News  >  News Article 

State of the Union Advice

On Tuesday, Jan. 28, President Obama will deliver his fifth State of the Union Address. Since the president was unable to achieve practically any of the agenda he outlined in last year's speech, he could largely recycle the 2013 address with its calls for overhauling immigration and boosting the federal minimum wage. But he's even less likely to see Congress approve his priorities. For one thing, it's a midterm election year, which means important and controversial pieces of legislation typically face bigger obstacles. As a result, much of the speech should be viewed as even more of a political wish list than usual — an attempt, as Democratic Party leader, to set the terms of the debate for the congressional elections.
Three Lehigh faculty members offer their advice as to what the president should consider a priority in the year ahead.
David Casagrande, ecological anthropologist
Climate Change
The president should lay out a bold plan to address climate change and carbon emissions, but he won't. He will likely only make a few brief allusions to climate, as he has throughout his presidency. President Obama will be remembered by future historians and the general public as the president who failed to address climate change. This is because, unlike his predecessors, the science is even more compelling than before, he  expressed concern and intention to address the issue, and public opinion polls show increasing and majority concern about the issue. Unfortunately, after expending his political capital on health care, he couldn't possibly get meaningful climate legislation passed. He will not likely be remembered as the president who created universal health care and some historians will comment on his foreign policy, but his name will come up often when people in the future ask why nothing was done to avoid the massive economic and social unrest that will result from climate change over the next 50 years. 
Robert Gustafson, Associate Professor, Leadership Fellow and Managing Director of the Enterprise Systems Center (ESC)
Immigration Policy
1. Competitive advantage: USA has the best competitive advantage in world - attracting the best and brightest minds to our country for higher education.  Why do we throw it away by making it so difficult for them to stay after we invested so much of our academic resources to educating them?  Approx. 85% of grad students are international.  Sending most away exports our greatest advantage and leaves much less for us to compete.
2.  Higher education model: A PhD is required to become a tenured faculty, which is requisite for becoming a dept. chair or Dean or Provost, etc., Since 85% of our PhD students are international, where does this lead us into the next generation?
Henri Barkey, professor of International Relations
Foreign Affairs and Turkey
President Barack Obama may be facing many challenges at home and abroad. However, another emerging one may further complicate his life. NATO ally Turkey is mired in a crisis of its own making that potentially threatens its alliance ties, tax the US government’s patience and even spill over into the increasingly chaotic rest of the Middle East. Washington should perhaps get ready for an increasingly erratic and unpredictable Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who until May of last year was a valued White House speaker on many subjects, especially on Syria and the aftermath of the Arab Spring. On a trip to Brussels this week — the first in five years — Erdogan also saw how much he has alienated his European audience. (The full article can be found on Al-Monitor: Obama's new Problem: Turkey).
Jordan Reese
Share this story: 
President Obama delivering a speech