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Students gather for President’s address

Liz O'Donnell | Thursday, January 28, 2010

Students gathered in the LaFortune television lounge to watch President Barack Obama speak about the nation’s economy and healthcare reform during his first State of the Union address on Wednesday evening.

Obama opened the speech by encouraging Congress to work together in the upcoming year to help return the nation to its former state of prosperity.

“We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions, so let’s show the American people we can do it together,” he said.

Notre Dame College Democrats co-president Chris Rhodenbaugh said the president’s efforts to work as a unified country came through in his speech.

“I think the country needed leadership in the speech and a path forward for next year and next decade and [President Obama] came through,” he said.

The majority of the president’s address focused on the recovering economy, including the 10 percent unemployment rate and the bank bailout.

Rhodenbaugh said the content of the president’s speech was appropriate given the current concerns of the nation.

“The focus on the economy was right on with the national mood,” he said. “He was a realist on how we’re going to have to deal with these issues.”

In the speech, Obama said he understands the bank bailout was a highly unpopular decision, but it was necessary.

“The markets are now stabilized and we have recovered most of the money we spent on the banks, Obama said.

Senior Henry Vasquez, also co-president of the Notre Dame College Democrats said the president’s message about the economy seemed clear.

“We learned that the president is serious about balancing the budget and making responsible decisions for the welfare of our nation,” Vasquez said.

President Obama announced a goal for Congress was to double exports over the next five years as well as limit spending to decrease the country’s budget.

Obama said he is willing to freeze government spending on issues outside of national security, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security starting in 2011.

Vasquez pointed to these goals as well as other aspects of the speech as a plan for guiding the country through the next year.

“[President Obama] understands the American people and that is why he made the commitment that jobs are the most important thing in 2010,” he said. “At the end of the day, all these other considerations should reflect what the American people need.”

Toward the end of the address, the president again urged Congress to work together, calling on Republicans to reach across the aisle to help pass legislation.

Both Rhodenbaugh and Vasquez said this was an important component of his speech.
“The president’s approach showed his commitment to bipartisanship though he was not afraid to confront the obstructionist behavior of his opponent,” Vasquez said.

The address comes after last week’s victory by Republican Scott Brown over Democrat Martha Coakley in the Massachusetts Senate race. With that victory, the Democrats no longer hold a veto-proof majority in the Senate.