by Dustin Karwacki
As the United States faces a severe economic crisis, wars on two fronts and a multitude of other problems, many in the Rider community watched President Barack Obama’s inauguration as the nation’s 44th president on Jan. 20 with a sense of hope for the country.
Obama started his presidency with a speech that, in the minds of many, was just right for the current state of the nation.
“I thought the speech was awesome,” said freshman Chelsea Smith. “Unlike most other presidents, he didn’t use the word ‘I’ [in] every other sentence, but instead used ‘we’ because he was sincerely addressing the nation as a whole — telling us that [change] was really up to us and we all will get through this as a united people.”
However, not everyone had such a positive opinion of the day’s events.
“He kept saying things like ‘it’s our time’ and talking about how we need to be more active politically,” said another Rider student. “I just thought it was a typical political speech. I really expected more from him.”
Regardless of one’s opinion of the inaugural speech, there is little debate that when Obama took office, he got to work immediately. Among his first official actions were executive orders formally banning the use of torture on detainees and ordering the closure of the U.S.’s Guantanamo Bay. Both of these orders have been overwhelmingly viewed as positive ones, though the decision to shut down Guantanamo has some complications.
“We barely have room for prisoners as it is,” said freshman Cathleen Leitch. “What are we going to do with the people in Guantanamo Bay now?”
One of Obama’s biggest and most immediate challenges is the U.S. economy. In 2008 alone, 25 banks failed and were taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. In December, the unemployment rate reached 7.2 percent, the highest since 1992. Experts have identified this as the worst economic downturn in 26 years.
Of the many problems facing the United States, the economy is arguably the one that most directly impacts college students. With the credit crisis, banks are reluctant to lend money, making it difficult for many students to get the loans they need to pay for college. This is forcing many students to attend public schools as opposed to private ones, for the simple fact that they cost less.
However, the government is already working on remedying the economic situation. Obama called for immediate action on the economy upon taking office. Congress is currently working out the details of a massive stimulus bill aimed at creating jobs and other actions intended to help repair the economy. The bill, which is currently hovering around $900 billion, includes allocations for housing, public works, health care and other avenues.
“Though he hasn’t really been able to push his agenda yet, the very fact that he took office means that peoples’ expectations have improved,” said junior Zarif Islam. “What moves he makes next, and how effective they will be, remains to be seen.”