise to have all our soldiers home by the end of 2012.
The number one focus of the night was the need to create more and better jobs. The president forcefully told Congress that he wants to see a jobs bill on his desk “without delay.”
He criticized both Democrats and Republicans for stalling on a health care bill and urged the two parties to work together. Bipartisanship is another campaign pledge that has proven harder to do than to promise.
The focus and priorities have changed somewhat from the lofty goals of a campaign to the hard realities of governing. But from what I heard, the intent and the hope are all still there.
PHOTO: Kid Reporter Elizabeth Conway interviews then-candidate and Senator Barack Obama as he campaigned through New Hampshire in September 2008. (Photo Courtesy Elizabeth Conway)