By Mark E. Vogler
Methuen's Mike Hubbard said President Barack Obama saved the best part for last in his State of the Union address last night when he called on Americans to come together.
"The number one thing I was pleased with and what he tried to hammer home at end of his address is that we're all in this together, regardless of party affiliation," said Hubbard, 26, who got to watch the speech live last night from a guest seat looking into the U.S. House of Representatives Chamber.
"Having America coming together, that was the biggest thing to take away from the speech, It sounds trite, but it's never been more true than now. That was my mantra when I was in the military and I liked the fact that he pushed it. I always used to say that regardless of your unit or branch that it was incumbent for everyone to work together. And I think that principle applies for all Americans," he said.
Hubbard, who left the U.S. Army as a staff sergeant last August, is now a freshman political science major at the University of Massaschusetts-Lowell. He's also an intern for U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Lowell), who invited him to attend last night's speech.
Hubbard said he thought Obama's address was "one of his better speeches."
"It was a pretty well crafted speech that made some excellent points," Hubbard said in a telephone interview last night.
"I thought the speech flowed well, and it seemed to me that Congress was truly engaged as well as general audience in the balcony as well. Let's see what we're going to do in the next few years. Was this just a great speech or will it take effect?," he said.
As a veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hubbard said the president's pledge to educate veterans and get them back into the job market also appealed to him as one of the best parts of the speech.
"We have all these really talented people who are coming back (from the Iraq and Afghanistan) and we're going to have a huge pool of incredible talent," Hubbard said.
"I like the fact that he said let's make sure we have something set up. With with all these returning veterans, it's going to contribute immensely to the country," he said.
Obama's focus on job creation — to make sure that jobs are brought back to the U.S. instead of lost to foreign countries — probably drew the strongest reaction from the House chamber, Hubbard noted.
Congresswoman Tsongas, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said she was glad to see the president "highlighting the contribution of so many men and women who served in the war."
"It was also great to have Mike there who served in Afghanistan and Iraq," Tsongas said.
Tsongas, whose Fifth Congressional District is made up of 29 cities and towns, including Haverhill, Methuen and Lawrence, said she thought the president's focus on job creation was the most important part of his address — and was particularly relevant for people in her district and throughout the state.
"He did present a plan that does meet the strength of Massachusetts," Tsongas said.
"I liked the focus on manufacturing which can be linked to what's happened around Massachusetts with clean energy and alternative energy. We do have a number of clean energy companies in the district as well as throughout the state. On all fronts, it seems to present real opportunities for Massachusetts and the Fifth District," she said.