President Barack Obama delivered his sixth state of the Union address last night. His main focus was the middle class, as the nation continues to recover from an economic downturn.
It was U.S. Senator Jack Reed's 24th State of the Union Address. Reed said he agreed with the President on several points, adding that Rhode Island could lose population if the state doesn’t invest in workforce training. “We need a trained workforce… we’re beginning to see job opportunities, but without the people with the skills to do those jobs we’re still don’t have people at work.” Reed is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Neil Steinberg, Head of the Rhode Island Foundation was there as the guest of Senator Jack Reed. He said it was important that the philanthropic community was represented at the address. “It’s recognition of the fact that it takes everybody working together: the non-profit community, the corporate community, certainly our elected officials.”
Newly inaugurated Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza also attended the event, as a guest of Representative Jim Langevin. Elorza said he liked what the President had to say about post-secondary education. “I truly love the idea of free community college for everyone in the United States. It’s already been done in some parts of the country, and that something that’s very close to me, because I started at community college.”
Elorza said he was inspired by the President’s emphasis on the need to work together. He added that as a mayor of a small city he benefits from not having to deal with the same ideological divides as the federal government.
As co-chair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, Representative Jim Langevin said he was glad to see the issue of cybersecurity mentioned during the address. “Cybersecurity is an issue of economic and national security that cannot be ignored. I hope the President’s attention to this challenge will be the impetus for Congress to pass comprehensive cybersecurity legislation,” said Langevin.
Fellow Representative David Cicilline said he too agreed with the President on most points. He said he was happy the President still seemed committed to his plans, despite having only two years left, and a Republican controlled Congress.
“What I thought was terrific last night was this is bold ideas from a very energetic president who seems really strongly committed to working with everyone to get these things done. And I think that’s very exciting.”
U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who has fought for environmental protections, said he was pleased to see climate change was part of the President’s address. “We know in Rhode Island how climate change can harm our coastal communities. I look forward to working with the President on these important issues in the months ahead.” said Whitehouse.
Rhode Island’s entire congressional delegation is Democratic. The Republican party gained control of Congress in the most recent mid-term elections. GOP leaders said they hope to work with the President and fellow Democrats, but some have already voiced their opposition to some of key issues; including spending and healthcare.
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