by Rebecca Palsha
12:30 PM AKST, January 25, 2011
While Democratic and Republican members of Congress chose to sit together during President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday evening, Alaskans still had divided opinions on its message.
At a Democratic viewing party for the address in Anchorage, Alaska Democratic Party Chair Patti Higgins discussed Obama's call for the U.S. to remain a world power.
"We are the best that we are creative, we are the innovators; we don't just calculate, we come up with the ideas," Higgins said. "But the rest of the world is catching up and and they are competitors, and we need to be at the top of our game."
Gary Hovanec, a Republican at the viewing party, also weighed in on the address.
"He probably is one of the best speech-givers that we've had as a president -- as far as whether you can believe all of that, that's another story," Hovanec said. "So we'll see how he reacts to the Republican-controlled Congress and the Democrats to see if they will work together."
Anchorage wasn't the only place to host a bipartisan crowd watching the address, as Congress took up a call for civility in the wake of shootings at a town hall event in Tucson, Ariz. earlier this month that killed six people and wounded 18 others -- including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat.
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski was an early proponent of combined seating, and Sen. Mark Begich sat with Rep. Don Young, who hadn't attended a State of the Union address in 37 years. Young says he changed his mind on attending this year.
"I just made my mind up not to go and I wouldn't have gone this time, but this was the big time we were going to reach across the aisle and and hold hands with the other party," Young said.
Begich says for him, some of the highlights of Obama's speech were his pledge to make the No Child Left Behind Act on education testing more flexible, as well as his call for Congress to come together as a working group -- but one thing was missing.
"I was a little disappointed there wasn't any oil and gas -- I think Alaska is in an incredible position to assist in this long-term energy independence that we need for this country," Begich said. "Generally I think his speech is getting into more of a middle-of-the-ground, which I think is good."
Murkowski also planned to sit next to a Democrat, but she was unable to attend the speech after her youngest son had to be rushed into surgery for an appendectomy.
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