The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
On Tuesday night, the Sergeant-at-Arms for the House of Representatives will stand on the floor of the House chamber and announce to the assembled Members of Congress, Supreme Court Justices, Cabinet members, an array of guests in the gallery (including the First Lady and Dr. Biden) and millions of the American people watching live, “Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States!” This now-iconic declaration opens the State of the Union ceremony, as the President ascends the dais, hands copies of his speech to the Vice President and the Speaker of the House, and begins his address.
The State of the Union is much more than a yearly speech of Presidential concerns and priorities. It is a constitutionally-mandated duty of the president: as Article II Section 3 of the Constitution states, the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union.” It is hard to predict exactly what issues the President will choose to highlight in a given speech, but the RAC legislative assistants have offered a few ideas. Read on for their prognostications and join us on Tuesday night as we live tweet the president’s speech
Claire Shimberg - Even 50 years after the Civil Rights Movement, racial and structural inequalities persist in our country. Recent tragedies in Ferguson, Staten Island, and other communities around our country have further proven just how fraught the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color are. While the President has already established a Task Force on 21st Century Policing to begin to analyze this issue, we hope that in his speech he will expand on his plan to build trust and restore justice in our justice system.
Melanie Fineman - Five years after the official end of the recession, working families still struggle to keep themselves out of poverty. The current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour translates to an annual salary of $15,080—below the poverty line for a single parent with one child. We hope that President Obama will call on Congress to follow the 29 states across the country that have already taken action to raise the minimum wage.
Adults without paid sick days are 1.5 times more likely than adults who have paid sick days to go to work when sick. Paid sick days would help stop the spread of illnesses like the flu, and also reduce turnover, thereby save employers money. Paid sick leave also increases productivity. Leadership from the President and Congress on this issue will ensure that millions of Americans can access this important benefit and strengthen working families.
Rachel Chung - Pay equity remains a key issue as women on average earn 78 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make. The disparity is even greater for women of color. On Equal Pay Day 2014, President Obama signed two executive orders to help close the gender wage gap. We know, however, that we are not yet there. We hope that the President will call on Congress to take important, additional steps to help close the gender wage gap that persists in the United States.
Jonathan Edelman - President Obama’s executive action on immigration reform has reignited the debate on the Hill about how to fix the broken immigration system, and what steps need to be taken after the 113th Congress’ comprehensive immigration reform bill stalled in the House after being passed in the Senate in June 2013. Considering recent House votes opposing the executive action, we anticipate remarks from the President on how to move forward.
Liya Rechtman - Recent actions from the President on climate change, including the very recent announcement of a new goal to cut methane emissions from oil and gas by 40-45% of the 2012 levels by 2012, indicates greater U.S. leadership on the climate crisis. We hope President Obama will lay out a plan to unite Congress and the American people around steps to combat climate change.
Clearly, these are just a few of the issues we hope President Obama highlights on Tuesday night. They are also only a selection of the many issues the Reform Movement speaks out on each year. Although we might not be able to solve the many challenges that face the nation and the world, each year and each new Congress is an opportunity to renew our commitment to tikkun olam.
Make sure to tune in to the State of the Union address on Tuesday, January 20 at 9PM eastern to see what issues the President discusses, and make sure to follow us on Twitter (@TheRAC) to see our live-tweeting on the #SOTU.
Interested in learning more about why these issues matter to us as Jews? Join us in Washington, D.C. on April 26-28, 2014 for the Consultation on Conscience, the Jewish community’s premiere conference on social justice.