In his State of the Union address last night, President Obama attempted to show progress and national solidarity, while taking his agenda for the year to the far left. However, the attempt at unity largely fell flat, leaving politicians and citizens frustrated and disappointed.
Shortly before giving the speech, the president repeated his threats to Congress; namely, cooperate with my agenda or I will veto your bills.
“I think this was a tremendous missed opportunity for this administration,” said Senator Richard Burr. “When you start out with multiple veto threats and you show no willingness to even meet somewhere in the middle on issues that have been percolating for some time, it gives you very little hope that there’s going to be a breakthrough.”
“Finding common ground is what the American people sent us here to do, but you wouldn’t know it from the president’s speech tonight,” said John Boehner, Speaker of the House. “While veto threats and unserious proposals may make for good political theater, they will not distract this new American Congress from our focus on the people’s priorities.”
“True to form, the President in his State of the Union speech is more interested in politics than in leadership,” Mitt Romney, former Republican presidential candidate, said. “He ignores the fact that the country has elected a Congress that favors smaller government and lower taxes. Rather than bridging the gap between the parties, he makes ‘bridge to nowhere’ proposals. Disappointing. A missed opportunity to lead.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were more optimistic. “Great speech, Mr. President,” Massachusetts senator Warren said. “Looking forward to working with the WhiteHouse to build an economy that works for all our families.”
“[Obama] pointed [the] way to an economy that works for all,” Clinton wrote. “Now we need to step up & deliver for the middle class. #FairShot #FairShare.”
Clinton’s addition of #FairShot #FairShare echoes hints in Obama’s speech of their shared philosophy of wealth redistribution. While Obama does not directly say so in the address, he indicates that he plans to tax wealthier citizens and businesses more, while providing free community college and aid for middle class families to “pay for childcare.”
“It’s unfortunate President Obama wants to use the tax code to divide us — instead of proposing reforms to create economic opportunity for every American,” former Florida governor Jeb Bush said. “We can do better.”
While the president covered such topics as the economy, making community college free, trade deals, infrastructure, research, taxes, climate change, and pulling out of the Middle East, he neglected to discuss his plans for combating terrorism at home or overseas.
“So when Barack Obama, like the rest of us, hear these bad guys, these terrorists, promising that they will raise the flag of Allah over our White House, for the life of me I don’t know why he does not take this serious[ly], the threat,” said Sarah Palin, former Republican vice presidential candidate. “Because yes, it’s more than a vision. They’re telling — just like Hitler did all those years ago, when a war could’ve been avoided, because Hitler, too, did not hide his intentions. Well, ISIS, these guys aren’t hiding their intentions either.”
Palin also felt compelled to apologize that she and her running mate did not win the 2008 election. “As I watched the speech last night…the thought going through my mind is, ‘I owe America a global apology,’” Palin said.
Apparently, the president was more concerned with “reject[ing] offensive stereotypes of Muslims,” “condemn[ing] the persecution of…people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender” (because it “make[s] us safer”), and “agree[ing] on a woman’s right to choose” than defending America, her citizens, and people around the world from extremists who kill anyone who disagrees with them.
“Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns,” Obama said towards the end of his address. “Imagine if we did something different.”
“Tonight, America saw a powerful demonstration that it is time to move on beyond President Barack Obama,” said Senator Ted Cruz.
“We need someone in the White House with the experience to navigate our national security challenges and the fortitude to be straight with the American people on how to tackle them,” said former senator Rick Santorum. “Inauguration Day 2017 cannot come soon enough.”
“A few moments ago, we heard the President lay out his vision for the year to come,” said Senator Joni Ernst in her response to the State of the Union address:
Even if we may not always agree, it’s important to hear different points of view in this great country. We appreciate the President sharing his. Tonight though…I’d like to talk about your priorities. I’d like to have a conversation about the new Republican Congress you just elected, and how we plan to make Washington focus on your concerns again. We heard the message you sent in November — loud and clear. And now we’re getting to work to change the direction Washington has been taking our country. There’s a lot we can achieve if we work together. Let’s tear down trade barriers in places like Europe and the Pacific. Let’s sell more of what we make and grow in America over there so we can boost manufacturing, wages, and jobs right here, at home. Let’s simplify America’s outdated and loophole-ridden tax code. Republicans think tax filing should be easier for you, not just the well-connected. So let’s iron out loopholes to lower rates — and create jobs, not pay for more government spending. The President has already expressed some support for these kinds of ideas. We’re calling on him now to cooperate to pass them. You’ll see a lot of serious work in this new Congress. We know [terrorist] threats…can’t just be wished away. We’ve been reminded of terrorism’s reach both at home and abroad; most recently in France and Nigeria, but also in places like Canada and Australia. The forces of violence and oppression don’t care about the innocent. We need a comprehensive plan to defeat them.
Ernst goes on to advocate honoring America’s veterans, repealing Obamacare, cutting wasteful spending, creating a balanced budget, and defending life, among other priorities.
“Congress is back to work on your behalf, ready to make Washington focus on your concerns again,” Ernst said. “We know America faces big challenges. But history has shown there’s nothing our nation, and our people, can’t accomplish.
The international missionary organization SIM confirmed that Dr. Rick Sacra, 52, will return to Liberia to work at SIM’s ELWA hospital in Monrovia. Besides serving patients with malaria and chronic health issues, he will work in maternity and pediatrics.
Sacra is a family physician and faculty member of the University of Massachusetts Family Practice Residency Program from Holden, Massachusetts. He serves on SIM medical missions teams and volunteered to go to Liberia during the height of the Ebola crisis there.
He himself battled the ebola virus this fall and was successfully treated at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Sacra expects to remain in Liberia for about a month.
“I am feeling well physically, and it seems the Lord is opening the door for me to return to regular ministry trips to Liberia,” said Sacra. “My physician colleagues are working very hard, keeping ELWA Hospital open for a wide range of patients, as well as managing Ebola patients at the ELWA 2 unit. I hope to be able to lighten their load, providing both compassionate care to our patients, as well as contributing in some small way to rebuilding and refreshing the staff, which has been through so much in the past six months.”
ELWA Hospital served as a model for other Liberian hospitals throughout the epidemic, developing facilities and processes and offering critical care even when other hospitals closed.
“This demonstrates how Rick has such a heart for serving others and using his skills to treat those suffering from various conditions,” said Bruce Johnson, president of SIM USA. “We’re so thankful for his successful treatment and recovery from Ebola. He has spent nearly 20 years serving patients in Liberia, and now he’s ready to get back to work doing the things he’s trained and gifted to perform.”
Katie Meyler, a 32-year-old graduate of the University of Valley Forge, recently joined FDR, Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, Albert Einstein, and Queen Elizabeth II as a Time Magazine Person of the Year honoree.
Time’s Person of the Year feature seeks to recognize a person, or, in some cases, a group of people, who have had great influence over the past year. This year, Time chose to recognize “Ebola Fighters,” including Samaritan’s Purse doctor Kent Brantly, Doctors Without Borders health worker Ella Watson-Stryker, and many others who have battled the disease on the front lines.
Katie Meyler grew up poor by the standards of what she now calls “U.S. poverty.” The family got food at a food bank and her mother worked a near-minimum wage job. Meyler now considers this an American version of poverty; the family still had food and the children were able to go to school for free.
“There were a lot of drugs and abuse and chaos in my family when I was growing up,” Meylers said. “My uncle died from a heroin overdose when I was eight. I thought my life kind of sucked, not just because we were poor but because of the drama.”
“Then in high school, my youth group did a service project in Haiti,” she added. “When I got there, I met a little girl who didn’t have running water, deep in a village. I realized, oh my God, I’m not poor and I never was. It just really changed me.”
With the help of a scholarship, Meyler attended college and was hired by a non-profit to help promote literacy in Liberia. As she helped adults learn to read, she was deeply saddened by the plight of children. Most of them could not attend school, instead working on the streets. Girls as young as 10 were forced into prostitution. Many children begged Meyler to pay their school fees.
“I would cry all night and send text messages to anyone whose phone number I could remember,” Meyler said.
Three years later, Meyler began “More Than Me,” a non-profit that works to keep girls in school. She divided her time between working in Liberia and fundraising in America.
“It’s a little weird,” she said of fundraising. “We live on one of the richest areas of the planet, and then I work in one of the poorest areas. I love them both, though. And I love the kids I meet here. They really care and they want to help.”
“In the beginning I was very judgmental of people here in the States,” she added. “I found comfort in reading Mother Teresa quotes. She would say, ‘You are sending money to Calcutta, but do you even know your neighbor?’”
Meyler also realized that poverty comes in different forms. “It is easy to cure one type of poverty by providing schools or meals,” she said. “In the U.S., our poverty is that someone next door could have a baby and we don’t know about it. Or a family goes through a death and we don’t know about it. We don’t know and we don’t help each other. We would help each other if people would be vulnerable and share their successes and failures. Meanwhile we’ve created this society of people who are living life by themselves.”
Meyler feels safe in Liberia despite the conditions. “The people on our staff are born and raised in the community,” she said. “People know us and they know More Than Me. Some of those drug dealers and prostitutes are parents in our program. We send their daughters to school, too.”
The More Than Me website describes the school as “…the first tuition-free, all girls school in Liberia. Not only do we give these girls an education, but we also provide them with two hearty meals a day, access to healthcare, access to a computer lab and library, and a robust afterschool program, ensuring the girls are off the street for the entire day from 7am to 5pm.”
After the More Than Me Academy was closed due to ebola, Meyler used her resources to fight the disease.
“Since Ebola was confirmed in West Point in August 2014, our story has evolved,” she said. “We have partnered with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and other partners on the ground to get Ebola out of West Point, and then out of Liberia. It’s working! We’ve been asked by MOH to expand our work to 5 other Ebola hot zones.”
Meyler is determined to continue fighting until the epidemic is over. “As long as there is Ebola in Liberia, our girls are at risk,” she said. “More Than Me is fighting with everything we are made of to end this epidemic that terrorizes our children and the communities in which they live. We are doing this by understanding the pulse of the local people, remaining flexible to respond rapidly to urgent needs, and supporting efforts that have the highest return.”
“The past few months have been filled with some of the most intense moments of my life, but they’ve also been some of the proudest,” Meyler said. “I’m honored to be listed next to these truly inspiring people and want to take this time to recognize everyone, on this list or not, who has helped fight Ebola on the front lines.”
Local tension eased after the Liberian woman staying with a Portland host family was released from hospital quarantine last week – healthy and Ebola free.
The woman, who remains unidentified, arrived in Portland late last month. After suffering from an intense fever on October 31, the woman was rushed to Providence Milwaukie Hospital.
It is now believed that the woman suffered from a bout of malaria, which is not uncommon in Liberia. Much improved, the woman was able to return to her Portland host family last week.
“We’ve been hugging and dancing and praising the Lord,” said a woman in the host family who requested anonymity. “She was so happy, too. She got her first hug at the hospital.”
The woman will continue to report to the county for the remainder of a three-week self-monitoring period. Her Portland host family also remains in voluntary quarantine.
A Portland pastor, the husband of the host family told The Oregonian that the quarantine was hard for his children, who wanted to go trick-or-treating.
“They know the situation,” the man said. “They were disappointed. But we explained it. We don’t want them to be stigmatized.”
Including the Liberian woman, five people in Oregon remain in the 21-day monitoring period. Most are in the Portland area, while one is located in southern Oregon.
Nurse Jessica Tegner oversaw precautionary protocol at Providence Milwaukie Hospital during the Liberian woman’s stay. Like all the medical personnel who cared for the woman, Tegner volunteered for the opportunity.
Also a federally certified decontamination trainer, Tegner said she never worried during the patient’s hospitalization. “I know our processes are checked and double checked,” she said.
Providence trained approximately 550 staff to deal with cases of Ebola, although this was the first situation in which precautionary procedures proved a necessity.
According to state health officer Katrina Hedberg, Ebola preparedness remains crucial for the state, as people continue to travel to and from infected West African regions. Hedberg said specific precautions are determined on a case by case basis.
Returning health workers, for example, warrant greater precautions. Those returning to Oregon who had unprotected exposure to the virus will be quarantined.
Curious about the exact protocol Oregon caregivers use when dealing with possible Ebola patients? Check out the thorough procedures here.
FORT KENT, Me.—
Kaci Hickox, a nurse who traveled to Sierra Leone to treat Ebola patients, reached a settlement with the state of Maine after she refused to follow the 21 day regulation quarantine last week.
After Hickox left her home last Thursday to go on a bike ride with her boyfriend, Maine health officials obtained a 24-hour court order restricting Hickox’s movement until further action could be taken by the court.
The court order limited Hickox’s travel by banning her from public places and requiring a three-foot buffer in case she encounters people.
On Monday, Hickox and the District Court judge agreed that Hickox would abide by the regulations already in place. She will submit to daily health monitoring, inform state health officials if she travels, and advise officials if her health changes.
The restrictions will remain in effect for the rest of the 21 day quarantine, until November 10.
Hickox said that she considered the most recent court order issued by the state of Maine a success, as is an appropriate and reasonable response and does not compromise her personal liberty.