Spotlight Exclusives

Poverty Makes it to the Top of Obama۪s State of the Union Policy Agenda

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This week, in his State of the Union address President Obama laid out a proposed policy agenda for his second term. For the first time in memory the issues of poverty and opportunity received headline status, including a list of distinct policy ideas targeting low-income Americans.


Following the speech, two experts from different sides of the aisle weighed in with reactions through a special Spotlight Exclusive Commentary pairing. Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution noted that “In a single paragraph, President Obama۪s State of the Union address opened the door to implementing important changes in the nation۪s multitude of preschool programs and to increasing the number of children participating in quality programs.” Tim Smeeding of the University of WisconsinMadison observed that the president focused on a set of policies that can help the poor when he mentioned “improving job training and school-to-work program partnerships, strengthening links among employers, technical high schools, community colleges, and other training programs.”

President Obama also discussed the minimum wage as an important topic related to poverty and reaffirmed his commitment to creating and supporting economic opportunity for low-income Americans. Here are some excerpts from the speech:


Minimum Wage
“We know our economy۪s stronger when we reward an honest day۪s work with honest wagesTonight, let۪s declare that, in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty — and raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hourThis single step [raising the minimum wage] would raise the incomes of millions of working families. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank, rent or eviction, scraping by or finally getting ahead.”


“Most middle-class parents can۪t afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool. And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives. So, tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America. That۪s something we should be able to do.”

Opportunity and Families

“It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country, the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like or who you love. It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few, that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation.”


“America is not a place where the chance of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny. And that۪s why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them.”


“And we۪ll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples and do more to encourage fatherhood, because what makes you a man isn۪t the ability to conceive a child, it۪s having the courage to raise one. And we want to encourage that. We want to help that.”



You can also check out Spotlight۪s live tweets of the speech۪s poverty and opportunity highlights by visiting our Storify page here.

Posted by Sarah

Here at Out of the Spotlight, we offer a behind-the-scenes look at the latest news and information essential to anyone working to fight poverty. From key political appointees to clashes over policy, we cover the news that doesn’t always make the evening news. Check out Out of the Spotlight for our take on the twists and turns of the latest political developments and their impact on poverty reduction. Topics and ideas are welcome! Just contact or


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