State of the Union 2014, Translated: Breaking down what the president really meant last week

By TARA GUPTA ’16 

Staff Writer

Graphic by Alexa J. Williams '14 Arts Editor

Graphic by Alexa J. Williams ’14
Arts Editor

The annual State of the Union address is nothing to write home about but is definitely worth watching for the food at the Pendleton viewing party and the drinking games in every dorm. The President gives the State of the Union (SOTU) address every year, highlighting presidential or party accomplishments and current issues, and generally riling up the American public for the year to come. In other words, the SOTU is a speech full of empty promises and grandiose one-liners that hold no one accountable for anything. The speech’s political nuances can be a bit hard to navigate, but I’m here to translate this year’s SOTU for you. President Obama spoke about everything from the government shutdown to gender inequality to sanctions in Iran. Let’s take a look at a few of the speech’s notable lines and get a sense of what the president was actually saying:

“In the coming weeks I will issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour because if you cook—(cheers, applause)—our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you should not have to live in poverty.”

Translation: Republicans on Twitter will call me a socialist dictator in 5-4-3-2—.

“A woman deserves equal pay for equal work… It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a ‘Mad Men’ episode.”

Translation: Never actually seen “Mad Men,” but my speechwriters said this reference would help me connect with youths. Meanwhile, I’m going to sidestep the fact that the HR7, “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” was just passed in the House by a group of male Republicans. So, when I say not from a “Mad Men” episode, what I mean is that our workplace policies predate a “Mad Men” episode.

“So even as we actively and aggressively pursue terrorist networks, through more targeted efforts and by building the capacity of our foreign partners, America must move off a permanent war footing. That’s why I’ve imposed prudent limits on the use of drones, for we will not be safer if people abroad believe we strike within their countries without regard for the consequence.”

Translation: Drones and the NSA were so 2011. Why bother with more than a sentence on either?

“Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day. I have seen the courage of parents, students, pastors and police officers all over this country who say ‘we are not afraid,’ and I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters and our shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook.”

Translation: We definitely need stronger gun control laws, but that would be hard.

“I believe, that here in America, our success should depend not on accident of birth, but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams. That’s what drew our forebears here. It’s how the daughter of a factory worker is CEO of America’s largest automaker; how the son of a barkeeper is Speaker of the House [John Boehner]; how the son of a single mom can be president of the greatest nation on Earth.”

Translation: I am totally winning at appealing to both parties without saying anything concrete. Also, is it cool if I backhand Boehner for a sec? I’m so happy he’s right behind me; it’s rare to have another person of color onscreen with me.

“What I believe unites the people of this nation is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all—the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead…but that belief has suffered some serious blows. Corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged.”

Translation: I can’t be more aggressive about our massive inequality problem or my wealthy supporters will get mad. The irony!

“If Iran’s leaders do not seize this opportunity, then I will be the first to call for more sanctions and stand ready to exercise all options to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon. But if Iran’s leaders do seize the chance—and we’ll know soon enough—then Iran could take an important step to rejoin the community of nations, and we will have resolved one of the leading security challenges of our time without the risks of war.”

Translation: Wake up, America! Why aren’t people talking about this issue? This is truly one of the most, if not the most, important issue in U.S. foreign policy right now, but I’m pretty sure no one cares. So let me talk about it for another five minutes while you change the channel to “Dance Moms.”

“I first met Cory Remsburg, a proud Army Ranger, at Omaha Beach…on his tenth deployment, Cory was nearly killed by a massive roadside bomb in Afghanistan. His comrades found him in a canal, face down, underwater, shrapnel in his brain… Over the years, he’s endured dozens of surgeries and procedures, and hours of grueling rehab every day…But slowly… Cory has grown stronger. Day by day, he’s learned to speak again and stand again and walk again—and he’s working toward the day when he can serve his country again…Cory is here tonight.  And like the Army he loves, like the America he serves, Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg never gives up, and he does not quit.”

Translation: You deserve this standing ovation, Cory. Wait, oh my god. This is Hunger Games: the nation’s politicians and elites are clapping for a man who suffered brutally for a completely useless and avoidable war.

I hope this article sped you up on this year’s SOTU. If you’re ever bored on a Friday night, watch the speech online and drink every time Boehner looks constipated, Biden winks at someone or Michelle’s arms make you feel horrible about yourself. If you’re a lightweight, drink every time the president talks about reproductive rights, employment non-discrimination or the NSA. Happy drinking!

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