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The Student News Site of The Bishop's School

The Tower

The Student News Site of The Bishop's School

The Tower

2024 State Of the Union Address: From the Border Crisis to Israel- Hamas

President Joe Biden delivered his final State Of the Union Address on March 7, 2024
David Lai
Honors U.S. Government and Politics teacher and Honors and Regular United States History teacher Ms. Katy Rees gave her Honors U.S. Gov. & Pol class a Bingo card that had different words/topics that they could cross out every time President Joe Biden mentioned it in his 2024 State of the Union Address.

“Four More Years, Four More Years, Four More Years” chants broke out during President Joe Biden’s March 7th, 2024, State of the Union Address held in Washington, D.C. During the address, a slew of actions occurred, ranging from Vice President Kamala Harris and other audience members’ constant clapping to the heckling from United States Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene. 

After watching this speech, students and faculty members had opinions. 

Honors U.S. Government and Politics teacher and Honors and Regular United States History teacher Ms. Katy Rees assigned her Honors U.S. Gov. & Pol. class to watch the first 30 minutes of the Address. 

She explained, “It’s a ritual in our political system that students should be aware of since it is a constitutionally-mandated event that also dominates the political headlines for at least a news cycle, often highlighting administrative goals and legislative agendas.” She also said that “there are benefits to watching it over just reading the text, from seeing where people sit to picking up on tone or facial expressions, that provides insight and raises questions about how the government works.”

Ms. Rees hopes the speech “brought to life what we are studying in the classroom” for her students. She later said, “I want them to see some of the key figures in both parties and their interactions, their tone, their responses, who’s standing up and who’s not, and ask questions like why was one issue decisive but another one not, or why the president is emphasizing one topic but not another.”

History and Social Sciences teacher, Speech and Debate coach, and Model United Nations Club advisor Mr. Matthew Valji also expressed his hopes for what people took from watching the address. He commented, “Their lives and their country will be tremendously affected by who wins the next presidential and congressional elections so I hope students become more engaged and interested.” 

Mr. Valji reflected, “You could tell [President Biden] had an understanding of the subject matter and that he was directly involved in what he was trying to say. He also painted a pretty stark picture of what could happen if his opponent wins and returns to the office of the presidency.”

President Biden opened his speech by sharing his viewpoints on the Ukraine-Russia conflict and mentioning the strength of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). He said that the U.S. would continue to support Ukraine through weapons to block Russia’s invasion. Gerard Blake (‘24), an avid political enthusiast and part of the Speech and Debate club leadership, said, “I agree with him on a few things: his Ukraine policy is good and I’ve generally enjoyed his foreign policy. I think he has had good policies in the Middle East and Ukraine.”. 

When speaking about NATO, President Biden mentioned a guest he invited: Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson who helped lead Sweden in joining NATO. Mr. Valji said that bringing guests “represents the president’s priorities because they can only bring a certain number of people. Strengthening our ties with Europe and sustaining our ties with NATO are very important international relations priorities for the President.” 

Another guest that President Biden invited was Latorya Beasley, a social worker from Birmingham, Alabama, and Kate Cox, a wife and mother from Dallas, Texas. Even though they live miles apart, what connects them is their story of pregnancy. President Biden said that when the Alabama Supreme Court shut down I.V.F treatments, Ms. Beasley’s “dream would have to wait.” President Biden directly called out the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision

In Ms. Cox’s case, due to a fetus with a fatal condition, she needed an abortion but had to leave Texas to get one. Using this example, President Biden criticized the Supreme Court for overturning the landmark Supreme Court case Roe Vs. Wade.

When President Biden directly criticized the Supreme Court, Dylan Navarrete (‘24), another avid political enthusiast and part of the Speech and Debate club leadership, said that President Biden can question Roe Vs. Wade decision but he shouldn’t attack the institution as it is an “apolitical body even though it acts political sometimes.”

Jonas Pfefferman (‘24), another student heavily interested in politics, followed up on what Dylan mentioned and said, “He probably should have focused more on let’s take control of the legislature and have the legislature pass laws. He did attack the Alabama Supreme Court over the I.V.F. and that’s fine. I still don’t think he should be attacking the judiciary, [rather], I think he should be promoting legislation instead.”

After speaking about freedom of choice, President Biden then discussed how he inherited an abysmal economy and how much he’s improved it. Following this, he laid out some of his economic plans. Ms. Rees said that President Biden “likely walked into the speech with specific goals such as countering the perception of a down economy by playing up positive numbers and attaching them to administrative actions.”

Two of President Biden’s economic plans were to “raise the corporate minimum tax to at least 21 percent so every big corporation finally begins to pay their fair share” and also “to cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month for every American who needs it — everyone.” Dylan believes that capping insulin is fine but he said, “I disagree with raising the corporate tax rate to 21% even though it is not a big increase. You don’t have to raise it more than what it is right now.”

Reagan Kliber (‘24), a co-leader of the Conservative club and a registered independent also had “nothing bad to say” about the capping of insulin costs. She said, “I loved [the plan]. Personally, I can feel for them in the sense that I have really bad asthma, for example, and most insurance companies are so expensive just to get the medicine to let me breathe so I was very happy about that.”

However, regarding the corporate tax plan, taking a more neutral stance, Reagan said, “I see where he’s coming from with that I think there’s often a lack of regulation of big business..”

Gerard said, “Economically, yeah, they were a disaster and I think I don’t like the big spending projects that he did lay out. I didn’t love his economic stuff since it’s a little unrealistic too but during the State of The Union, a lot of unrealistic goals get said.”

Echoing Gerard’s idea of the validity of President Biden’s plans, Mr. Valji also said, “I think any State of the Union is going to be a wish list. If you look back at previous State of the Unions, they’ve talked about curing cancer and doing all these amazing things but often, the vision of the president collides with the reality of the congress.”

In a more general sense, Dylan said, “Doing a lot of the political things he’s been doing for re-election doesn’t make any sense. He should have the government functioning for what it needs to do.” Discussing the plans as a whole, Democrat Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “President Biden laid out a bold vision to the American people that shows Democrats are working for a safe, stable, strong America – one that prioritizes the needs of working families and leaves no one behind.”

After mentioning the importance of education, President Biden discussed the current border crisis. Mr. Valji said that President Biden “made a strong reference to immigration and [discussed] the fundamental and necessity of immigration reform, which I think is one of the top issues in the United States for both Democrats and Republicans.”   

During his address about immigration, Marjorie Taylor Greene not only wore a “Say Her Name” T-shirt, referencing the murder of Laken Riley by a suspected illegal immigrant, but she and other Republicans also heckled President Biden about undocumented immigrants

Mr. Valji said, “I think it’s not appropriate regardless of what side someone is on. There are times and places to respond to a State of the Union or to protest it. I think distracting from the address in the middle of it by shouting and screaming is not appropriate.”

Jonas not only mentioned that it was inappropriate but that “it was embarrassing and reflective of the current state of the House Republican Caucuses, unfortunately. [It was] not a good look [and it] may cost them the house and the senate.” Dylan concurred, “The State of the Union address is supposed to be a respectful place where most of Congress can meet. Heckling has no place in the State of the Union.”

Gerard also expressed similar sentiments as he thought that it was annoying yet the heckling led to funny moments. But Gerard said he is “fine with clapping as that is what they are supposed to do, but the chanting is not necessary.”

Adding on to Gerard, Reagan said, “Just let him speak and have respect. Republicans would have thrown a fit if this was during a Republican State of the Union Address and some Democrats were heckling.  Republicans would be upset and post stuff about it on X (Twitter).” She thought that Biden responded well to the heckling as “he remained calm, cool, and collected. He embodied the very peaceful mindset of being president.”

No matter if one was Democrat, Independent, Republican, etc. there was a consensus that the heckling was inappropriate. Democrat Senator West Virginia Joe Manchin said that the outbursts were “shameful… the whole world is watching. We can do better than that.” 

Following his passionate speech about immigration, Biden touched on the pressing topics of equality, LGBTQ+, climate change, China, and crime. The final issue he brought up tied the start to the end as he mentioned the other huge international conflict that is plaguing this world: Israel – Hamas. 

President Biden mentioned that a two-state solution must be instated as that is the only “real solution.” He also noted that he is a life-long supporter of Israel and has helped lead international efforts to give more humanitarian aid. In his talk about the conflict, he mentioned a temporary pier in the Mediterranean Sea. President Biden explained, “I’m directing the U.S. military to lead an emergency mission to establish a temporary pier in the Mediterranean on the coast of Gaza that can receive large shipments carrying food, water, medicine, and temporary shelters.”

Jonas said that “the plan building the port to deliver humanitarian aid at Gaza was a total publicity thing to save himself with the Democrats.” Dylan also said that President Biden’s Gaza plan is not feasible and not going to happen.

Jade Gray, a University of Michigan student and recent co-president of their College Democrats chapter spoke with CNN and welcomed Biden’s criticisms of the Israeli government and his focus on more humanitarian help for Palestinian civilians. She also said, “I do want to make it very clear that I, and many other young people, progressives and Michiganders would like to see a permanent ceasefire.”

Throughout his speech, President Biden mentioned the outrageous actions taken by his predecessor, former Republican President Donald Trump. Jonas said, “He did what he set out to do: establish the problem he sees with President Trump getting re-elected and why he is the better alternative.”

Reagan offered her opinions, she said, “Each point he would bring up [Trump’s name] and it seemed like he would anchor it to Trump, which I thought was really interesting… Personally, I didn’t feel like he needed to as he would have sounded better and more powerful without having to anchor [everything] at Trump, which I felt was very politically polarizing.”

In a response statement to the State of the Union Address, the Florida Democrat Party said, “Trump has promised to be a ‘dictator on day one’ and has made no secret of his plans to attack our democracy from within — thankfully, President Biden can be trusted to defend our democracy, grow our economy, and keep making life better for all Floridians. We have to re-elect him in November, at all costs.”

With the speech falling in an election year, Mr. Valji said, “There were a couple of areas for us to focus on which is that President Biden is trying to paint a more optimistic picture of the direction that America is going in because frankly, any re-election is a referendum on a presidency. He has to say that things are getting better and I think he did a decent job doing that.” 

Ms. Rees also said, “I can’t point to this one event, including the State of the Union, and say ‘Oh, this is what will tip the scale’ for what is bound to be a very close and contentious election season.” She later said, “And the speech itself will always be political to some degree or another, especially in an election year. This year’s State of the Union fell at what is really the start of the official campaign season for President Biden, which I’m sure was taken into consideration in the writing of the speech.”

Gearard also noted that the address won’t have a notable advantage for Biden. He said, “I mean people liked his speech. I saw some polls where 64% of viewers thought it was a good speech but overall,  I don’t think enough people watched it and people already have their cemented opinions on Biden.” Reagan also said, “His goal is re-election, he’s trying to hype himself up as much as possible to get independent votes.”

Ms. Rees further mentioned the specific group of people who watch the address: people who already pay attention to politics. She also mentioned that given this specific group, being able to sway onlookers would be hard. She said, “Those who follow politics closely tend to watch, dissect, and discuss the speech extensively, but there are likely many more who aren’t even aware that it is happening. It would be great to see more citizens actively engage in events like this both to increase their awareness of public policy and to hold our elected officials more accountable in their roles.”

In the end, Mr. Valji said, “If this was a gymnastic routine, I believe that President Biden stuck the landing as they would say but he still has a significant uphill battle. People are worried about the economy, the funding for wars, immigration, inflation, and housing.”  

Jonas reflected, “It wasn’t anything magical but it was nice to see his eyes open and saying full sentences. He did a good job calling out the Republicans regarding immigration/border things. He clowned on the Republicans and that’s what you need for re-election.” 

Dylan recapped the entire State of The Union Address, “It was a fine re-election speech and it was probably his best State of The Union. Otherwise, I didn’t completely agree with everything he said but otherwise, I think this election should shape up to be [really] interesting.”

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About the Contributor
David Lai
David Lai, Staff Writer
David Lai, the only returning staff writer, is a junior who loves playing soccer. No matter if he sleeps one hour or 10 hours, he always has a full tank of energy.  He loves MUN, speech and debate, and knows how to speak four languages. Whether he is hanging out with friends, talking to his siblings, doing homework, playing video games or soccer, David is always energetic. He loves writing about sports, politics, MUN, Nobel Peace Prize winners, and more. 

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