About 350 people—Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike—watched President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address together at the Institute of Politics on Tuesday night.
“We were super excited to organize this, and we invited the Dems and the Republicans. It’s a good way to kick off the semester,” IOP President Jenny Ye ’13 said.
Julia B. Konrad ’13, the IOP vice president, said that the nonpartisan political organization was an ideal host for the viewing party. “The IOP is exactly the place to watch things like this,” she said. “The IOP is a central point to talk about ideas.”
According to Michael W. McLean ’12, former president of the Harvard Republican Club, this was the first year in recent memory that students supporting both parties watched the annual presidential speech together rather than at separate events.
“People care about what’s going on,” McLean said. “This year, [watching] together is a nice change of pace.”
In the speech, Obama addressed a host of issues including job creation, tax reform, education, and energy. He also spoke about the gulf between Democrats and Republicans, a gap which the students at the IOP bridged for the night by watching the speech together but also exemplified in their divergent reactions to the president’s remarks.
Adan Acevedo ’13, president of the Harvard College Democrats, said after Obama’s speech, “We’re very excited that he has decided to renew America’s focus on American infrastructure and skills and education for Americans deprived of them currently, and being extremely considerate of students who are paying high tuition rates.”
He added, “We think that Obama’s emphasis on FDR and Eisenhower was well placed because the focus of this election should not be partisanship but moving America forward.”
But Derek J. Bekebrede ’13, the president of the Republican Club, highlighted another reference Obama made to one of his illustrious predecessors.
“In the speech was a quote from a Republican, from Abraham Lincoln. I think it shows that Americans are ready to support a conservative theory of government,” Bekebrede said. “I don’t think the speech will reinvigorate America to vote for Obama.”
Others said that the speech lacked a dynamic theme. “My big fear looking at 2012 is that Obama has lost his magic. He needs to give us a vision of the future, not a laundry list,” said Max D. Novendstern ’12, former editor-in-chief of the Harvard Political Review.
Neil Patel ’13, managing editor of the Harvard Political Review, also said he was struck by the long list of issues in the speech, an annual summary of the major concerns facing the nation.
“Nothing particularly stood out to me. He had a lot of ideas, but it looked like he didn’t believe in them,” Patel said.
The viewers at the IOP seemed to agree on one statement, whatever their political affiliation—the joint watch party was a success.
“The event was a fantastic show of how the Republicans, Democrats, the IOP will have a lasting partnership despite different views on certain policies,” Acevedo said.
—Staff writer Laya Anasu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.