Obama Calls for Universal Pre-K Among Other Reforms to Strengthen the Middle Class

President Obama’s State of the Union address for 2013 focused on the American economy and specifically addressed many issues that directly affect children and families. He spoke of opening “the doors of opportunity to every child” and building “new ladders of opportunity into the middle class.” He proposed universal pre-Kindergarten (pre-K) education, because “the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road.” He followed this with additional education reforms to incentivize expanded skills in high school education and improved college affordability and value in the Higher Education Act. He also made a strong call for gun control legislation to keep our children safe, declaring that his speech “matters little if we don’t come together to protect our most precious resource, our children.” 

For families, the President proposed raising the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation, stating that “in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty.” He discussed removing financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples and doing more to encourage responsible fatherhood. He also talked about immigration reform and extreme poverty internationally that would keep families together and promote well-being across the world. In addition to several specific ideas for creating jobs, he made clear that budget negotiations must not cut health care, education or public safety. He asserted, “we can’t just cut our way to prosperity.” Other mentions of the Violence Against Women Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act and voting reform are additional aspects of the agenda that would touch the lives of vulnerable children and families. 

The President made clear that the democratic process is not easy or automatic. After admiring several heroic citizens for boldly putting others before themselves, he concluded the speech by calling on all Americans to view our citizenship as an obligation to one another and future generations. He seemed to be not only proposing reforms to “re-ignite” the middle-class, but also calling all of us to action both directly by helping vulnerable neighbors and by holding federal leaders accountable for making needed progress.

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