At President Obama’s last State of the Union address to Congress, he laid out a handful of problems he thought were paramount for the country to tackle. A president’s last address to Congress is always very different from his first, in that it tends to be less about promises and more about hopes for the country.
Here’s a portion of Obama’s speech where he succinctly laid out his concerns:
First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy?
Second, how do we make technology work for us and not against us, especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change?
Third, how do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman? And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what's best in us and not what's worst?
The passage illustrates the stark difference between what Obama believed was important and what President Trump focused on during his speech to Congress on Tuesday.
1) Less focus on opportunity for the poor or education
Trump briefly mentioned the need to provide opportunities, but he offered few policy plans to boost them. He linked the issue to “inner cities,” which he’s used in the past to refer to poor black and Hispanic people:
Trump did address disadvantaged “African-American and Latino children” when he urged Congress to pass a school choice program — something his education secretary, Betsy DeVos, is a proponent of. In several states, including North Carolina, research shows school choice programs contribute to resegregation of schools.
This was a completely different focus than Obama, who talked about his hopes for universal preschool and free two-year community colleges.
2) No mention of campaign finance
Obama used a portion of his speech to lecture the people in the room — over a tool that helped them get their seats.
Trump often said during his campaign that he was self-funding his campaign — even though he wasn’t — to hint that he wasn’t influenced by outside money.
In his speech, he did say, “We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption by imposing a five-year ban on lobbying by executive branch officials — and a lifetime ban on becoming lobbyists for a foreign government.”
3) No mention of research
Obama announced an effort to fund cancer research, with the hopes of curing cancer, and put Vice President Joe Biden in charge of this “moonshot” effort.
Trump didn’t mention research in his speech. Rather, he talked about how FDA regulations have prevented pharmaceutical innovation.
In fact, Trump outlined a plan that would cut funding for civilian research, which includes the National Institutes of Health. The NIH currently has an annual budget of $32.3 billion — most of which goes to 50,000 grants funding 300,000 researchers.
4) No mention of climate change
Obama said America needs to leverage technology to fight climate change — which refers to both our need to find alternative energy sources and the massive innovations needed to bury carbon emissions in order to limit warming.
This isn’t surprising.
Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt, has said he wants to dismantle Obama’s efforts on climate change — and then some.
Trump has called climate change a Chinese hoax.
And his energy plan, on the White House website, does not mention climate change.
Meanwhile, scientists say that at our current rate of fossil fuel usage, Earth’s temperature will rise an average of 2 degrees in just two decades.
Correction: This post has been updated to better reflect Trump's comments on education.