SOTU: Values Driven, Now Must be Action-Oriented

January 21, 2015

Picture by NASA HQ, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Picture by NASA HQ, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Last night, President Obama gave the annual State of the Union address to the nation. His speech covered a myriad of issues currently impacting our country. As much as the State of the Union exists to serve as an update to the current state of affairs, this year’s address was a values-based speech and outlined a vision for the direction our nation should go.

While giving Americans a sense of direction and vision for the future, there are still questions that remain for the work that lies ahead. Moving forward, the President highlighted important issues that affect our nation at large. Specifically, he reiterated his 2008 campaign promise to work toward shutting down Guantanamo Bay. After seven years and Congressional gridlock on the issue, we hope the President truly commits to working for the shutdown of Gitmo. MPAC has consistently called for the detention center to be closed and we look forward to seeing that happen before the end of Obama’s term.

Additionally, President Obama mentioned the concerns on the impact of surveillance programs on privacy and civil liberties. Next month, we look forward to reading the administration’s report on “how we are keeping [our] promise to keep our country safe while strengthening privacy.” We hope that Congress and the Administration can work together in order to ensure that we see positive movement on this issue especially within the next two years. For too long, we have seen that the notion of national security trumping privacy and civil liberties is both ineffective and counterproductive to keeping our nation safe.

Furthermore, pushing effective policies especially when it comes to national security is of utmost importance. Obama highlighted, “as Americans, we respect human dignity,” which is why he prohibited the use of torture and is working to ensure new technology like drones are properly constrained. Now, we must ensure that this and any future administration does not allow this ugly stain in our history to repeat itself. Moreover, in line with our value of respecting human dignity, Obama transitioned into stating that that is the very reason why we reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims. While we still have a lot to do in terms of working to combat Islamophobia, given that it is on the rise especially in Europe, the fact that the President of the United States committed to rejecting offensive stereotypes of Muslims is a big deal.

If we are to be that “strong tight-knit family,” we truly do need to be based on values; values of cohesion, not division. In that vain, last night, MPAC held a community-wide State of the Union viewing party as part of our work ensuring a robust American Muslim community engaged in civic and political work. Regardless of how we feel about specific policies, remaining engaged in the political process is an important part of ensuring our voices remain heard, relevant and part of the decision-making process.



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