Employee Benefit Views

2011 SOTU in review: STEM, salmon, freezes, forums and more

Posted January 26, 2011 by By Kelley M. Butler at 11:21AM. Comments (11)

Naturally, most of the watercooler talk today swirls around Tuesday night’s State of the Union address: Did you watch? What did you think? Where were the specifics? Did you like Michelle Obama’s dress/John Boehner’s tie? What did you think of the bipartisan seating? How come he barely talked about health care/tax reform/etc.?

For my part, yes, I did watch (If you didn’t, here’s the full transcript); I thought the president struck the right tone between being somber (when speaking about the Tucson shooting and the severity of our nation’s fiscal and educational problems) and hopeful and forward-looking ("[A]s contentious and frustrating and messy as our democracy can sometimes be, I know there isn't a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth … We do big things. From the earliest days of our founding, America has been the story of ordinary people who dare to dream. That's how we win the future.")

I have no formal comments on the first lady’s dress or the Speaker’s tie, but I thought that — despite the teasing lawmakers endured over the prom night feel of the seating arrangements — the bipartisan seating worked well. 

As for the specifics of the speech, well, there weren’t many. But I was struck by, in the 12 minutes the president spent talking about the economy, how much he talked about the importance of innovation, particularly in the areas of science and technology.

It reminded me of a 2009 EBN article by Edward Gordon that spoke directly to employers about the importance of preparing for just this moment in history — when millions of scientific, technical, engineering and mathematically based (STEM) jobs would remain open, despite a brutal recession and high unemployment.

"In May [2009], with more than 14 million unemployed in the middle of a severe economic downturn, 3 million STEM jobs still were vacant,” Gordon wrote. “From 2010 to 2020, the United States faces the prospect of 12 million to 24 million vacant jobs. We do not have a labor shortage, but rather a skilled talent shortage."

While most of you are practitioners not professors, I encourage you to read Gordon’s article to see how some progressive employers are working to bridge the knowledge/skill gap and propel our nation’s workforce forward. 

Other scribblings from my notepad from Tuesday night: the room was at its most quiet when President Obama proposed a five-year freeze on nondefense spending—you could almost see the thought bubble over some lawmakers’ heads, "Uh oh."

The biggest laughs came from a joke about salmon and streamlining government operations.  And lastly, that the president spent just two minutes talking about health care, which he mostly spent saying that the repeal effort was pointless.

What did you think of SOTU 2011? What topics did you think the president covered well and/or poorly? Maybe they were addressed in the post-speech forum, hosted by administration officials (click here for the video), which I thought was a cool idea.

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments. 


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