The annual State of the Union address is the president's greatest opportunity to set his agenda each year. It's also a great time for memorable moments, both scripted and spontaneous.
On Tuesday night, President Obama’s singling out of Afghanistan veteran Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg elicited one of the longest standing ovations in the modern history of State of the Union addresses, lasting nearly two full minutes.
Not since President George W. Bush’s first address following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has there been such a sustained show of bipartisan adulation.
The president met Remsburg in 2009 while at Omaha Beach in France for the 65th anniversary of D-Day. A few months later, the Army Ranger was seriously injured by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, which left him in a monthlong coma. He's now blind in one eye and is partially paralyzed but has relearned to walk and talk.
“My fellow Americans, men and women like Cory remind us that America has never come easy,” Obama said. “Our freedom, our democracy, has never been easy. Sometimes we stumble, we make mistakes, we get frustrated or discouraged. But for more than 200 years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress.”
There were more than two dozen standing ovations throughout the speech, but none captured the approval of those in attendance quite like Obama’s salute to Remsburg. And the echo of applause was just as loud across Twitter, with celebrities and public figures from all political stripes voicing their approval.
Cory Remsburg. 10 deployments! It took you to bring us all together tonight. Bless you. And thanks.— Mark McKinnon (@mmckinnon) January 29, 2014
Thank you Cory Remsburg. And please think of all the other wounded warriors like him who are fighting back from difficult wounds— Ben Rhodes (@rhodes44) January 29, 2014
There was also sustained applause, and even an impromptu chant of “USA! USA!” when Obama mentioned the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
A summary of the most often repeated words in the State of the Union address shows “Americans” leading by a healthy margin, with “America,” “jobs” and “help” following behind.
Republicans reserved most of their applause for bipartisan topics, such as supporting the troops and maintaining strong ties with Israel. But there were a few moments in the speech that drew a wave of Republican approval, including this comment from Obama on China: “For the first time in over a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that China is no longer the world’s No. 1 place to invest; America is.”
Meanwhile, the Republican response issued by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers was dominated by words like “working,” “president” and “job.”
Another hot topic across Twitter and Facebook was Obama’s reference to the hit AMC show “Mad Men,” in which he used the drama, set in the 1960s, to argue for greater gender equality in the workplace.
“A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship — and you know what, a father does, too,” Obama said. “It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a ‘Mad Men’ episode. This year, let’s all come together — Congress, the White House and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street — to give every woman the opportunity she deserves.”
Though “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner is not on Twitter himself, he did issue a statement about Obama’s comment that was widely shared: "I support the president, and I'm honored that our show is part of a much-needed national conversation."
And when it came to the often frigid relationship between the president and House Speaker John Boehner, things appeared to take a turn for the better, at least momentarily. Even though it wasn’t the first time Obama as singled out Boehner’s father, the reaction from Boehner ignited a Twitter firestorm, with #sonofabarkeep briefly becoming the top trending term on the site.