A few dozen Queens citizens gathered inside of Clippers Restaurant & Lounge on Merrick Boulevard Tuesday to watch President Obama’s State of the Union address. People sat in the dimly lit area silently with the exception of a few round of applause, while the president tackled issues like national debt and bringing our troops overseas home. In the front, by the largest television screen inside of Clippers, was Councilman James Sanders, Jr. (D-Laurelton), who had organized this State of the Union watch party.
After the address was given, Sanders stood in front of the crowd, microphone in hand, to mediate a response session with those in attendance. Although it seemed like everyone agreed with a lot of what the president was saying while the speech was being delivered, when the time came to respond, a few people had some criticism for what was said.
Sanders himself touched on a few points Obama made during his address as well.
“We heard him speak of heavy traditional themes that just about everyone in America agrees with,” the councilman said. “He has given an idealistic picture of America, stating if you work hard, you can make it — but he didn’t speak of racism that has a hand in these things also.”
Sanders was also skeptical about Obama’s plan to take on oil companies, which he described as the “first monopoly of America.”
“Go for it,” Sanders responded sarcastically to the idea. “I hope he lives to survive it.”
Among the people on hand for the watch party was Adrienne Felton, a representative for the Southeast Queens Young Democrats. She also provided some critique on the address, tailoring her commentary specifically for the residents of southeast Queens.
“I know we have nationwide issues, but I guess I’m partial because I’m going to talk about southeast Queens,” admitted Felton, just before she got into a few bullet points she jotted down pertaining to the president’s speech. “One of the things that he mentioned was education and its ‘Race to the Top’ money. Where’s our money? We’re not rising to the top with Mayor [Bloomberg’s] control over our public school systems.”
Felton also talked about Obama’s points regarding new jobs in the United States.
“I’m going to tell you, I’m all for [new jobs],” expressed Felton. “But southeast Queens, we’re still doing the Pony Express when the other people are doing FedEx.” She elaborated on that by discussing the rising crime rate and falling graduation rate in southeast Queens, stating that residents here remain “behind other people.”
The Southeast Queens Young Democrats are a group of people between the ages of 16 and 36 who, according to their Facebook page, “are dedicated to advancing the highest principles of the Democratic Party and inspiring the participation of all people in politics, public policy, and service.”
“We’re here to educate, inform, engage and empower you,” Felton affirmed. “This is your neighborhood, this is your borough, this is your city, this is your state, this is your country.”