Unruh Institute hosts State of the Union live viewing

first_imgIn a continuation of their coverage of the 2016 election cycle, the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics hosted a watch party and panel discussion for U.S. President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address. The event took place at Tommy’s Place and hosted a panel including Democratic strategy expert Drew Lieberman, Republican expert Chris Faulkner and student representatives from the USC College Republicans and USC College Democrats.In his address, Obama covered a wide array of topics ranging from the closing of Guantanamo Bay to global warming. According to Lieberman, this address was different than the last seven Obama gave because it was his last one.“There was a clear acknowledgement that the relationship between [Obama] and Congress are irretrievably broken,” Lieberman said. “The political purpose of what he did today was setting the table for passing the torch to the next Democratic contenders.”After the address concluded, the panel discussion was moderated by Dan Schnur, director of the Unruh Institute, and Sonali Seth, a sophomore majoring in political science and policy planning development and editorial director of the Daily Trojan. Each panel member was asked to discuss a certain topic touched upon by Obama.Faulkner fielded a question about redistricting, a topic the President spoke vehemently on. In his address, Obama called out political leaders on both sides for a lack of fairness in the election process, a statement that Faulkner agreed on despite a difference in political parties.“This is one of those times when I will double down and agree with [Obama] 100 percent,” Faulkner said. “When we let legislators pick their voters, instead of voters picking their legislators, everybody loses.”Another topic discussed by the panel was the current economic state of the country. Leesa Danzek, vice president of the USC College Republicans, argued against the points that Obama brought up about the economy. The economy was the topic that Obama spoke about the least in his address, but he repeatedly mentioned that the economy is strong and fully recovered from the recession of 2008. In direct opposition to this statement, Danzek said that the economy should be a greater focus in the upcoming elections.“I think many Americans, particularly the middle class, don’t see the economy recovering,” Danzek said. “I was disappointed for him to paint a picture of the economy as being better. I think that we really have an opportunity for Americans to decide which framework for bettering the economy we will see in the future.”The panel ended with questions from the audience, who filled the chairs in Tommy’s Place at the start of the address. Schnur pointed out that this was the largest attendance to a State of the Union address in the past eight years. This trend of wider student involvement has been seen throughout all of Unruh’s election-related events thus far this year.For Schnur, the immediate goal in hosting election events and panels is to create a forum for student political discussion. To further this goal, Schnur includes students in every level of the debates — from the audience to the panel moderators and members — in order to create a tangible platform for students to disagree on political topics in a respectful, insightful way.“We want to create an environment where different opinions can thrive,” Schnur said. “Ultimately, students are going to leave these events with fundamentally the same opinions as they came with. But the discussion is where they see that someone who disagrees with them isn’t evil or stupid, they’re just another intelligent person who arrived at a different opinion. That’s the most important aspect of these events.”last_img

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