“He shall from time to time give to Congress information on the state of the union…”
This clause of the Constitution provides the basis for the annual event that all presidents in the modern age have used to communicate their administration’s agenda to Congress and the American people. Council for Democracy, a non-partisan political group on campus, hosted its second annual gathering of students at the Rathskeller Tuesday night to watch the address and discuss their feelings on the issues afterward.
“I think it’s important that students get together and collectively watch the State of the Union address,” said David McCombie, Council for Democracy president. “I think it forces us to think about the President’s policies and how successfully he’s been implementing it.”
Edward Martos, creator and organizer of the event both this year and in 2003, expressed a similar sentiment.
“He’s effective as a political speaker. He’s effective at generating some energy within his constituency.”
-BRIAN AVELLO, Junior
“For one thing, it’s incredibly important for every student to be aware of every issue that’s going on,” Martos said. “The State of the Union is for the most part an opportunity where students can have some exposure, even if it’s only minimal, to a number of issues all at once.”
The theme of the event was: “Is Bush Effective?”
“I wouldn’t say he was the best, but I think he was pretty effective,” Francesca List, freshman, said. “I’m not approving of all his policies.”
“I think Bush has been effective in his own agenda and his administration has been very effective in implementing some policies that have been very good for them,” Ben Geyer, freshman, said. “I don’t see these policies as being good for the American people – I’m not satisfied with the job he’s done.”
The address began around 9 p.m. and ran slightly less than an hour. Throughout the speech students remained attentive, with only a few individuals shouting responses to various points in the speech.
During the foreign policy segment of the speech, when the President remarked, “Had we failed to act [in Iraq], the dictator’s weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day,” one student, expressing the opinion of many Americans, asked, “Where are they, then?”
Students voiced similar expressions of skepticism during the President’s comments on the Defense of Marriage Act and Faith Based Initiatives.
Former SG President Mike Johnston expressed some disappointment with the focus of the speech.
“I think he’s spending too much time talking about external affairs. I want to hear more about internal affairs,” he said. “I think this sounds like a campaign speech.”
Following the speech, Dr. Pete Moore, Dr. Juliet Gainsborough and Professor Paul Crespo – all of the Political Science department – gave their assessments of the speech.
“The President made it very clear that even 28 months after September 11 the threat of terrorism is still there,” Moore said. “The question still looms. . . what is our ‘metric’ for measuring progress in the war on terror? How are we going to know when this war is over?”
“I just think Bush brought up a lot of questions in my mind. . . He brought up so many more questions in my mind as a young voter.”
-LISA COSSROW, Freshman
“Obviously Bush wants to make the case that the economy is much stronger than it has been and he had a list of different statistics to make that point,” Gainsborough said. “At the end of the list he mentioned jobs were on the rise, and that was slightly surprising to me because that’s the one statistic that hasn’t been as good as they would have liked it to be.”
Crespo said that overall Bush struck a good balance between foreign and domestic issues.
“He focused on the freedom theme. . . and I think the freedom theme runs through the entire speech,” Crespo said.
Crespo also added that an important part of the theme of freedom was the economic freedom implied in the President’s statement that “the American people are using their money far better than government would have, and you were right to return it.”
Some students felt that President Bush was effective only in terms of energizing his own party.
“He’s effective as a political speaker,” said junior Brian Avello. “He’s effective at generating some energy within his constituency. He’s effective at getting a basic message with no seeming facts behind it.”
Freshman Lisa Cossrow expressed a similar opinion.
“I just think Bush brought up a lot of questions in my mind. Number one: how he plans to cut the deficit in half after listing all the numbers he listed tonight,” Cossrow said. “I feel like he just catered to the [Democratic] candidates tonight. He brought up so many more questions in my mind as a young voter.”
Junior Don Donelson had a different take.
“To my mind the president is a leader. He is a representative of our country and he’s the one that’s supposed to lead our country,” Donelson said. “As a leader, I don’t believe that we’ve had anyone more effective in recent memory.”
Scott Wacholtz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.