Young Dems react to president’s speech

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Wake County Young Democrats gathered to watch the State of the Union Tuesday night.

More than 40 people showed up at the Player’s Retreat on Hillsborough Street Tuesday night for the Wake County Young Democrats’ annual State of the Union watch party.

Young and old Democrats crowded into tables and booths around beers and bowls of Mimi’s sausage dip and chips (a gutsy combination of sausage gravy and Frito’s) to watch the speech on a projector television, the kind usually reserved for Hurricanes or Wolfpack games.

But with President Obama’s campaign for hope and change a memory of the not-so-distant past, none of Wake’s young Democrats held illusions of grandeur or major change for the State of the Union.

“He’s shown he’s willing to meet people halfway, sometimes to his detriment,” said Matt Calabria, vice president of young Democrats group. “For any reform there has to be some level of compromise.”

“It bothers me that some people think the past couple of years were a failure,” said Austen High, an NCSU graduate. “At least it’s something,” she added in reference to health care reform and tax cuts.

Speech brings moments of mixed reaction

From education to innovation and job creation, the crowd showed signs of approval for the general thrust of President Obama’s vision for the country.

Just as the president was getting everyone tuned in to the right time to applaud, about halfway through his speech, he said, “I am proposing that starting this year, we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years.”

To this, the crowd at the Player’s Retreat quickly cut off its applause and almost in unison began exclaiming, “Woah, woah, woah!”

The middle portion of the president’s speach went on to address reducing the national deficit, simplifying the individual tax code and reorganizing the federal government in order to restore the people’s faith in the institution.

“These were not just the issues of the last election,” said Calabria. “These are the issues of today.”

The only other uneasy moment came when President Obama said he would veto any bill to hit his desk, which contained earmarks. Throughout the crowd, people blurted out, “That ain’t going to happen!” and, “That’s bullshit,” in response.

Newly elected Guilford County  State Representative Marcus Brandon, who aged out of the young Democrats three days earlier, was on hand for the State of the Union before his swearing in at the General Assembly today.

“Earmarks are really difficult to tackle,” he said. “If it’s not something for your district then you call it an earmark. Maybe it was good for him to say, but I don’t think it’s possible.”

Accepting the vision

President Obama’s persistent references to innovation and doing big things struck a chord with the young Democrats.

“People need to pull it together,” said High, who complained of American complacency.

“I support the president in continuing to keep an emphasis on global trade, but we must find a way for it to create jobs here, not just in other countries,” said Priscilla Peace, treasurer of Wake County Young Democrats.

The president of WCYD John Verdejo continued, “We have degrees but no ways of using them. The speech, hopefully, made us open our eyes.”

Verdejo commented, “The speech harkened back to JFK and the philosophy of ‘Don’t ask what your country can do for you, but for what you can do for you country.’”

Many at the event expressed concern over what little might be accomplished during the next two years.

“I think he can make progress,” said Tristy Evely, a student at Wake Tech. “If he can advocate strong enough and be eloquent enough, then maybe. But, he’s going to have [Speaker of the House John] Boehner after him every minute.”

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