By Elizabeth Stitt
For Jordan Olsen and his friends, the State of the Union address is not just a speech, it”s a party.
Olsen, a junior majoring in molecular biology, organized several friends Tuesday night, Jan. 31, 2006, to watch the annual presidential report hoping more students would become involved in the political process.
“The State of the Union isn”t just for the president,” Olsen said. “Because it”s televised and you can see the reactions of those in attendance, it”s really a huge battle for the heart and soul of every American.”
Olsen said he doesn”t think many students watch the address, which he thinks is disturbing. Although the students at Olsen”s party interrupted the speech with swigs of root beer every time the live audience applauded, chips and salsa for terrorism references and saltines for freedom and liberty references, the students still had the opportunity to learn something from the address.
“I was surprised how politically knowledgeable people were there,” said Jason Packard, a senior biology major.
Packard said the State of the Union address painted a fairly good picture of the nation.
“Even though most State of the Union addresses are propaganda for the nation, I was pleased Pres. Bush didn”t make it seem rosy, because it”s not a rosy situation,” Packard said.
President Bush addressed several concerns in the United States, including tax reform, oil dependency and terrorism.
“It was interesting to me, though not surprising, that the president put most of his time and effort in his speech into the war in Iraq, the war on terror and his policies in those areas,” said Quin Monson, assistant professor of political science.
Monson said most of Pres. Bush”s success has come from his reaction to terrorism since 9/11.
“It was an example of him sticking with his major successes and not abandoning them in an attempt to raise approval ratings,” Monson said. “Right or wrong, he”s steadfast.”
Pres. Bush followed true to form by presenting a “laundry list”, as Monson calls it, of policy ideas and initiatives.
Ben Magleby, a junior political science major who watched the address with several of his friends, said the number of new initiatives surprised him.
“He introduced better education, more patriotic citizens and ideas that were already there,” Magleby said. “I felt Pres. Bush introduced several great ideas of how to improve, but didn”t give a road map of how to get there.”
Magleby said Pres. Bush didn”t explain what would be cut to introduce these new initiatives, but instead just announced them to increase the popularity of the presidency and the Republican Party.
One of the initiatives that sparked interest was the American Competitiveness Initiative.
“Pres. Bush only has 3 more years, and he doesn”t want to be just a war president,” Olsen said. “So he talked about keeping competitive advantage in the U.S. and the importance of legal immigrant workers.”
But Olsen said he wouldn”t have called it a competitiveness initiative.
“I think what it portrays is kind of an egocentrism, which is not necessarily what we want,” Olsen said. “I don”t know that the end goal is superiority in the world sense, but in a national sense that we can be our best selves. Competitiveness and best selves don”t necessarily go hand-in-hand.”
Pres. Bush also announced the Advanced Energy Initiative, involving a 22 percent increase in clean-energy research to remove dependence on Middle East oil and fund ethanol production research.
“I think we will be coming to a time when there won”t be enough oil in the ground to be pumped out for use in the U.S.,” said Robert Goss, assistant professor of political science. “We”ve got to find other ways to move us around, especially in the automobile and truck field.”
Magleby said it”s possible for Americans to become less dependent on the Middle East for oil, but the idea is late.
“We knew this information ten years ago and didn”t do anything about it,” Magleby said. “We”re late; we”re slow.”
For non-transportation energy sources, Packard said the country should move to hydro-electric or nuclear energy.
“Instead of closing nuclear power plants, we should keep them open and running at full capacity,” Packard said. “We should take a lesson from France and learn to recycle waste from power plants.”
Although Packard feels confident in nuclear energy, he is unsure about the effectiveness or feasibility of ethanol as an alternate fuel for automobiles.
“I”ve heard some doubts on ethanol and the expenses to produce,” Packard said. “I don” t think there”s going to be a shift in cars because the market pressure isn”t there yet.”
Magleby agrees that ethanol production is not a probable solution.
“We”re not going to be able to provide energy for all our automobiles off corn,” Magleby said. “The only way it can happen is making higher prices and that means voters are not happy.”
Many said an interesting aspect of the address was the reaction of the democrats. During his address, Pres. Bush announced Congress failed to pass his Social Security initiative last year. The democrats applauded the comment.
“I”m not sure the president expected the democratic reaction,” Goss said. “The democrats in the senate and the house felt very free to applaud to that response. I don”t know who wrote that part, but I don”t think that was anticipated. It was enjoyable for me to see that and see Pres. Bush”s reaction immediately following.”
Olsen said the democrats might have done that because they didn”t support the president”s plan or just to show that the Republican Congress can”t get things done.
Goss said, “The fact that there was a victory for the democrats, even if negative in opposing the social security initiative, was like saying, ”We did that. That”s right, we don”t want your initiative in social security.” It was both a wink and a smile at the president.”
Other than that unexpected moment, many said the address was fairly similar to most other addresses.
“[Pres. Bush] was trying to get back on the horse and take control of the Republican party, which is not doing too well,” Magleby said. “The best thing is to get back to core realities, touch base with the party members and get their excitement.”