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The next round of change

January 22, 2013

Published here on January 22, 2013

At the heart of President Barack Obama’s second inaugural address were ideas of unity and diversity, ideas that N.C. State has long advocated. With a more uplifting tone than his first speech, Obama focused on political ideology and the notion of equality, with numerous references to the Declaration of Independence. “What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago,” Obama said before quoting the 247-year-old document.

In his first inauguration speech, Obama promised to fix healthcare, the economy and the stagnant wars. He moved forward in each arena with the Affordable Care Act, the auto industry bail-out and the end of the war in Iraq. None of these issues are solved, however, and a sentiment of accepting progress — as opposed to perfection — shone through in talk of his second term. “We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect,” Obama said. “We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial.” Nevertheless, Obama promised to move forward in his efforts to improve sustainability, equality and diversity. N.C. State has championed these same efforts.

The speech focused more on climate change than was predicted, eclipsing the expected appeal for gun control reform. N.C. State has long fought for environmental sustainability and received six sustainability-related awards in 2012, among them a nod from The Princeton Review for being one of the top environmentally responsible colleges in both the U.S. and Canada. The University offers a master’s program in environmental assessment, and many of the new buildings on campus are LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified.

Obama also called for gender equality and increased rights for the GLBT community: “Our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.” N.C. State has both a stellar Women’s Center and GLBT Center, the efforts of which — championed by Ashley Simmons-Rudolf and Justine Hollingshead — seek to institutionalize these same ideas, evidenced particularly by Hollingshead’s campaign to inform students about Amendment One and its implications for the GLBT community.

In fact, diversity was painted across the entire Inauguration Ceremony. Richard Blanco, an openly gay Cuban-American, read his poem titled “One Change” after Obama’s speech, a poem which appealed to a unified country with “one sun,” “one ground” and “one sky.” Myrlie Evers-Williams delivered the Inaugural Prayer and became the first woman ever to do so. Her late husband Medgar Evers died in 1963 defending the civil rights cause. Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice, swore in Vice President Joe Biden.

Obama lauded the efforts of science, math and engineering. He called upon immigrants as well as U.S. citizens to push forward on these fronts, saying our journey was not over “until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.” Perhaps he was referencing a new version of the DREAM Act, in which foreign students who earn doctorates from U.S. universities are granted citizenship automatically. Canada already enacts a similar policy. International students are a large presence on N.C. State’s campus, a high concentration of which study the very science and engineering fields that Obama was referencing.

As we move into the next four years, we at Technician hope to see positive change in this country — the change that Obama claimed will come about.

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