President Biden Gives Historic First State of the Union Address

Angelina Astic, Contents/Copy Editor

On Mar. 1, 2022 at 9 p.m. EST, President Joseph Biden delivered his very first State of the Union Address to the world. Joined by Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the address made history, marking the first time that two women sat behind the president during the State of the Union. Biden’s address covered a wide range of topics, including both foreign and domestic subjects, emphasizing the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

In Biden’s address, which lasted one hour, one minute, and 50 seconds, he chose to begin by presenting the U.S. stance on the ongoing crisis between Ukraine and Russia. Pledging $1 billion dollars in foreign aid to the Ukrainian people to take up arms against members of the Russian military, the President expressed his support for the efforts of the Ukrainian people and Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 

During the address, Biden reinforced the nation’s commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance and announced further action against Russian President Vladimir Putin as a result of his invasion into Ukraine. Alongside NATO allies, the U.S. has plans to deploy troops to protect NATO allies susceptible to Putin’s military capability. 

To counteract potential price hikes for oil and natural gas as a result of sanctions against Russia, Biden also announced that the U.S. collaborated with 30 other countries to ensure the release of 60 million barrels of oil from worldwide reserves. Additionally, Biden also mentioned that 30 million of those barrels would come from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve. 

Regarding the COVID-19 crisis, Biden mentioned the emotional and economic hardships that Americans have faced in the past two years. In doing so, Biden also highlighted the American Rescue Plan, his administration’s plan designed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting crises. Biden highlighted job growth and economic growth, touting 6.5 million new jobs and 5.7% economic growth rate.

Another key component of Biden’s agenda, infrastructure, also received speech time. Noting that U.S. infrastructure ranks 13 in the world, Biden announced a plan for an “infrastructure decade,” which aims to create a new system in which every aspect of infrastructure, is American-made from start to finish. 

In continuing with the theme of American-made goods, Biden mentioned corporate investments into American manufacturing, highlighting Intel’s once $20 billion to now $100 billion dollar investment, as well as the new semiconductor “megasite,” which will be constructed in Columbus, Ohio. 

Furthermore, Biden marked the importance of keeping costs low for Americans and elevating Americans out of poverty. Making special note of healthcare, Biden spoke about the promotion of accessibility to healthcare services and necessary drugs. Energy costs were also mentioned, as Biden moves toward combating climate change and instituting climate-conscious policies. An additional point was made about childcare costs, as many families pay more than 7% of their incomes on childcare services. 

To minimize costs for Americans, Biden mentioned an increase in taxes for those who earn $400,000 or more per year. Furthermore, Biden also spoke about the creation of a 15% minimum federal tax rate for corporations and a negotiated global minimum tax rate for companies.  

Regarding community safety, Biden made note of the $350 billion allocated in the American Rescue Plan in order to hire more police and fund programs that work to prevent an increase of violence in areas across the country. In terms of border patrol, Biden announced joint patrols with Mexico and Guatemala to combat human and drug trafficking. 

Civil liberties took center stage during Biden’s State of the Union. Biden encouraged providing a pathway to citizenship for those interested through the passage of bipartisan immigration reform. Discussing a woman’s right to choose as outlined by Roe v. Wade Biden spoke in support of maternal healthcare. Originally written by Biden three decades ago, he encouraged the strengthening and passage of the Violence Against Women Act. Addressing America’s LGBTQ+ population, Biden spoke out against bills in state legislatures across the country. 

Biden also introduced a Unity Agenda for the Nation, which tackles four central issues. The agenda addresses the opioid epidemic, the U.S. mental health crisis, veteran affairs and access to care as well as the promotion of efforts to cure cancer. 

Biden highlighted retiring Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Stephen Breyer. Known for his liberal stance, Biden has nominated Miami Palmetto Senior High Graduate Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, also known for her liberal values, to step into Breyer’s position on the court. If confirmed, Brown Jackson would become the first black woman to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Traditionally, the First Lady invites a set list of guests, many of whom are related to the State of the Union address in some facet, to accompany her in the First Lady’s Box. This year, in addition to Second Gentlemen Douglas Emhoff and Valerie Biden Owens, the First Lady invited nine guests: the Ambassador of Ukraine to the U.S., Oksana Markarova, Joseph Burgess, Joshua Davis, Refynd Duro, Patrick Gelsinger, Frances Haugen, Melissa Isaac, Danielle Robinson and Kezia Rodriguez. 

In order to ensure continuity of government in the event of a catastrophe, there is a Designated Survivor. A member of the president’s cabinet who is usually not mentioned in the address or needed at the State of the Union, last night’s Designated Survivor was Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who is 10th in the presidential line of succession. 

As D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser implemented the final lifting of mask mandates in the area on Monday, many attendees at the State of the Union chose not to wear a mask. As of most recent reports, Congressional Democrats have a 100% COVID-19 vaccination rate, and at least 44.8% of House Republicans and 92% of Republican Senators are vaccinated against COVID-19.