Reaction to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address continued to pour in Wednesday from Georgia’s political leaders, with opinions predictably falling along partisan lines.
But for Gainesville resident Sarah Beth Schulte, the president’s annual speech was an opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at how politics play out in the nation’s capital.
Schulte recently moved to Hall County to work as the recruiting and mobilization coordinator for Rahab’s Rope, a Gainesville nonprofit that combats human trafficking in India by reaching out to at-risk women. The organization sells handmade goods in its downtown Gainesville retail store to support its mission.
Schulte attended the State of the Union as a guest of U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, and after a whirlwind day on Capitol Hill, came away both energized by the experience and a little let down by the president’s remarks.
“It was really busy, but I loved every minute of it,” Schulte said of her tour of the Washington Mall and Capitol building.
Schulte confessed to being a little star-struck in the moments leading up to Obama’s address to the nation.
“There are a lot of important people in one building, so that creates a lot of energy,” she said.
Schulte was hoping to hear Obama talk about the controversial rollout of the Affordable Care Act, but felt the president’s remarks fell flat.
“I heard that (the president) spent five minutes talking about health care, but I think they were counting clapping time,” Schulte said. “That was something that, I think, most of the American people, including myself, were really looking forward to hearing. I know it’s a sensitive subject for him and his party right now, but I still think it deserved a little bit more time than he afforded it.”
Schulte also wanted to hear Obama discuss tangible plans for jump-starting an economy desperate for job creation. And while the president discussed his desire to raise the minimum wage and extend unemployment benefits, for example, his remarks left Schulte feeling less than satisfied.
“He talked a lot about jobs, but in terms of hearing some real solutions, which is what I was looking for, I didn’t really get that,” Schulte said. “I just got more ‘we’re working on it’ kind of rhetoric.”
Schulte said there were moments when she found common ground with the president’s remarks, but had mixed feelings about the tone of his speech.
“I will say, in the president’s defense, that he came across much less confrontational ... which on the one hand was pleasant as a listener, but on the other hand made me feel as if he wasn’t actually dealing with things,” she said.
Though grateful for the experience and opportunity to hear the president speak in person, Schulte said she felt the speech, which Obama dubbed as the kickoff to a “year of action,” was anticlimactic.
“Honestly, I thought (the president) didn’t say much of anything,” Schulte said. “I just didn’t think there was a lot of depth of content in the speech.”