COLUMBIA — President Barack Obama took the podium in the House of Representatives chamber on Tuesday night to deliver his last State of the Union address before his re-election attempt in 2012.
Almost 1,000 miles away, members of the Mizzou College Democrats nestled into their chairs at Boone Tavern, anticipating an inspiring speech to jump-start Obama’s 2012 campaign.
"I’m very optimistic this year,” Daniel Stribling, the club’s outreach director, said. “Democrats have proven they’re willing to work together. Republicans must be willing, too.”
But the optimism was tempered with uncertainty at the watch party. Some of the viewers said they are worried about their future prospects in the stymied job market.
Alanna Bauer, a former Mizzou College Democrats member who graduated in May, had trouble finding a job after testing the market. She winced at the mention of student loans.
“I just reached the six-month margin when I have to pay loans,” she said. “I definitely feel a burden. I wish I could go back to school to avoid it.”
Stribling admitted the group members felt apprehensive about their prospects after graduation.
“Everyone in this room is worried about their future outlook,” Stribling said. “But opportunities are out there if we do the right things.”
The viewers applauded as Obama carved out the tenets of his plan to restore an America where “everyone plays by the same set of rules.”
Obama’s remarks on higher education resonated with the college-aged crowd. His promise to double the number of collegiate work-study jobs in the next five years was received with great fanfare.
“We need to reinvest in education,” club president Zach Henry said. “The inequality of opportunity has increased too much in recent decades.”
Craig Arnzen, president of the Mizzou College Republicans, wasn't convinced.
“It’s a great promise,” Arnzen said. "But like every other put-it-on-my-desk promise, he knows he’ll never see the legislation to sign it."
Arnzen said he heard plenty of rhetoric but little reality in Obama’s words.
“It was a campaign speech packed with fluff — lots of message, no substance,” Arnzen said.
The Mizzou College Democrats left the watch party ready to move forward.
“I’m confident in the Obama administration,” Henry said. “Things are improving. There’s just a long way to go.”