What Brookings Experts Said about Obama’s State of the Union Speech

Tonight, President Barack Obama delivered his penultimate State of the Union address, his first to a Congress controlled entirely by the Republican Party. Freshman Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa delivered the official GOP response. Before, during and after the speech, tweets and links from Brookings experts have been posted here and updated as they happened. Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. (EST), join Brookings experts Bill Galston, Mark Muro, and Elaine Kamarck in a live online analysis of the issues highlighted and overlooked.

Read Galston’s reaction piece here.

10:26 pm: Sen. Joni Ernst (IA) delivers the official GOP response.

10:10 pm: “My fellow Americans, we too are a strong, tight-knit family. We, too, have made it through some hard times. Fifteen years into this new century, we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and begun again the work of remaking America. We’ve laid a new foundation. A brighter future is ours to write. Let’s begin this new chapter – together – and let’s start the work right now.”

9:59 pm: “You know, just over a decade ago, I gave a speech in Boston where I said there wasn’t a liberal America, or a conservative America; a black America or a white America – but a United States of America. I said this because I had seen it in my own life, in a nation that gave someone like me a chance; because I grew up in Hawaii, a melting pot of races and customs; because I made Illinois my home – a state of small towns, rich farmland, and one of the world’s great cities; a microcosm of the country where Democrats and Republicans and Independents, good people of every ethnicity and every faith, share certain bedrock values.”

9:54 pm: “I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what – I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.”

9:44 pm: “My first duty as Commander-in-Chief is to defend the United States of America. In doing so, the question is not whether America leads in the world, but how. When we make rash decisions, reacting to the headlines instead of using our heads; when the first response to a challenge is to send in our military – then we risk getting drawn into unnecessary conflicts, and neglect the broader strategy we need for a safer, more prosperous world. That’s what our enemies want us to do.”

9:41 pm: “Now, the truth is, when it comes to issues like infrastructure and basic research, I know there’s bipartisan support in this chamber. Members of both parties have told me so.”

9:36 pm: “21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure – modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet. Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this. So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than thirty times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come.”

9:31 pm: “That’s why I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college – to zero.”

9:25 pm: “So what does middle-class economics require in our time?”

9:21 pm: “So the verdict is clear. Middle-class economics works. Expanding opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work, as long as politics don’t get in the way. We can’t slow down businesses or put our economy at risk with government shutdowns or fiscal showdowns. We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got a system to fix. And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, it will earn my veto.”

9:14 pm: “The shadow of crisis has passed.”

9:11 pm: “Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. More of our kids are graduating than ever before; more of our people are insured than ever before; we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years.”

9:06 pm: President Obama has entered the House chamber. 

8:45 pm: Who will be the cabinent official designated to stay away tonight?

4:40 p.m.

Visit our #SOTU2015 Twitter list to find out which Brookings experts are tweeting about the event. 


Thomas Mann says tonight’s speech reflects Obama’s “determination to make the most of the leverage for leadership available to him.”

Tamara Cofman Wittes doesn’t expect much foreign policy content in the speech, but offers her thoughts on three major topics.

Stuart Butler explains why he thinks Obama’s free community college idea is not a good idea.

Ted Piccone suggests that President Obama “will use his new Cuba policy as a leading example of how he intends to do business for the next two years—with bold strokes and big tent coalitions to secure his legacy, with or without Congress.”

Elaine Kamarck gathers the best and worst State of the Union moments from over the last 50 years.

Steve Hess, the principle drafter of President Eisenhower’s 1961 State of the Union speech, reflects on what that president hoped for as he left the oval office, and offers a presidential doodle.