Around the Institute

2014 State of the Union: Reaction from Institute Program Directors

January 29, 2014

In response to last night’s State of the Union address, Aspen Institute program directors are reacting to President Barack Obama’s promises to tackle some of the biggest issues facing the nation today. Read below for a roundup of the directors’ responses.

Maureen Conway

Executive Director, Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program

Improve Returns on Work

The president noted that many workers, particularly women, are affected by a lack of paid leave and must often choose between caring for family members and holding on to their jobs. Success at work should not come at the expense of healthy families. We need policies and practices that support both. Reexamining our approach to sick days and family leave is a good place to start. Read More

Dan Glickman

Executive Director, Aspen Institute Congressional Program 

Obama Offers Way to Regain Trust of the American People

The president’s tone was strong and his commitment to use executive orders to circumvent Congress and enact policy was clear. The reluctance of “first-term” President Obama to assert himself has vanished, and that is good to see. A divided and often dysfunctional Washington needs strong executive leadership to get anything done. Read More

Jonathon Price

Deputy Director, Aspen Strategy Group

Foreign Policy an ‘Afterthought’ in State of the Union Speech

Many foreign policy issues were missing from the speech. President Obama was silent on Egypt in the paragraphs devoted to democracy. There was no mention of North Korea’s nuclear weapons when he spoke of Iran’s nuclear programs, and Syria received two sentences in the entire speech. Read More

Erin Bailey

Director, Aspen Institute Center for Native American Youth

Effects of Obama’s Policies Felt with Even More Urgency in Indian Country

President Obama’s State of the Union discussed many important success stories and challenges facing our nation and its future generations. In many cases, the issues he discussed are experienced even more harshly for our country’s First Americans — those living on Indian reservations and urban Indian communities across the country. This is especially true for Native American children. Read More

Lisa Mensah

Executive Director, Aspen Institute Initiative on Financial Security

New Retirement Accounts Offer Workers Hope 

President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to improve the financial security of American households in Tuesday’s State of the Union address with his call to create a new way for Americans to build their own retirement savings. Through executive action, the president will create a simple, safe, and affordable “starter” retirement savings account available through employers to help millions of Americans save for retirement. This savings account would be offered through a familiar Roth IRA account and, like savings bonds, would be backed by the US government. Read More

Josh Wyner

Executive Director, Aspen Institute College Excellence Program

Pathways to Opportunity Run Through Our Community Colleges

President Obama’s State of the Union address and the response from House Republican Conference Chair Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers challenged everyone to consider what we can do to increase economic opportunity for all Americans, especially those who are today not full participants in our economy. While philosophical differences drive important distinctions in how each party wants to address this challenge, our public officials increasingly seem to agree on at least one thing: solutions will rely on the success of America’s community colleges. Read More

Judy Samuelson

Executive Director, Aspen Institute Business and Society Program

Obama and the Business of Climate Change

It was heartening during last night’s State of the Union address, to have the president address my single issue with the strong belief that we can both make progress, and that we don’t need the legislature to take the next steps. What Obama calls the “all-of-the-above” energy strategy is working, and, as he said, “America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades.” Read More

Anne Mosle

Executive Director, Ascend at the Aspen Institute

“When Women Succeed, America Succeeds”

In his State of the Union address last night, President Obama spoke five powerful words: “When women succeed, America succeeds.” In that simple statement, he captured how America can renew and deliver on a promise made 50 years ago during the launch of the War on Poverty. Read More

David Monsma 

Executive Director, Aspen Institute Energy and Environment Program

Climate Policy: It’s the Economy

President Obama has taken more action on climate change than any President before him. It could not be put more clearly: “Climate change is a fact.” Regardless, the great national anxiety and confusion — about where we get our energy, how it is produced and its impact on the environment — needs to end. Congress should act, but in the face of their polarization and dysfunction, action by presidential order is warranted. Read More

Clark Ervin

Exeutive Director, Aspen Institute Homeland Security Program

A National Security Analyst’s Take on The State of the Union Speech

The President is also right that the military is not the only tool in our national security toolkit. And, depending on the particulars, it may well not be the best one. There is at least an equal role for diplomacy, covert action and intelligence gathering (made harder, certainly, by the Snowden revelations and the outsize reaction to them, in my view), development, and strategic communications. Read More 

Tara Maller

Associate Director of Strategic Communications, Aspen Institute Franklin Project

Answering the State of the Union’s Call to Citizenship

A dramatic cultural transformation in how our country views national service has the ability to transform both the state of our union and the role we play in the international community in the decades ahead of us. The Franklin Project’s mission is designed to help institutionalize this responsibility and transform the way young Americans — and our nation at large — view national service. Essentially, we aim to make national service a rite of passage for all young Americans. Read More