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February 14, 2013

Local leaders share thoughts on Obama’s Speech

DUNCAN — President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address, given Tuesday evening, addressed a number of national issues he would like to see reformed throughout his coming term with the help of legislators and American citizens. He also touched on several issues that Oklahomans related to directly. Among them — gun control, higher minimum wage standards and early childhood education.

“It is my task to report the state of the Union,” Obama said. “To improve it is the task of us all.”

While it was expected that he would talk about economic issues such as jobs and the fiscal cliff, he also highlighted controversial issues such as gun control and immigration.

Duncan resident Melvin Jones, retired from Cotton Electric, said he believed that Obama’s speech highlighted his powerful speaking abilities.

“He was comfortable in bringing up issues that he may not have been comfortable bringing up in his first State of the Union,” he said. “He looked ready to tackle some things that maybe he would not have been comfortable with four years ago.”

While Obama’s proposed reforms on gun control and immigrations were the highlights of the speech, Jones said he appreciated Obama’s attempts to emphasize the need for unity in solving the nation’s various issues.

“He made the point that whatever your thoughts are on the issue, compromise is needed and we all need to work together to get things done,” Jones said.

While Jones did not share his personal opinion on the issues, he said he expects to see more of Obama’s promises and intentions fulfilled now that he will not be running for reelection.

Duncan Mayor Gene Brown also watched the President’s  State of the Union address. Obama’s comments on gun control stood out to him. Brown realizes the importance of guns, but said there also needs to be stronger regulations to help prevent the issues that have been happening more frequently in the past few months.

“I am definitely not for taking away rights and privileges,” he said.

Brown thought President Obama touched on a variety of things that needed improvement.

“This is a great opportunity for both parties to come together in a way that will move our nation forward,” he said.

A large part of Obama’s speech focused on the economy with an emphasis on building a strong, thriving middle-class.

“There are millions of Americans whose hard work and dedication have not yet been rewarded,” Obama said.

Obama said he will continue to work on health care reforms and encourage passing bills that would increase minimum wage to $9 per hour.

Jeannie Bowden, Business and Industry Specialist with Duncan Area Economic Development Foundation, agreed there is a need for higher wages in the country but she also said there was a need to examine it from the business point of view.

“We would love for everyone to make more money but we have to think about what it will do to businesses,” she said.

She warned that legislators would have to be cautious in increasing minimum wage and said she believed that many of the Duncan employers have good intentions when it came to providing a quality living for their employees.

“We have good employers who would like to pay their employees more,” she said.

Bowden said one thing that has recently put a strain on local businesses is the increase of workman’s comp rates, which increased by 50 percent. Since the recent election, she said there is more consensus in finding ways to lower these rates, which could allow businesses to pay employees better.

In his address, Obama emphasized the important of education especially at younger ages and praised states such as Oklahoma for making preschool available to families. Obama said he believed that with the continued development of these programs the country could see a decrease in social problems such as teen pregnancies and violence in the future lives of children enrolled in these programs.

Obama received standing ovations when he addressed the status of efforts in Afghanistan and outlined the continual process of bringing troops home while seeking to assist the Afghan government in being stable and self-sufficient.

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