I was one a few dozen people invited to an exclusive State of the Union Social at the White House with an “enhanced” speech. Staffers, interns, and techies made graphics for the TV monitor that illustrated with data key points parts of President Barack Obama’s address.
Starting with the economy, Mr. Obama proposed ways to grow the middle class, focusing on issues Latinas care about such as education, specifically universal pre-school and increased science, technology, and math in high schools, as well as raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour. The President announced 34,000 troops would leave Afghanistan by next February.
When he declared that “now is the time” for immigration reform, cheers and applause filled the room–a rare show of consensus between Democrats and Republicans that suggests the parties may come together this year to overhaul the immigration system.
The most emotional moment came towards the end, when President Obama mentioned Newtown, Connecticut where twenty-six Sandy Hook elementary students and staff died, including teacher Vickie Soto who will posthumously be awarded on Friday the Citizens Medal. Invoking other mass shootings, Mr. Obama demanded a vote on forthcoming gun legislation. Clapping and woots filled the chamber of Congress and the White House Watch party, as well as trended on Twitter.
But not all agree with the President’s vision. Chosen to give the Republican response in English and Spanish was Marco Rubio. This was not on the White House State of the Union Social agenda which I objected to because I feel strongly that my Latina readers need to hear all political sides.
Ever industrious, I found a live stream and continued tweeting!
The Florida Senator criticized Mr. Obama, arguing that people don’t need bigger government or a handout, but opportunity in the form of fewer regulations, bureaucracy, and taxes. Then, out of the blue, Mr. Rubio lunged for a water bottle, took a swig, and kept talking.
Twitter burned down with compassion and jokes for the clearly parched Senator. The hashtag #watergate was revived.
The President outlined his vision at the State of the Union. Now he hits the road, traveling this week to Asheville, North Carolina, Atlanta, Georgia, and Chicago to sell it to the American people.Will they buy it?
This post was published as “A Latina Watches the State of the Union at the White House” on February 13, 2013 in Latina Magazine where I am a political correspondent.
To read more of Viviana’s politics columns in Latina, click here.