Op-ed | Responding to the State of the Union
Published: Monday, February 3, 2014
Updated: Monday, February 3, 2014 08:02
During Tuesday’s State of the Union address, I was proud to hear our president talk about the issues that matter to Americans, especially those that impact us as students. From the skyrocketing cost of college to the importance of raising the minimum wage, the vision the president laid out last week is distinctly American — infused with the optimism and pragmatism that has always kept our nation moving forward. President Obama’s continued, unwavering commitment to women’s rights, LGBT rights and middle-class priorities stand in stark contrast to the antiquated vision of America offered by congressional Republicans and Tea Party sympathizers. The president’s commitment to students is one of the most striking examples of this difference.
As a student attending Tufts on full financial aid and working two jobs to put myself through college, I understand the importance of protecting student interests. When Republicans in Congress toy with higher education, I can’t help but think that they don’t actually have students in mind. Republicans would much rather keep tax breaks for the wealthy than work across the aisle to address the significant challenges faced by young Americans. Time and time again they’ve shown their unwillingness to stand up for students. In 2014, we need to hold them accountable and give President Obama a Congress he can work with.
By making the issues so important to our generation a priority, President Obama has committed to leading our nation to a bright future. We know that the cost of college is unacceptably high and it isn’t going to go down overnight. But this president has put college affordability front-and-center, from creating a College Scorecard to helping inform students about financial aid opportunities to keeping student loan rates low. When Republicans in Congress were ready to abandon us by doubling interest rates, President Obama stood up for us and saved money for students across the country.
Notably, the president also said that Congress needs to step up to boost our economy and help the American people. By heeding the president’s call and raising the minimum wage, Congress would affirm that it is unacceptable for a person to work full time and still live below the poverty line. Raising the minimum wage is especially important to young people, many of whom (myself included) rely on hourly jobs to help pay for their educations. Along these same lines, Congress should immediately renew emergency unemployment insurance. In Massachusetts, people have already lost these vital benefits. Without unemployment insurance, people may struggle to put food on the table for their families and lack resources like gas money to effectively search for jobs. Obstructionist Republicans are blocking these bills in Congress, and we should stand up to them — now is not the time to play political games while hurting our economy.
Throughout his presidency, President Obama has fought to expand opportunity for all Americans — especially young people. As a College Democrat, I’m fired up to continue to stand with President Obama in this fight. It’s our responsibility to hold Congress and Washington accountable to ensure that our futures are as bright as they can be.
Taylor J. Barnard is a senior majoring in philosophy and political science. He is the National President of College Democrats of America. He can be reached at Taylor.Barnard_Hawkins@tufts.edu.