Americans react to Obama's address to nation
President Barack Obama delivers the State of Union address before
President Barack Obama used his State of the Union address Tuesday night to make his pitch that the nation must come together to address persistent problems, from the wealth gap between rich and poor to economic mobility to lagging schools.
Stymied by Congress, Obama vowed that if lawmakers won't act, he will use his executive power to achieve some of his goals, which include raising the minimum wage for some workers hired by federal contractors to making it easier for low-income Americans to save for retirement.
The president also called on lawmakers to pass immigration reform and restore unemployment benefits, among other proposals.
The Associated Press spoke with a sampling of viewers from around the country to gauge whether the president succeeded in convincing them of the need for his proposals -- or whether his address would be seen as the opening salvo in the midterm election fight for control of Congress.
'HE WAS TALKING ABOUT ME'
Scott Valenti was astonished as he listened to the president. "He was talking about me tonight," said the 41-year-old resident of Woodland Park, Colo. "But I can tell you, I'm no more reassured than when he started."
After years of work, Valenti put himself through Colorado Christian University to finally get his bachelor's degree in organizational management.
But after a post-graduation position fell through, he's been jobless for a month with two teenage children to provide for and a mortgage to pay. Still, Obama's pledges to help the unemployed and his urging of Congress to jumpstart job growth left Valenti cold.
"He was talking about me but he has no ability to help me," he said. "When we look back 40 years from now and say, 'that Obama initiative in 2014 led to some change,' well, I'm sure that will happen. But I need a job now."
SEEKING A BIGGER SLICE OF THE PIE -- WHOEVER DOES THE CUTTING
Naquasia LeGrand, 22, who works part-time as a fast-food employee at Kentucky Fried Chicken, said she was especially happy to hear Obama point to a pizza store owner who had raised his employees' wages, and asked other Americans to follow that example.
"Businesses don't have to wait on Congress to help their employees have a living wage," said LeGrand, from Brooklyn, who has campaigned to raise the minimum wage to $15 and to allow fast-food workers to unionize.
LeGrand said she was glad to see Obama suggest going around lawmakers and using his executive power.
"I'm glad to see he's taking steps and taking action with or without Congress and he's going to do what he's there to do."
Associated Press writers Nicholas Riccardi in Denver; Emery Dalesio in Raleigh, N.C.; Manuel Valdes in Seattle; Scott Smith in Fresno, Calif.; Robert Jablon in Los Angeles; Deepti Hajela in New York; David Fischer in Miami and Will Weissert in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report. Dalton reported from Los Angeles.