‘Best Speech Ever’: Indian Americans are Optimistic After Biden’s ‘Measured and Focused’ State of the Union Address
- Although opinions were divided along party lines, many lauded the president for hitting the right notes and holding Republicans to account.
President Joe Biden’s assertion at the start of his State of the Union address last night —“I define our country in one word: Possibilities — made Harshita Mira Venkatesh, communications co-chair for South Asians for America (SAFA), “pause and reflect on how we’ve defied the odds since 2020” and “how heightened” her “sense of optimism is for the road ahead.”
Venkatesh’s hope is evident in the responses of Indian Americans who spoke to American Kahani after the president’s second address to the joint session of the Congress. Reflective of the country’s political landscape, their opinions were divided along party lines, although many lauded the president for hitting the right notes and holding Republicans to account. Most agreed that the 73-minute speech was measured and focused, and demonstrated the president’s leadership strengths.
Shekar Narasimhan, chairman of the AAPI Victory Fund, said it was the “best speech” he has ever heard Biden give. “It had energy, vision and substance all at the same time.” He said he was “glad there was a reference to gun control, immigration reform and police reform was emphasized — all critical part of the future agenda or platform.”
Satish Korpe felt the same way. The D.C.-area-based CEO at Potowmac Engineers Inc., who is currently in India, watched the address from his hotel room in Mumbai. “President Biden made one if the best speeches in his career,” he told American Kahani, adding that the delivery was “flawless,” and the speech “covered all the bases.” He said Biden “touched the lives of many working Americans and senior citizens. On the international front, he established U.S. leadership position in protecting democracies all over the world and standing up to the autocrats of the world.”
For Varun Nikore, executive director of the AAPI Victory Alliance, the speech “had important overarching themes — accomplishments, contrast and unity.” Noting that the Biden-Harris administration has many accomplishments, “something they feel they don’t get credit for,” Nikore named a few — “the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years, infrastructure investments like we’ve not seen since the Johnson era, and a re-focus to insourcing manufacturing resulting in that sector’s record job growth.”
Mississippi-based Republican physician Dr. Sampath Shivangi, president of Indian American Forum for Political Education, also credited the administration for having “the lowest unemployment in the last 50 years and creating 12 million new jobs.” He hailed Biden’s call to reduce the cost of Insulin for type 1 diabetes. He admitted that the address was Biden’s “best speech in a long time as earlier ones had many hiccups along the way.” He expressed regret that the president was heckled by GOP members “which is very unfortunate and unusual in last many decades.”
However, Nikki Haley was careful with her words. She congratulated Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders on “a powerful rebuttal,” and listed flaws in Biden’s address.
Meanwhile, journalist and MSNBC and NBC host Mehdi Hasan tweeted his response on TikTok to Sanders’s “ridiculous GOP response to Biden’s State of the Union.”
Nikore’s commented on the president’s engagement with the Republicans. “Biden’s contrast with key Republicans on the record and stated interest to defund and sunset Medicare and Social Security is no secret,” he said, adding that “Conservatives have been railing against so-called ‘entitlements’ for decades.” However, “the manner in which he goaded Republicans into publicly supporting these very popular and critical programs was a master class in both speech writing and effective delivery, and one Beltway watchers will be discussing for years.”
What also struck him was “Biden’s all too personal connection to cancer, despite all the differences with Republicans on so many issues.” The president’s “stated goals on the initiative to reduce cancer by 50 percent in the next 25 years, was a point that allowed Americans to see where his heart really is, namely, bringing in our country and challenging us all to work together to overcome the biggest problems of today.”
Venkatesh said the speech made her realize how far we have come as a country. Along with Biden’s comments on the economy, unemployment rate, manufacturing and clean energy sectors and climate change and healthcare, she lauded the president for not forgetting to mention “the obstacles ahead, such as gun violence and police reform, challenges I think about daily.” As “a young woman of South Asian origin,” Venkatesh says she’s “hopeful,” and is “reassured because, despite the political divide in our government, we were able to muster relative unity in the face of grave challenges such as the war in Ukraine.” She is “encouraged because COVID no longer controls every waking moment of our lives, thanks to our collective vaccination efforts.” But she is “most optimistic because I caught glimpses of guests such as Tyre Nicholas’ parents, Paul Pelosi, and Brandon Tsay – individuals who embody what it means to be American and make me believe in the story of American progress and resilience.”
Indian American lawmakers also took to Twitter to congratulate Biden on the speech and show their support. “That was just a helluva speech,” tweeted Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.). “Populist, worker-driven, all about fairness and opportunity”
Sri Preston Kulkarni, the chief strategist at 2 Million Texans Project, called it the “most interactive” State of the Union he’s ever watched.
Rep. Ro Khanna, who in a previous post shared a photo of his mother, who was his guest at the State of the Union, tweeted: “In the richest country on earth, no one should be skipping doctor’s appointments due to cost. We must pass Medicare for All and cancel medical debt.”
Cincinnati mayor Aftab Pureval also posted on Twitter after Biden’s address. “There is much we can achieve in our cities to combat the worst impacts of the climate crisis – as highlighted by the #SOTU address. We look forward to collaborating with the federal government to mobilize funds and activate programs across Cincinnati.”
Many believe that Biden’s speech signals his desire to run in 2024 and that an announcement for the same is expected soon. Narasimhan is confident that Biden has an agenda, and will run for a second term.
Korpe is hopeful that last night’s speech will increase the president’s popularity “by at least 20 percent” Nikore is upbeat as well. “While we haven’t seen an official announcement of his plans to run for re-election, this State of the Union speech likely sets the themes we’ll see in an upcoming reelection campaign.” Shivangi also hopes that the speech will increase Biden’s chances of reelection, “even though political pundits have given chances of President Trump winning 48 percent to Biden’s 44 percent.”