In the late evening hours of April 28, President Biden gave his State of the Union address to Congress — and to the nation — on the 99th day of his presidency. The speech was full of historic firsts: it was the first time, for example, two women (Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris) were ever seated on the dais behind the President. But perhaps the most pressing part of the night — the speech — was one that was obsessed with American families, both in the ways Biden has helped them so far and how he wants to help them in the future.
Biden continued to vocalize his commitments to American families that Biden has made good on so far throughout his presidency and, through agenda-setting in the speech, clearly intends to continue working on. Really, Biden can’t stop talking about American families. And for the first time in a long time, he’s got the policy achievements to back up his obsession with helping American parents, making his remarks not just lip service (so far.)
In fact, the President mentioned American families — or by modifiers like parents, kids, grandparents, children, etc — at least 35 times in the 70-minute speech. But more than mentioning them by their modifiers, he gave a speech that was about the policies that will help family members survive in an economy that has left them behind, and about what he’s done to help them so far.
American Families Were the Star
In two major plans that have not yet passed, and which were the focus of most of his speech — Biden’s infrastructure package (the American Jobs Plan) and his social safety net package (the American Families Plan), Biden has called for $4 trillion in spending on American families. In his speech, he outlined what that $4 trillion would do.
From child care expansions to reducing child poverty by half, to expanding free education to include pre-k and two years of community college, to raising the minimum wage, and raising taxes on the wealthy, to combating child care with good, American jobs, and other legislative priorities, here’s what happened in the speech.
From Gun Safety
Biden implored Congress to act on gun control — a uniquely American scourge of American life that often harms American children — by bringing up the heightening series of mass shootings and gun violence as America reopens.
To Free and Affordable Child Care and Education
When discussing his child care plan — which would ensure that middle-class parents pay no more than 7 percent of their income on child care for parents of kids 5 and younger and would make it free for low-income families —he noted that the “most hard-pressed families won’t have to spend a dime.” Add that to his plans to add four years to public education in the United States and the education focus is strong.
To Paid Leave
He talked about his paid family and medical leave plan, a 12-week federal program that would be the first of its time and include all workers. “No one should have to choose between a job… or taking care of themselves and a loved one.”
And Good-Paying Jobs Creation
And he touted his American Jobs Plan, a $2.3 trillion plan largely dealing with climate change that would give people millions of jobs, as a family plan. “This plan will help… create jobs for our caregivers with better wages and better benefits.”
As Well As Climate Change
Climate change, too, the most existential threat to the lives of our children, got a shout-out, as did affordable health insurance, two plans that will change the shape of future and current families in America.
And The Equality Act
Biden mentioned the Equality Act — a bill that would expand the civil and political and human rights of trans people, and children, in 29 states, and urged Congress to pass it. He also told trans people, and especially trans kids, that “he has their back” at a time when trans rights are under attack in nearly every statehouse across the country through punitive, draconian, and harmful legislation that is anti-science.
And So, So Much More for Families
These were hardly the full scope of Biden’s remarks when it comes to families — he also voting rights, ending cancer, bipartisanship, lowering drug prices, ending the forever-war in Afghanistan, white supremacy as terrorism, strengthening democracy, and international competition.
In other words, he laid out his ambitious plans — just like every President has done at their own SOTU — for all of America to hear. Hopefully, much of it will be followed through, for the betterment of American families. But with partisan rancor as high as it is, the speech was a bit like a victory lap on how he’s helped American families so far and a state of priorities for how he’d like to help them going forward.