Biden addresses nation, speaks on Russia-Ukraine conflict, end of pandemic

President Joe Biden delivers his first State of the Union Address, with a focus on the crisis in Ukraine, inflation and COVID-19. Photo courtesy of AP

By Tori Macchi | Reporter

President Joe Biden delivered his State of the Union address Tuesday night, highlighting the global conflict between Russia and Ukraine, along with economic and pandemic-related matters closer to home.

This was Biden’s first State of the Union address since he entered the White House in 2021, and he spoke to the 117th United States Congress.

“Last year, COVID-19 kept us apart,” Biden said. “This year, we’re finally together again.”

Biden began his speech by condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression toward Ukraine and upholding American support of Ukrainians. Biden assured that while the U.S. and its allies are providing support in Ukraine’s fight for freedom, troops will not be sent to Europe.

Joanne Cummings, adjunct professor of political science, has extensive background in foreign policy as a recent foreign policy adviser. She said she felt positively about the way Biden addressed the crisis.

“I think it was an excellent speech,” Cummings said. “President Biden highlighted the unity of countries against Russian aggression in Ukraine, bringing out bipartisan agreement for U.S. support for Ukraine and our NATO Allies.”

Biden continued his address by transitioning his focus onto the economy and the concerns of poverty that sweep the nation. He acknowledged how “punishing” the pandemic has been on families living from paycheck to paycheck, and he remained proud of his work with the American Rescue Plan, which granted 5.6 million jobs to Americans in the past year.

Biden said his approach to building a better economy is to “invest in America, educate Americans and grow the workforce,” and he further emphasized the importance of “buying American.”

In addition to his comments about the workforce, Biden placed focus on inflation, acknowledging the increasing prices of child care, insulin and gas. He made promises to reduce such expenses and said that getting prices under control is his “top priority,” planning to cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month, close the coverage gap, and cut the costs of child care and energy.

Austin freshman Hayden Betzing said Biden’s comments on the economy felt like promises that weren’t going to be kept.

“If Biden was going to follow through with these statements, then I’d probably be on his side here,” Betzing said. “But it really feels like he’s saying things to just garner support; he won’t actually follow through.”

Biden made it a point to address COVID-19 and the progress made as a nation during the pandemic. He spoke optimistically of the new guidelines regarding masks and announced his efforts in making antiviral treatments ready for use, saying that he has “ordered more pills than anyone in the world has.”

Biden additionally emphasized the importance of ending school and business shutdowns, stating that now is the time for America to get back to work and feel safe doing so. Since the start of the pandemic, individuals have expressed differing views on the closing of schools and businesses. He encouraged Americans to seek unity in the pandemic, rather than continuing to let it divide citizens.

“Use this moment to reset,” Biden said. “Stop looking at COVID as a partisan dividing line. See it for what it is: a God-awful disease. Let’s stop seeing each other as enemies and start seeing each other for who we really are: fellow Americans.”

Regarding other concerns, Biden discussed matters of police reform and voting. He stood firm in his support of funding the police with proper training and resources to ensure protection over communities, and he was just as firm in his assurance of protecting voting rights.

“I would have to say, in his response to the ‘defund the police’ movement, it’s agreeable,” Betzing said. “He acknowledged the fact that defunding the police isn’t the answer, but rather increasing resources to help better the police. With his stance on voting rights and how they’re restrictive is where I disagree … Each person should get their vote counted, but fraudulent voting should be monitored to ensure a free and fair election.”

“We are stronger today than we were a year ago,” Biden said. “And we will be stronger a year from now than we are today.”