The State of the Union: Congress United on Ukraine, Divided in Washington

On March 1, President Biden addressed a joint session of Congress and the American people in his first State of The Union address, where he addressed growing concerns of the Ukraine invasion, stalled domestic agendas, his hopes for political unification as well as the decline of the Covid-19 virus.

“My fellow Americans, last year Covid-19 kept us apart. This year we’re finally together again,” said Biden.

According to the Associated Press, “For a nation bitterly divided at home, the fight for Ukraine’s survival against the Russian invasion was pulling the U.S. Congress together.”

“Tonight we meet as Democrats, Republicans, independents, but most importantly, as Ameircans, with the duty to one another, to America, to the American people, to the Constitution and an unwavering resolve that freedom will always triumph over tyranny,” said Biden. 

In a moment of unity, lawmakers showed their support for Ukraine. The Associated Press reported, some lawmakers wore blue and yellow outfits, while others pinned blue and yellow ribbons to their lapels. When the flags of Ukraine were handed out to lawmakers, some tucked them into their suit coats like pocket squares. 

Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, was welcomed with a standing ovation, while waving her country’s flag from the visitors gallery, sitting next to First Lady Dr. Jill Biden. 

            Dr. Gary Rose, Chair of the Department of Government said, “As the leader of the free world, I believe he made Ukraine a paramount issue in the minds of not only the American people, but also people around the world.” 

Despite the partisan unification over the Ukrainian invasion, there were still many issues that showed tension and division. Shifting the conversation to domestic policy, Biden talked briefly about the Covid-19 pandemic with an optimistic outlook as cases decline nationwide, mentioning its effect on the economy. 

President Biden acknowledged that the worst part of the virus is behind us, but there are still more challenges ahead. 

Biden outlined plans to address inflation by reinvesting in manufacturing, hastening supply chains, and aiming to fix the burden of childcare and eldercare with a focus on relieving the burden of the middle and lower class. 

“He brought a lot of strong initiatives and elaborated on a wide variety of domestic policies that reflect the tones of the Build Back Better bill,” said senior Rachel Oddy. “I think he brought attention back to the issues that many Americans would prioritize such as health care, education, Covid-19, and our economy.”  

While some praised Biden’s speech, others criticized his administration’s response and policies. 

“I think that Biden has been a weak President and that shows in his speeches, especially the State of The Union,” said junior Alejandro Ramos. “He ran on a platform as the unifier and to bring normalcy to the White House, but he has failed.”

 “I think he needed to go into more details on how he plans on tackling inflation, rising gas prices, and the inability to put food on the table,” said Ramos.   

  In an attempt to reunite both parties, Biden spoke about supporting the police, rather than defunding them, in a move that surprised many. 

“When people were calling for a defund the police movement, then candidate Biden, didn’t say a word, and never challenged it,” said Rose. “That’s why it’s really quite remarkable that now all of a sudden he is opposed to defunding.”

Biden ended his speech by saying, “On this night, on our 245th year as a nation, I have come to report on the state of the union, and my report is this: the state of the union is strong because you, the American people, are strong. This is our moment to meet and overcome the challenges of our time, and we will, as one people.” 

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