2015 State of the Union Address

Ah, the State of the Union. Formalities and traditions galore. What fun. I always (read: never) enjoy the panning over the crowd and pointing out who does and doesn’t applaud after any given (read: every) remark given by the President. Thanks for that brilliant insight, CNN. Also, thanks for the scrolling news bits on the bottom of the screen during the speech. That’s why God gave us two eyes: one to watch the President and one to watch the (often meaningless) blurbs oozing across the lower portion of the screen. Also, thank you for telling us what he is going to say before he says it (damn White House spokespeople). Really kills the suspense.

It’s sad that every time I see President Obama get up to deliver a speech, I have a fear in the back of my head that he might possibly be assassinated. In other words, I don’t have much faith in the racial progress that “has been made” over the past decades.

All hail the almighty statistic. Thus far, Obama has relied heavily on numbers that stress the progress and effectiveness of programs. For example, Obama claims that the average American family will save $750 at the pump this year. Of course, this relies on many uncontrollable assumptions, such as constant prices in the global gasoline market, but who cares? It’s the State of the Union speech; it’s politicking.

Also, Obama early on introduced his token family, (the Millers. I believe) which will serve as a credibility-building basis for many of his economic arguments — an anecdote machine, if you will.

Obama stresses the role of government as ensuring everyone a fair shot at success, a blend of modern liberalism and the American Dream.

It’s interesting that just now Obama is beginning to flex his executive authority by vetoing any unsavory legislation — he played politics so much in the first years of his presidency that he could not assert his own values.

In discussion of climate change, Obama reminds us that he himself is not an authority of climate science, but that he is well informed by scientists.

Additionally, Obama’s concluding remarks tied into themes he mentioned early in the speech, such as the American people being “a tight-knit family” that had made it through “some very, very tough times”. A+, speechwriter (not Curt Smith).

false negative (at least at first)

The power of The Great Gatsby arises from the reader’s preconceptions of ‘The Roaring Twenties’, in that it deconstructs the typical image of the social elite and separates it into bits of shallowness, apathy, and crude excess. Though Fitzgerald could not have predicted the Depression waiting around the corner — which, in fact, adds even more drama to the reader’s interpretation of the story –, his words rip the aristocrats down from their (self-constructed) pedestals, exposing their flaws and shortcomings as a group. Unsurprisingly, the novel did not sell well, as few critiques of an era ever totally make sense while living in them! Indeed, distance in time is the X-factor that makes The Great Gatsby great.

Additionally, The Great Gatsby requires a mature reader capable of dissecting the intricate relationships between each of the characters and recognizing the frequent symbolism. Surprisingly, this made The Great Gatsby the perfect novel to assign to soldiers in World War Two: how mature a reader each soldier was did not matter; rather, since it contains so much content for discussion, it would occupy the time of any reader just as much as they desired —  its short length allows for those who desire to simply take in the plot. Also, this lifestyle so opposite that of a soldier likely captured the interest of all those deployed who got their hands on it.

Henrietta Swan Leavitt

Henrietta Swan Leavitt, born on July 4, 1868 in Lancaster, Massachussetts, is best known for her contributions to the field of astronomy. Leavitt was educated at Oberlin College in Ohio as well as at Radcliffe College, Harvard University’s “sister college”. Shortly after her graduation from Radcliffe, she fell ill, losing her hearing. Despite this, she was hired to work as a computer for Dr. Edward Charles Pickering at Harvard, where she was credited with the period-luminosity relationship of Cepheid Stars. Additionally, her advances made possible calculating the distance between the Earth and faraway galaxies. Her work, after her death in 1921 in Cambridge, MA, was used by Erwin Hubble to prove that the universe is expanding.

Unfortunately, Leavitt received little attention during her lifetime. As she was not a professor, she did not publish much of her work, instead allowing her boss, Dr. Pickering, to publish her data. Leavitt was considered for nomination for the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1926. However, the Nobel Prize is not awarded posthumously, so she could not have attained it at that time. Yet, Henrietta Swan Leavitt, as well as the other women working for Dr. Pickering, is today upheld as a pioneer of modern astronomy.