Members of UF College Democrats gathered at Pugh Hall on Tuesday night to hear President Barack Obama deliver his final State of the Union address.
Reflecting on the last seven years, Obama looked back on his self-proclaimed achievements, including an improved economy, the Iran nuclear deal and efforts to end gun violence.
Obama also focused on the future.
He promised to finish his presidency by working to bridge a bipartisan Congress, improve economic equality and continue to push forward a proposal to make the first two years of community college free.
“We passed the Affordable Care Act. Over 16 million new Americans are now insured, and that’s huge,” Amir Avin, a 21-year-old UF finance senior, said. “And he’s made a lot of other sweeping reforms that have improved the lives of Americans today.”
Seven years of partisan bickering and failed initiatives were not evident in Obama’s speech, even as news broke hours earlier that 10 U.S. sailors were being held by Iran. Instead, Obama spoke optimistically about his plans and hopes for the future.
Returning to the community college proposal, Obama said he would continue efforts to get the plan started this year.
“We have to make college affordable for every American,” he said.
Later addressing the fight against the Islamic State, Obama urged Congress to pass an authorization of war on the extremist group. He also stressed that America should avoid acting as the world’s police force when trying to keep the U.S. and its allies safe.
Critics have condemned the president for what they call a weak response to the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, which ISIS inspired and organized. Obama went on to criticize people who called for a ban blocking Muslim refugees from entering the U.S. following the terror attacks.
“When politicians insult Muslims, whether abroad or our fellow citizens, when a mosque is vandalized or a kid is called names, that doesn’t make us safer. That isn’t telling it like it is,” he said. “It’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world.”
Obama also pushed for clean energy as an alternative to coal and fossil fuels. He also praised the Paris Agreement on climate change reached last year.
“I stand here as confident as I have ever been that the State of our Union is strong,” Obama said as he concluded.
The crowd in Pugh Hall stood and clapped, and the UF College Democrats’ treasurer reflected on the speech.
“Perfect,” Chris Reilly, a 20-year-old UF political science junior said. “It reminded me of why I voted for him last time.”