On Tuesday night about 250 people packed the new Wallis Annenberg Hall to watch President Obama’s sixth State of the Union address, the Republican response by Sen. Joni Ernst and a panel discussion that included two CCLP senior fellows. The event, which according to CCLP senior fellow Dan Schnur had the largest on-campus turnout for a political event since the 2012 election night viewing, was co-sponsored by USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy and the Unruh Institute of Politics.
The politically diverse audience included USC students, high school students, professors, College Democrats and College Republicans, who gathered in the Annenberg communications and journalism building to watch the speeches on a large screen in the lobby. The event was covered by KTLA, CBS, Daily Trojan and USC News.
Schnur, who also serves as executive director of the Unruh Institute, moderated the panel, which included CCLP visiting fellow and former CNN White House correspondent Jessica Yellin, USC professor Bob Shrum, Daily Trojan assistant city editor Sarah Dhanaphatana and former Daily Trojan managing editor Daniel Rothberg. CCLP director Geoffrey Cowan welcomed the audience and introduced the panelists.
During his second to last State of the Union address, President Obama declared that the “shadow of crisis has passed and the state of the union is strong.” He said that despite the challenges of the past 15 years it is time to “turn the page” on recession and war. He touted the recovered economy, middle class economics and other policies that have worked and “will continue to work as long as politics don’t get in the way.” His speech called for paid sick leave, a minimum wage hike, equal pay for equal work for women, an end to the Cuban embargo, authorization for use of force against ISIL, free community college and more, and both called for bipartisan cooperation and issued veto threats for bills he disagrees with.
The panel discussed how Obama delivered the speech as well as the content, with several panelists noting the president’s seemingly renewed energy and confidence despite his party’s “shellacking” at the polls in November. The panel talked about the politics of neck ties, the lack of mention of national debt, partisan gridlock, immigration, Obama’s veto threats, the role of social media, the 2016 presidential election and women’s rights.
From left to right: Bob Shrum, Daniel Rothberg, Jessica Yellin, Sarah Dhanaphatana, Dan Schnur
Several audience members asked the panelists questions, including one student who noticed that the several news outlets playing on the large screen behind the panel were not covering the women’s rights issues that Obama talked about in his speech. Yellin suggested that the lack of coverage was due to the male-dominated management of media companies, and not necessarily the media itself.
“There’s a false perception that viewers won’t care or find it interesting,” said Yellin.
Photos by CCLP web & IT coordinator Liz Krane.