Education, Poverty Alleviation Among Key Themes in State of the Union Address

President Obama delivered his final State of the Union (SOTU) address this week and as expected, he did not put forth an aggressive policy agenda for his last year of office.  However, the President did touch upon a number of specific areas of interest to Goodwill® and the people we serve.

Moving People out of Poverty

Reverend Edgar Helms founded Goodwill under the philosophy of “a hand up, not a hand out.”  Those words ring true today and when discussing anti-poverty measures, the President remarked, “America is about giving everybody willing to work a chance, a hand up, and I’d welcome a serious discussion about strategies we can all support…”.

Goodwill advocates can engage in those conversations, whether they focus on tax credits for low-income families or reforming social safety-net programs like Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). Goodwills around the country provide valuable job-training services to these individuals; place them in jobs, creating a pathway out of poverty every day.


The President discussed the need for affordable colleges, reducing student loans, and putting more computers in classrooms.  Goodwill launched the Community College/Career Collaboration (C4) in 2009 to enhance local agencies’ collaboration with community colleges to combine their assets and resources to provide easy access to education, job training and other supportive services to individuals who lack a college or career credential that employers look for.  Pell grants are an important component of C4 because they increase access to training and education that lead to high-growth and good paying jobs that sustain families and build vibrant communities.

Criminal Justice Reform

President Obama noted that criminal justice reform is an area where he thinks bipartisan progress could be made this year.  Hours before the SOTU, the House Judiciary Committee approved the Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2015.  This bill, reauthorizes spending for existing programs to help people with a criminal background reintegrate into society. Several of the programs funded provide resources that allow community-based organizations, such as Goodwill, do more to address the employment challenges of this population.

Civic Engagement        

The President concluded his speech by discussing what it means to be active in democracy.  He received applause when he stated, “…our collective futures depends on your willingness to uphold your duties as a citizen, to vote, to speak out, to stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody somewhere stood up for us. We need every American to stay active in our public life and not just during election time so that our public life reflects the goodness and the decency that I see in the American people every single day.”

The quote of the night may have followed the address when the President stated “Let me take one more look at this thing,” as he approached the exit, then turned around to take in the view of the chamber for the last time.  However, there is still a year left in the Administration and Congress, and more work to be done.

As a Goodwill advocate, you can have a role to play as well.  Our Legislative Action Center provides a vehicle for you to stay actively engaged.  Register for updates and alerts, share the alerts and updates with your own networks and educate other stakeholders about how the acts of Congress will affect Goodwill.