In his final State of the Union address, President Obama admits a single 'regret.'

President Obama delivered his final State of the Union address last night.

It was full of rousing moments, brutal mic drops, and two appearances of the phrase "pass muster," which gave the whole thing a nice Gatsby feel.

While a lot of important issues were addressed, like terrorism and curing cancer, some were not — abortion rights and police brutality to name a few.


Obama delivering his final State of the Union address. Photo by Evan Vucci/Getty Images.

One topic Obama brought up toward the end carried with it his only use of the word "regret."

"Democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest. Too many Americans feel that way right now. It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency  —  that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better."

It's not often you hear a president use the word "regret."

He's expressed frustration at gun control and in 2015 said that he wishes he closed Guantanamo Bay on his first day in office.

But for Obama to express regret in his final address, before all of congress and America, is a pretty big deal.

Especially since the issue at the heart of his regret is one we hear about often — divisiveness and partisanship in Congress and in this country.

Americans, more than ever, feel divided and that their voices simply aren't being heard the way they used to.

According to a recent CNN poll, 75% of Americans are dissatisfied with the way the government is being run. That's a huge problem in a country that is supposed to be "of the people."

From billionaire bankers who can crash the economy without spending a second in jail, to corporate CEOs who can buy and sell presidential candidates to unarmed black men being killed by police on sight — and those cops who never see a day in court because of a system of politics that protects them — it's pretty easy to see why people aren't feeling just dissatisfied but completely unmotivated.

Most Americans look at the scope and scale of the problems this country faces and just aren't sure they can do anything about it.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's election in 2013 received record-low voter turnout. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images.

Voter turnout is on the decline in presidential elections, and in local and primary elections, turnout has been abysmal. Not to mention even if people do turn out to vote, politicians have gerrymandered districts, something the president called for an end to in his State of the Union, or as he described it, "the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters and not the other way around."

Once again, in a country that elects its leaders to represent them, this is — to put it lightly — not good.

But there may be one silver lining to this problem, in the form of millennial voters.

According to a poll conducted by Rock the Vote and USA Today, millennial voters (the country's largest demographic) no longer reliably identify as liberal or conservative.

Millennials are more likely to cast their votes based on issues, not candidates, and their political alignments reflect a need for radical systemic change rather than just another party politician.

It might explain why there's so much support for Bernie Sanders, a candidate who, much like Obama eight years ago, many young voters believe carries with him the radical change they're looking for.

On the other hand, it could also explain millennial Republicans' support for Donald Trump, a candidate who also represents an anti-establishment ideology.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is surging in popularity just ahead of the Iowa Caucus. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

Maybe that's what bridging this almighty divide will look like. Voters turning out to voice their concern on specific issues and candidates who, as a result, have to be representatives of the people first and politicians second. As it should be.

This is what one of the most powerful world leaders, the president of the United States, says he regrets not being able to change in his years in office.

Of course, the president went on to say that he would do his best in his remaining year in office to address this problem.

"There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office."

He went on to say that what's necessary is a change of the entire system, an end to practices like gerrymandering that will help us "to reflect our better selves."

But the president's call to action is significant because the people, with a united voice, are one thing that's more powerful than he is.

With an election coming up this year, the voice of the American people has the potential to be louder than it ever has. As the president noted in his closing paragraphs, it's not enough to just sit at home and be frustrated.

More

As a child, Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia's parents didn't ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead, her father would ask, "Are you going to be a doctor? Are you going to be an engineer? Or are you going to be an entrepreneur?"

Little did he know that she would successfully become all three: an award-winning biomedical and mechanical engineer who performs cutting-edge medical research and has started multiple companies.

Bhatia holds an M.D. from Harvard University, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, and a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT. Bhatia, a Wilson professor of engineering at MIT, is currently serving as director of the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, where she's working on nanotechnology targeting enzymes in cancer cells. This would allow cancer screenings to be done with a simple urine test.

Bhatia owes much of her impressive career to her family. Her parents were refugees who met in graduate school in India; in fact, she says her mom was the first woman to earn an MBA in the country. The couple immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, started a family, and worked hard to give their two daughters the best opportunities.

"They made enormous sacrifices to pick a town with great public schools and really push us to excel the whole way," Bhatia says. "They really believed in us, but they expected excellence. The story I like to tell about my dad is like, if you brought home a 96 on a math test, the response would be, 'What'd you get wrong?'"

Keep Reading Show less
Packard Foundation
True

Someday, future Americans will look back on this era of school shootings in bafflement and disbelief—not only over the fact that it happened, but over how long it took us to enact significant legislation to try to stop it.

Five people die from vaping, and the government talks about banning vaping devices. Hundreds of American children have been shot to death in their classrooms, sometimes a dozen or so at a time, and the government has done practically nothing. It's unconscionable.

Keep Reading Show less
Education & Information
via Hollie Bellew-Shaw / Facebook

For those of us who are not on the spectrum, it can be hard to perceive the world through the senses of someone with autism.

"You could think of a person with autism as having an imbalanced set of senses," Stephen Shore, assistant professor in the School of Education at Adelphi University, told Web MD.

"Some senses may be turned up too high and some turned down too low. As a result, the data that comes in tends to be distorted, and it's very hard to perceive a person's environment accurately," Shore continued.

Keep Reading Show less
Education & Information
Truth

Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign, is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

truth
True