Local reaction to the president’s speech, agenda

Although President Barack Obama called for unity in facing the nation’s problems, many in the opposing parties saw what they thought were triumphs and disappointments.

The president spoke for more than an hour about a variety of issues from people’s incomes, education, immigration, security, and creating opportunities for job growth.

Washington County Democratic Party chairwoman Molly Varner said this was the best State of the Union speech President Obama has given.

“He was passionate and had his facts straight,” she said. “I believe he is doing the right job.”

Varner said she is dismayed at times that lawmakers in Congress cannot seem to get together and “act like leaders” instead of getting bogged down on false issues.

Varner really responded to the issue the president talked about in addressing the income inequality in the nation.

She is old enough to remember Make-Work jobs in the 1950s which put people to work and had them making money to spend to support themselves. She compares those to unemployment insurance and raising the minimum wage today.

Varner said raising the minimum wage a couple of dollars can help everyone.

“It is making an investment,” she said. “The people who make that money are going to go out and spend it.

“We aren’t doing anyone any economic favors by keeping people poor by artificial needs.”

U.S. Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va., said there were three questions he hoped the president would address in his speech, “Can we do more to turn around the economy? Can we do better on health care? Can we do more to stop wasteful spending?”

“Unfortunately, I did not hear solutions but rather the same old rhetoric we’ve heard over the past six years,” McKinley said. “While Wall Street may be thriving, Main Street is still struggling. Our economy is too weak with 92 million Americans out of the work force.

“Our economy is being held back by burdensome regulations, a broken health care law, and a tax system that is too complicated, yet the president didn’t address those issues,” McKinley said.

McKinley said the president appears to be trying to forge ahead with or without the support of Congress.

“That’s not how governing works,” he said. “In a divided government we need to find consensus to get anything done.”

In attendance Tuesday night at the nation’s capital was Parkersburg High School chemistry teacher Judith Winans. Winans, who was the 2014 Wood County Teacher of the Year, was McKinley’s guest. Winans was there to take in the process of government coming together.

“I am having a wonderful time,” Winans said a couple of hours before the speech began. “I am very excited and this is a great honor. It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Winans said many of her students were excited that she was going to attend and plans on giving them an account of her experiences when she gets back to PHS.

She flew into Washington, D.C. Tuesday afternoon and was able to take a tour of the Library of Congress.

“It was amazing and beautiful,” she said.

She commented that the nation’s capital has some of the most amazing architecture anywhere.

Winans said she was excited to be at the Congressional Hall Tuesday evening and be able to sit in the gallery above the House chamber.

“I will get to see what goes on,” she said of seeing the senators and representatives interacting. “I get to see the whole thing.”

It is a chance for her to see how the country runs.

“It is democracy in action,” she said. “Living in a democratic society it is very important to see our elected officials do the job and participate in government.”