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Analysis: S&T largely a footnote in Obama's State of the Union

Last night, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, stood in front of Congress and the American people to share his plans for the year. While Republican campaigns are battling it out to see who will face Obama in the presidential elections in November, many see this State of the Union address as the beginning of Obama's bid for reelection.

Obama has faced many hardships and criticisms over his first three years, as has the nation. His address in 2012 was a call for unity, and a call for action on several main issues, mainly those that would promote jobs and secure a growing United States.

Obama's emphasis was on job growth -- research, innovation and even technology were largely absent. However as ways to promote job growth, the president did talk about education and clean energy.

"Think about the America within our reach: A country that leads the world in educating its people. An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs," the president said at the beginning of his address.

As a way to promote education Obama offered several initiatives. One was to better reward good teachers, saying that everyone in the room could remember at least one teacher who positively influenced them. Another was to discourage high school dropouts by working with states to require students to stay in school until they graduate or turn 18. Obama also talked about college education. And again, while STEM was largely absent, he did push for more Americans to get a college degree. He encouraged colleges and universities to find ways to keep tuition lower, so that higher education does not become something only the privileged can afford.

The president also spoke of innovation and research to spur new jobs in the future.

"Innovation also demands basic research. Today, the discoveries taking place in our federally financed labs and universities could lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones untouched. New lightweight vests for cops and soldiers that can stop any bullet. Don't gut these investments in our budget. Don't let other countries win the race for the future. Support the same kind of research and innovation that led to the computer chip and the Internet; to new American jobs and new American industries," said President Obama.

A large emphasis in this innovation, the president believes, should be in clean energy. In a familiar rhetoric, he stressed the need for green energy and more innovations in solar, wind and battery technologies.

However, compared with past years, this year's State of the Union address did not place as much focus on energy innovation, technology and research. Instead Obama talked much more about new financial regulations and aid for businesses. Unfortunate, as research budgets are frequently being cut and science is still under fire. Climate change was hardly discussed. However, Obama did protect innovation and basic research as necessary for driving job growth and providing for the future of America. He encouraged Congress to not remove these budgets, as funding in these areas is what created such successful and vital technologies as the Internet and computers.

Overall, Obama pushed for the country to work together towards a better future. He criticized Congress for its division, and tried to encourage the country to look optimistically towards a better tomorrow.

As summarized in his closing remarks "This nation is great because we built it together. This nation is great because we worked as a team... As long as we're joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, our future is hopeful, and the state of our Union will always be strong."

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Please note, this is not the official AAAS analysis of President Obama's State of the Union address. For the official AAAS position please see the AAAS Office of Government Relations

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