It is customary for a president to be seated for a year before he gives a State of the Union Address, so Obama’s speech last night was not really a State of the Union. Even though the talking heads on TV treated it as such–my poison is MSNBC–it wasn’t. It was more like the Hopeful State of the Union, the way Obama envisions how his stimulus package will work out when implemented. There were a few promising moments, but he grabbed my attention when he got to education. This is the first time I can remember any president speak so publicly about the necessity of HIGHER education–education beyond high school–and how it will hold a place of prominence in his policy.
It is our responsibility as lawmakers and educators to make this system work. But it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it. And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship.
But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country — and this country needs and values the talents of every American. That is why we will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: By 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.
I’m a college professor, and I’m not embarrassed to admit that I got misty eyed when I heard this.