GV community reflects on annual State of the Union speech


GVL / Aida Dennis

Payton Brazzil, Staff Writer

Last Tuesday, President Joe Biden addressed the House Chamber for his second State of the Union speech. In his speech, Biden touched on his achievements in his second year and his hopes for the future. 

Biden addressed areas with bipartisan support, such as combating the opioid epidemic and providing mental health care. Additionally, he highlighted more left-wing proposals, including an assault weapon ban, vetoing the nationwide abortion ban, a new tax on billionaires and labor union protections.

However, some Americans feel that the focus of the State of the Union is clouded by the fighting of politicians and may no longer clearly examine potential policies. 

Throughout his speech, Biden’s remarks were met by heckling from some members of the Republican audience. Speaker of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy was seen signaling members of his own party to stop outbursts at least three times. 

Notably, when the President mentioned that “some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset,” GOP audience members shouted that he was a liar and booed at the accusatory statement. 

Biden responded, “So folks, as we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the books now, right?”

Grand Valley State University student and GVSU College Republicans Vice Chair Zachary Schmidt said Biden made a mistake in this exchange.

“President Biden should not have accused Republicans of trying to take away Social Security and Medicare, both of which Speaker McCarthy has said are off the table,” Schmidt said.

Similar to Schmidt, Professor of Political Science Donald Zinman said after watching the exchange, he originally thought it was a mistake until he realized that Biden was looking for a reaction that would be consistent with his political aim.

“I think maybe Biden was trying to get a reaction, to get the Republicans and the Congress to clap back at him about the Social Security and Medicare cuts,” Zinman said. “For him to use that sort of as a venue to say, ‘Oh okay, you deny that there’s gonna be any cuts to Social Security and Medicare, great!’”

Zinman said he felt it was a way for Biden to be an effective messenger and that the speech was “coherent and lucid.”

After viewing the highlights of the speech, Schmidt said he doesn’t think State of the Union speeches are useful. 

“I think they are basically just a campaign speech that the president gives using taxpayer money,” Schmidt said. “I did not think that the speech was useful to the American people. President Biden spent more time on resort and airline fees than on addressing China’s aggression.”

Similar to the idea of returning the State of the Union address to paper, Zinman partially agreed on using a different method for the speech. He proposed that the State of the Union address be written to Congress and televised to the American people. 

“I would rather us be spending the days after the State of the Union talking about the content and the substance of the message, as opposed to the theatrics and optics of who was in the audience,” Zinman said. “The best way to do that is to dispense with the speech in front of Congress, you deliver a written message to Congress but then you deliver the speech on television from the Oval Office.”

Despite the media’s focus on the audience at the state of the union, Zinman said he hopes people will see the relevance of the speech. 

“I think the most important thing about these speeches is the content and the substance,” Zinman said. “It’s the ability of the president who has this one night of the year to command the stage and set the tone with their agenda and I certainly think that he did that.”