State of the Union: Is Obama Failing Millennials?

Government can and must do more for those who’ve been fighting its wars for the last 12 years.

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Twitter was aflutter with thoughts and quippy one-liners in response to the president’s State of the Union Address last night. Most reactions seemed to be from the Millennial set, who are roundly dismissed as aimless and entitled, despite their heavy engagement in political and social issues.

What resonated most on social media was his verbalized focus on action and his readiness to flex on congress to get things done before the end of his term.  It’s the change many have been waiting for. President Obama delivered his address during the most economically stable period of his two terms, while at his lowest approval rating (43 percent) since taking office.

“I’m eager to work with all of you,” he said before Congress. “But America does not stand still – and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”

The State of the Union had a generalized focus, but still, almost everything funneled back to job creation. Unemployment has been the ghost haunting Obama’s White House, the shadow cast over even the best of his deeds (before the ineptitude of the Health Care site launch, anyway.)

He signaled “the lowest unemployment rate in five years,” and “budget compromise[s] that should leave us freer to focus on creating new jobs, not creating new crises.”

“Average wages have barely budged.  Inequality has deepened.  Upward mobility has stalled.  The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by — let alone get ahead.  And too many still aren’t working at all.”

The man who once focused on creating HOPE traded it in for America’s favorite buzzword: Opportunity. For Millennials, it’s been a battle cry; youth unemployment sat at a discouraging 16.1 percent just six months ago, according to Generation Opportunity, a national, non-partisan youth advocacy organization.

To bolster his point, the president told personal anecdotes. He cited everyday Americans like Misty DeMars, who “had been steadily employed since she was a teenager,” or extraordinary Americans like Cory Remsburg, who was nearly killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on his tenth deployment.

“Next time you want to drop some bullshit about Millennials, remember that they’ve been doing most of the US fighting/dying the last 12 years,” tweeted Tim Carmody, a media and technology writer for Wired.com and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Young people have been fighting for America’s opportunity, with little to no return on investment. And so it was a bit troubling to see just a passing notation about student loan reforms or any of the issues that really impact them. “ Today, more young people are earning college degrees than ever before,” he said.

But without opportunity, the degrees become dead weight once Sallie Mae comes knocking.

Following the address, The Dream Defenders, a social justice youth organization, posted its 2014 State of the Youth Address. Phil Agnew, the organization’s Executive Director, delivered a poignant commentary outlining the priorities for millions of young voters, from jobs, to education, to immigration, to violence, prejudice and discrimination.

These are American priorities, not just youth interests. It would be a step in the right direction if the “adults” in Washington ended their child’s play and got to work – since they have jobs, and all.

Follow @MF_Greatest on Twitter.

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