When reviewing President Obama’s final State of the Union address, I think it is very important to remember that as he has just one year left in his presidency, he has nothing to lose and everything to gain. He is not on the ballot this November, and the tone of this unorthodox speech, while still uplifting and at times boastful, clearly shows a man who is not afraid to enter the fray of the political arena one last time and is determined to make the most of what is left of his “lame duck” presidency. Numerous references denouncing a certain outspoken businessman and his fellow candidates leave little room for optimism from either side. However, once again a man who has proven his eloquent and masterful skills in public speaking, Obama has managed the impossible: to come off as concerned but not desperate, in some of the most despairing times of modern society. I may not have, and certainly at times did not, agree with what he was saying, but his ability to make me want to believe him is the skill that sets him apart from all other public officials. I stand not in a position of disdain and mistrust, rather from one of admiration. Whether it was the need to move toward sustainable energy or the desire for a less-polarizing political climate, the president’s words in his final State of the Union address are bound to be remembered for as long as he can stay politically relevant. Which is to say until Jan. 20, 2017.

Christian Martin, Eden Prairie

• • •

President Obama’s final State of the Union address proved that he learned nothing from his foreign-relations disasters in the Middle East.

His ill-advised troop withdrawal from Iraq, description of ISIL as a “JV” team and his comment in his speech that the current terrorist threat does not threaten our national security are evidence of his naive and failed handling of national security interests.

Incredibly, Obama forgot that it was merely a handful of terrorists who delivered a blow to America that led to the worst loss of life and economic turmoil on American soil since World War II.

Has Obama forgotten that the 9/11 attack severely damaged our airline industry, financial markets and the largest city in our nation? It took America many years to recover from its economic impact. Imagine what would happen if such an attack were duplicated in other major cities?

For Obama to assume that this will not happen again is not just naive, it is very dangerous.

Corby Pelto, Plymouth

• • •

Wisconsin-based Speaker of the House Paul Ryan appeared amazingly stoic during the State of the Union address on Tuesday. I was hoping President Obama would suddenly yell, “Go, Pack, Go!” just to see if Ryan would show any emotion.

Jay Gabbert, Plymouth

 

MINNEAPOLIS SUPERINTENDENT

So we ‘unhired’ Sergio Paez; who would ever want this job?

The Minneapolis school board has voted. The professional educator they had “hired” to change the culture of the school system has been sent packing. As soon as a small group of protesters will let them, they may then turn to the interim superintendent, whom they had decided not to hire, to now lead our school system.

Based upon the public record, it appears that the well-regarded educator from Holyoke, Mass., Sergio Paez, has been unhired because of allegations that someone else — a teacher, coach or administrator — in the school system he led was accused of child abuse.

Again, let’s get the facts straight: These were allegations, not proven charges, and were in no way leveled at Paez. So we have guilt by very tenuous association. He was leading a large system where abuse was alleged against someone(s) else. Is there an urban school system in America where such allegations have not been made?

In the after-the-fact vetting undertaken by two school board members, amateurs in investigation, they concluded and recommended to their colleagues that he not be hired because, while he had in fact been highly successful at changing the Holyoke system for the better (a desperately dysfunctional system when he was hired), he was deemed to be a bad choice because he wasn’t skillful politically.

Let me say that again: He wasn’t skillful politically.

Now the board appears to be turning to Michael Goar, the interim superintendent. The fault here is not at either Paez’s or Goar’s doorstep. It falls squarely in the laps of the school board. The lack of confidence I am sensing is in the board, not the candidates.

What qualified candidate in her or his right mind would now consider this job? We’d better hire Goar quickly, before he considers what it will be like to work for these folks.

Michael Goldner, Minneapolis

 

POLLUTION EMPLOYEE E-MAILS

Watershed worker was trying to move, not stop, pipeline route

I read Jon Tevlin’s Jan. 13 column (“PCA staff e-mail stirs up Capitol”), and I think he missed the key point of this kerfuffle. I retired from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) in 2013. I never worked in the Brainerd office, I do not know Scott Lucas, and I have worked in the area of water quality standards — not watershed review — in the St. Paul office. I have never worked on pipeline routing reviews.

The key phrase that Tevlin quoted from Scott’s e-mail included the words “ … in this area of the state.” If you review the Star Tribune’s archives, the MPCA, for environmental reasons, very publicly created a southern route that the agency deemed less environmentally harmful than the northern route that pipeline company, Enbridge, was proposing. I believe the Star Tribune showed maps with both the northern pipeline route and the MPCA’s preferred southern pipeline route.

I do not believe that Scott was, in any way, trying to stop the project; he was trying to move the route of the project out of the northern, more ecologically sensitive, area. Thus the key phrase is “in this area.”

Since the proposed route change to the south was for environmental reasons, it makes sense that Scott looked for support from the environmental community. I am ashamed that MPCA management has not explained his e-mails as part of an MPCA management approach in its appeal to the Public Utilities Commission for a route change; I have not followed the appeal very closely, but I believe it was successful and an environmental-impact statement is now required before a final route can be selected.

I am sure this has been very needlessly stressful for Scott and he deserves an apology from both MPCA management and the governor.

Howard Markus, Woodbury

 

MEDICAL MARIJUANA

When it comes to cannabis, Minnesota doctors are in a fog

Regarding expanding Minnesota’s medical marijuana program to pain patients (“Without data, Minn. doctors remain leery of medical pot,” Jan. 13): Sooo … let me get this right. The majority of surveyed physicians “did not know enough about medical marijuana to discuss the risks and benefits with a patient” and “thought the program just meant more hassle and paperwork for them.”

Wow. What about patient care? Sounds like a major cop-out to me.

Ann M. Goss, Minneapolis