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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Students React to State of the Union

Students were hopeful on most of the issues after President Obama delivered his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

On Tuesday night, students packed the Annenberg Lobby for President Obama's State of the Union address. Students lined every wall and staircase up three floors as they listened to Obama speak to the nation about our most important issues.

Gun control, education, the economy, climate change-the speech ambitiously outlined Obama's plans for his next four years in office.

The President started by quoting JFK saying: "Fifty-one years ago, John F. Kennedy declared to this Chamber that “the Constitution makes us not rivals for power but partners for progress…It is my task,” he said, “to report the State of the Union – to improve it is the task of us all.”

And that's one thing Obama seemed to stress: the bi-partisan need to vote. Whether on gun control or the environment, he asked Congress simply to vote. The panel discussion afterward, led by USC political expert Dan Schnur, agreed that this tactic was less abrasive and made Obama seem more realistic in his goals.

Education was also an important topic Obama spoke about. He repeated his stance on making higher education more affordable, but he expanded the discussion to making it about the starting education the right way: with a solid pre-school system.  In the U.S., "fewer than 3 in 10 four year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program." Obama's goal: "make high-quality preschool available to every child in America," he said.

On foreign policy, Obama announced the withdrawal of 34,000 troops within the next year to end the war in Afghanistan. In the panel discussion following the speech, students echoed their agreement with this decision.

Obama also spoke about the necessity to work on immigration."Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away," Obama said. This was met by uproarious applause.

The student response was mostly positive, but some students, like Senior business major Deryck Matallah, had reservations about whether or not Obama could accomplish his goals.

"I thought Obama took a much less partisan approach in his state of the union address than in his inaugural address. As was discussed in the panel afterwards, this was significant because the "shelf life" of the state of the union address is generally much shorter than the inaugural address, whose words generally endure much longer," Matallah said.

USC's President of the College Republicans, Charlie Epting,  was not too thrilled by either Obama's address or Senator Marco Rubio's Republican Response saying neither was "earth shattering," but he did say that Obama "spoke brilliantly" and seemed to make an ambitious plan that he hopes gets accomplished.

However, something the crowd was thrilled with: Obama's discussion of raising the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. The lobby exploded with cheers and applause, an anonymous voice from the back yelled "Finally!"

Obama ended the address with an encompassing reminder that we are all living together in this country and that, "it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter in our American story."

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