SEATTLE - On Tuesday night, Washingtonians shifted their attention briefly from worrying about the state's budget crisis to focusing on the national priorities of the new Congress. In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama stressed cooperation and the need for innovation in order to get the economy growing again.
He touted higher education, and urged people to become teachers. For Sandra Schroeder, president of AFT Washington, it was a refreshing change from what she's been hearing about more state budget cuts to colleges and universities.
"I hope states will hear his message, because we couldn't agree more that the way to the future is through innovation and creativity - and that education delivers those benefits or talents better than any other mechanism can possibly do."
Obama said he wants domestic spending to be frozen at its current level for the next five years, and he suggested that some agencies could be merged to make them more efficient. That's also the approach Gov. Gregoire is taking. Collin Jergens, communications manager for FUSE Washington, says he saw many parallels between what Congress and state lawmakers are facing.
"We agree with the president that we need to invest in education and in critical infrastructure to create jobs, to strengthen our competitiveness and build a foundation for our future prosperity. So, I think those were the key themes - and they're things that are very important to families right here at home."
The speech was peppered with plenty of inspiring examples of Americans overcoming adversity. But Susan Eidenschink, with the League of Women Voters of Washington, thinks overall, the president was a realist.
"He really showed that our nation is in trouble and we need to make some sacrifices - which I haven't heard too much before. And so, I was really glad to hear that, because I think it's necessary."
Obama also noted that the nation's success will be determined, not by whether members of competing political parties can intermingle and sit together, as they did during his speech, but whether they can work together going forward.