State of the Union rings hollow without people power

Jan 29, 2014, 12:00 pm

Dawud Walid: State of the Union rings hollow without people power

Last night’s State of the Union address resonated with me on many levels. though much of it was not as ambitious as previous addresses. President Barack Obama’s talk of having a commitment to immigration reform and closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility this year, however, rang hollow.

In the beginning of President Obama’s first term, when the House and Senate were under Democratic control, he had the perfect opportunity to push immigration reform through. He didn’t.

Some say that he spent all of his political capital early on passing the stimulus package and health care reform, which is debatable. Given how divided Capitol Hill has become on issues as simple as extending unemployment insurance and keeping the government’s doors open, I don’t see how immigration reform will be passed this year, even though it’s in the best interests of our country and both the Republican and Democratic parties’ political viability.

Regarding Guantanamo, President Obama signed an executive order regarding its closure shortly after being sworn into his first term, yet it’s still open. The lack of political will even within Obama’s own Democratic Party to close it is a major part of this continued national embarrassment, which has violated the human rights of hundreds of detainees.

Continued speeches regarding immigration reform and closing Gitmo reflect more as a lack of leadership by the president and his own party, not simply Republican obstruction. Moreover, these two issues also reflect insufficient mobilization among political progressives who are not Latinos, Arab Americans and American Muslims due to other issues that have been given precedence or viewed as more important.

The State of the Union speech really reminds me that the power for true change is in the hands of the people. As long as there are more people calling up their congressmen and the White House, who want neither comprehensive immigration reform nor for Gitmo to be closed, there will be no movement, even if the majority of Americans want them.

Past the flowery speeches, we have to make those words ring true which President Obama spoke last night. Otherwise, we’ll hear them again and again as we’ve heard them for the past five years without much changing on the ground.


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