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State of the (Millennial) Union

President Barack Obama is applauded as he gives his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016.

CREDIT: AP/Susan Walsh.

“…For my final address to this chamber, I don’t want to just talk about the next year,” President Obama said Tuesday night, in his final State of the Union address. “I want to focus on the next five years, ten years, and beyond. I want to talk about the future.”

With these words, Obama redirected the hundreds of Congresspeople before him, and the millions more Americans watching, to look ahead–not just at the policies that would shape and define his last year in office, but at the ideas that will shape the years to come. As Millennials, we, too, will help define the contours of that future, and in turn, those contours will define us. And so, here’s a look at the policies and principles, covering the most pressing issues of our day, that President Obama addressed in his final State of the Union and how they impact Millennials. For more in-depth analyses of each issue area, click through the header.

 

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Global Issues

President Obama’s speech Tuesday night was cornered by four questions, one of which asked: “How do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman?”

 

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Campus Sexual Assault

President Obama focused on the future during his final State of the Union address Tuesday night. Unfortunately, for student activists and survivors of campus sexual assault, talk about the future did not include talk about It’s On Us, campus sexual assault reform, or even sexual violence in general.

Gun Violence Prevention

The President spent the better part of last week outlining his executive actions on gun violence, a public health crisis that disproportionately impacts young people. Although those proposals were missing from the speech, Millennials made it clear that gun violence prevention would be an important issue in the 2016 election: 82 percent of Millennials support background checks for all gun purchasers.

Reproductive Rights

Though reproductive rights have been under attack in recent years, President Obama’s speech on Tuesday night was noticeably light on its mention or support of women’s reproductive rights.

 

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Immigration

In last year’s State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama largely avoided the topic of immigration reform, a top domestic priority during his first six years in the White House. During this eighth and final address this week, things were not all that different.

 

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Fair Pay and Paid Leave

While Obama used his last State of the Union address to talk about America’s future and was generally light on policy details, the lack of narrative on the pay gap and paid leave were still noticeably absent in the remainder of his speech.

Student Debt and College Affordability

Millennials count college affordability and lowering student debt as their number two priority this upcoming election, second only to the American economy at large, according to a recent poll by Rock the Vote and USA TODAY. With the issue weighing so heavy on their minds, Millennials tuning in Tuesday night to President Obama’s final State of the Union address may have been underwhelmed by the less than two minutes dedicated to the topic in the nearly one hour speech.

 

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Voting Rights and Civic Engagement

The President’s last State of the Union address re-enforced not only the need to ensure the right to vote as one of the most sacred duties as a citizen, but also helped remind some of the nation’s most disenfranchised groups, including young people, that their voices matter.

 

 

 

Courtney Hamilton is a reporter for Generation Progress, covering progressive economics.

Casey Bruce is a reporter for Generation Progress, covering global issues. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @captcaseybruce.

Jazmin Kay is a reporter for Generation Progress, covering voting rights and civic engagement. Follow her on Twitter at @jazminlkay.

Bettina Weiss is a reporter for Generation Progress, covering gun violence prevention. Follow her on Twitter at @bweiss22.

Alexandra Kilpatrick is a reporter with Generation Progress.

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