NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, March 1st, 2022

President Biden praises Ukraine, offers unity agenda in 2022 State of the Union address

Pres­i­dent Joe Biden trav­eled down Penn­syl­va­nia Avenue tonight to deliv­er his sec­ond address to a joint ses­sion of Con­gress as the nation’s chief exec­u­tive, urg­ing law­mak­ers to work with him on a wide range of issues to help Amer­i­ca heal from the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic and improve peo­ple’s lives.

“In this Capi­tol, gen­er­a­tion after gen­er­a­tion, Amer­i­cans have debat­ed great ques­tions amid great strife, and have done great things,” Biden told law­mak­ers, Supreme Court jus­tices, and mil­lions of Amer­i­cans watch­ing at home.

“We have fought for free­dom, expand­ed lib­er­ty, defeat­ed total­i­tar­i­an­ism and ter­ror. And built the strongest, freest, and most pros­per­ous nation the world has ever known. Now is the hour. Our moment of respon­si­bil­i­ty. Our test of resolve and con­science, of his­to­ry itself. It is in this moment that our char­ac­ter is formed. Our pur­pose is found. Our future is forged. I know this nation.”

“We will meet the test. To pro­tect free­dom and lib­er­ty, to expand fair­ness and oppor­tu­ni­ty. We will save democracy.”

“As hard as these times have been, I am more opti­mistic about Amer­i­ca today than I have been my whole life,” Biden con­tin­ued, empha­siz­ing themes he cam­paigned on and has returned to many times since tak­ing office.

“Because I see the future that is with­in our grasp. Because I know there is sim­ply noth­ing beyond our capac­i­ty. We are the only nation on Earth that has always turned every cri­sis we have faced into an oppor­tu­ni­ty. The only nation that can be defined by a sin­gle word: possibilities.”

The first part of Biden’s speech empha­sized the work the Biden-Har­ris admin­is­tra­tion has done to hold the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion account­able for Vladimir Putin’s hor­rif­ic war of aggres­sion in Ukraine.

Biden praised Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skyy for his courage and resolve in the face of invaders, includ­ing assas­sins, com­mend­ed the Ukrain­ian peo­ple for show­ing equal­ly fer­vent brav­ery and deter­mi­na­tion, and announced that the U.S. will close its air­space to Russ­ian air­craft, fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Cana­da and Euro­pean coun­tries. (Rus­sia is expect­ed to respond in-kind.)

Biden then spoke about the toll the pan­dem­ic has tak­en on Americans.

“We meet tonight in an Amer­i­ca that has lived through two of the hard­est years this nation has ever faced,” Biden remarked. “The pan­dem­ic has been punishing.
And so many fam­i­lies are liv­ing pay­check to pay­check, strug­gling to keep up with the ris­ing cost of food, gas, hous­ing, and so much more.”

“I under­stand.”

“I remem­ber when my Dad had to leave our home in Scran­ton, Penn­syl­va­nia to find work. I grew up in a fam­i­ly where if the price of food went up, you felt it.”

Biden urged Con­gress to act on cost of liv­ing con­cerns by adopt­ing leg­is­la­tion to respond to cli­mate dam­age, encour­age a revi­tal­iza­tion of the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor, and ensure Amer­i­ca can stay ahead tech­no­log­i­cal­ly. He also tout­ed the pos­i­tive ben­e­fits of the pas­sage of the Infra­struc­ture Invest­ment and Jobs Act.

Then he urged Con­gress to act on a long list of stalled pri­or­i­ties: pro­tect­ing repro­duc­tive rights and vot­ing rights, agree­ing on com­pre­hen­sive immi­gra­tion reforms, ban­ning assault weapons and high-capac­i­ty gun mag­a­zines, defend­ing trans­gen­der youth, and bol­ster­ing police accountability.

Before end­ing his remarks, Pres­i­dent Biden pro­posed a “uni­ty agen­da” for 2022 that has four ele­ments he believes Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans ought to be able to agree to pri­or­i­tize and fund before the midterms:

  1. Beat the opi­oid epidemic
  2. Take on men­tal health
  3. Sup­port our veterans
  4. End can­cer as we know it

These are all pri­or­i­ties that deserve more than lip ser­vice and it was encour­ag­ing to hear them dis­cussed at length by the Pres­i­dent in the State of the Union.

Sev­er­al Pacif­ic North­west law­mak­ers sent NPI their reac­tions to the speech.

“True strength isn’t beat­ing your chest or punch­ing down at those who have less than you. True strength is lead­ing – mobi­liz­ing oth­ers to take on the most impor­tant fights, build­ing for the long-term whether or not you get the cred­it now, show­ing respect and com­pas­sion for those who may have dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ences or pri­or­i­ties, and accept­ing with humil­i­ty the will of the peo­ple. Tonight, Joe Biden demon­strat­ed that strength, and showed the world how a true leader gov­erns,” said Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tor Jeff Merkley, D‑Oregon.

“Pres­i­dent Biden inher­it­ed from Don­ald Trump a coun­try in cri­sis, and tonight he gave a pow­er­ful speech on the progress made in vac­ci­nat­ing more than 200 mil­lion Amer­i­cans and end­ing the pan­dem­ic, rebuild­ing the econ­o­my and achiev­ing the best job mar­ket for work­ers in a gen­er­a­tion, and win­ning the fight between democ­ra­cy and author­i­tar­i­an­ism at home and around the world,” said Merkley’s seat­mate Sen­a­tor Ron Wyden, D‑Oregon.

“It was crit­i­cal that the Pres­i­dent dis­cuss his plans to low­er costs for Amer­i­cans. Eco­nom­ic trends and records are impor­tant indi­ca­tors, but many of my con­stituents aren’t feel­ing it yet,” said Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kim Schri­er (D‑WA-08).

“And Wash­ing­ton fam­i­lies con­tin­ue to strug­gle with high prices. He and I agree that we must bring down the cost of pre­scrip­tion drugs, espe­cial­ly life-sav­ing drugs like insulin, and bring down the costs of every­day goods like gas and gro­ceries. I’m glad that Pres­i­dent Biden specif­i­cal­ly addressed inter­na­tion­al ship­ping car­ri­ers, whose price gaug­ing has direct­ly impact­ed the cost of goods and allowed these com­pa­nies to make record prof­its over the last two years.”

“As Pres­i­dent Biden said, it is past time we deliv­er a land­mark invest­ment in cli­mate action and clean ener­gy,” said Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray, D‑Washington. “Espe­cial­ly now, we need to redou­ble our efforts to tran­si­tion to low­er-cost, clean­er ener­gy so we aren’t as reliant on cost­ly for­eign oil. This is going to low­er costs in the long-term and strength­en our econ­o­my and our nation­al security.”

The White House has not yet pro­vid­ed a tran­script of Pres­i­dent Biden’s speech yet, but here is a word cloud that we cre­at­ed based on the remarks as pre­pared for deliv­ery. America/Americans/American were col­lec­tive­ly the most spo­ken words in the speech, exclud­ing very com­mon words like the.

State of the Union Wordle

A word cloud for the 2022 State of the Union, cre­at­ed by the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute (Click to enlarge)

The speech would have ben­e­fit­ed from a seg­ment dis­cussing and rebut­ting Repub­li­cans’ attacks on aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom and school curriculum.

Biden did men­tion that the Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan gives schools mon­ey to hire teach­ers and help stu­dents make up for lost learn­ing, but he could and should have gone fur­ther than that. Edu­ca­tion has his­tor­i­cal­ly been an area the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty has been com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing excel­lent lead­er­ship on, but that com­mit­ment has seem­ing­ly waned in recent years. It needs to be renewed.

Over­all, this was an effec­tive speech that cov­ered a lot of ground and fre­quent­ly used lan­guage that evokes pro­gres­sive val­ues and principles.

Biden’s con­dem­na­tion of trick­le-down eco­nom­ics and tax cuts for the rich was impor­tant and appre­ci­at­ed. As Biden said, trick­le-down result­ed in “weak­er eco­nom­ic growth, low­er wages, big­ger deficits, and the widest gap between those at the top and every­one else in near­ly a century.”

Biden’s over­ar­ch­ing mes­sage was that oppor­tu­ni­ties accom­pa­ny crises. As he said, there are oppor­tu­ni­ties for progress, and we should be work­ing togeth­er to real­ize those oppor­tu­ni­ties. The peo­ple’s needs should dri­ve the work of Con­gress, not tire­some polit­i­cal the­ater and coun­ter­pro­duc­tive gamesmanship.

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