Obama addresses gun violence, sustainability, other issues in State of the Union address

Stephanie Haines, Development Editor

President Barack Obama addressed the nation Tuesday evening with an hour-long State of the Union address, during which he focused on economic growth, education improvements and reduction in gun violence.

“I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence,” the president said. “But this time is different.”

The president went on to address the family of Hadiya Pendleton, a Chicago high school student shot and killed in a Chicago park just days after she attended Obama’s inauguration.

“Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence,” Obama said. “They deserve a vote.”

Medill Prof. Larry Stuelpnagel said he expected Obama to address the issue of gun violence. He also said it is an “obligation of the media” to cover the State of the Union address because in it, the president lays out his national agenda.

Stuelpnagel said it is important students tune in to the State of the Union address, whether they support the president or not.

“I think that every president that runs for office has to work at trying to get their agenda enacted,” Stuelpnagel said. “People do have checklists on how they have been on what was promised to them.”

Stuelpnagel said the success the president attains in enacting his agenda depends on the forcefulness of his speech. He also made note of the fact that both the Republican party and Tea Party will respond to the address for the first time. In previous years, there has been one unified response to the president’s speech from the opposing party.

Medill sophomore Summer Delaney helped cover the speech for Medill on the Hill, a program that sends journalism students to Washington, D.C., for a quarter. Delaney’s story focused on representatives who brought Americans affected by gun violence to view the address in person. ABC News Blog reported at least 42 victims were present at the speech.

As a native of the Washington, D.C., area, she said she was eager to see the address in person.

“Growing up in Washington, I’ve always seen it on TV, but it’s really exciting to actually be in the chamber and watching it live,” Delaney said. “The access we have is great.”

Obama spent a significant part of his speech discussing the push for more sustainable energy. He proposed using money from oil and gas to fund research to move “cars and trucks off oil for good.”

Mark Silberg, Associated Student Government’s associate vice president for sustainability, said he is impressed whenever officials in public offices make statements about energy efforts. Silberg, who co-authored a resolution passed last month by ASG to cease Northwestern’s investments in the coal industry, said these efforts can be localized to NU.

“It was a very ambitious idea that we will be pricing carbon in the next few years,” the Weinberg junior said. “Northwestern can take steps not only to be engaged in research but help influence this marketplace.”