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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Symbolism or silliness?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

In an effort to build more unity and improve the environment of the U.S. Congress, many legislators decided to sit next to someone from the opposing party during President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech Tuesday.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) wasn't impressed.

"I mean the seating arrangement at the SOTU in the end is going to mean absolutely nothing," he told a gathering of journalists. "The question is can we come together on substantive issues."

Obama, in a way, agreed that a specific seating arrangement does not mean much.

"What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but by whether we can work together tomorrow," he said during his speech, inciting a standing ovation.

At the same time, he stressed the importance of a unified community of legislators.

"Governing will now be a shared responsibility between parties," he said. " ... We will move forward together or not at all."

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who introduced the idea with Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colorado) suggested that it was a good start to the forward progress Obama encouraged.

"It is a symbolic gesture," Murkowski said at a press conference before the event. "But why not start off with a symbolic gesture?"

Fifth District Rep. Steve King believes the arrangement may have actually had a negative impact on the response to the address.

"There wasn't much response from the crowd, and there wasn't much particularly inspiring," King said. "But I think some of it had to do with the checkered seating arrangement. It was just a completely different tone. I've never sat in a State of the Union address and seen such a flat response."

He went on to call the idea "a failed experiment."

But how could simply sitting next to a colleague who normally sits across the aisle have such a negative effect?

Are relations between the two parties really that poor?

These people communicate and defend their opinions everyday. Most of them, especially King, are not shy. If they agree with the sentiment being presented, isn't applause a natural reaction no matter who is to their left or their right?

Regardless of their reactions to the State of The Union address, there is a bigger issue at hand here.

Political opinions have seemingly gotten in the way of working relationships in Congress.

Most Americans have to work with people they may not like or agree with all the time. Nonetheless, at least some degree of cooperation and compromise is needed to ensure success.

Considering much of the viability and future of America hinges on what legislators do, isn't it even more important for them to get along?

And if they can't sit together, how are they supposed to work together?

Hopefully, regardless of where they sat, legislators can see the importance of unity and work to find the common ground for the collective good of the country rather than clinging to close-minded ideals.

That is truly what America needs right now.

Gabe Licht
Junior Moments