President Joe Biden’s 2023 State of the Union address evoked applause, jeers, and laughter from attendees at a Harvard Institute of Politics watch party on Tuesday night.
Around 150 students from Harvard College and Harvard Kennedy School gathered in the JFK Jr. Forum for a live viewing of Biden’s address to the joint session of Congress.
As students awaited the State of the Union, they enjoyed popcorn, desserts, and drinks, even bringing their own State of the Union Bingo cards.
Before the address, members of the IOP shared what they hoped Biden would discuss in his speech.
“I think it would be really pertinent if he addressed the police murder of Tyre Nichols and the feeling across the country of mourning and of anger right now,” Tenzin R. Gund-Morrow ’26 said.
Former West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant said she hoped Biden would speak about his plans for the rest of his term.
“I want to know how the President is going to build off the success of the last two years in the next two,” said Tennant, a former IOP resident fellow.
Abby L. Carr ’25, co-chair of the Harvard Conservative Coalition, simply said, “The debt limit.”
Harvard College Democrats hosted their own watch party in the Winthrop House Lion’s Den.
As Biden entered the House Chamber just after 9 p.m., he was met with cheers in both Washington and at the IOP.
At the beginning of Biden’s speech, attendees at Tuesday’s watch party erupted into applause as he congratulated new House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and then again when Biden congratulated Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), the first Black House Minority Leader.
During his address, Biden attacked “Big Pharma” and condemned the rising cost of pharmaceuticals such as insulin.
“One in 10 Americans has diabetes. Many of you in this chamber do,” Biden said, evoking laughter from attendees.
Biden acknowledged the killing of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police last month, calling for greater police accountability and touting his May 2022 executive order banning chokeholds and restricting no-knock warrants.
“What happened to Tyre in Memphis happens too often. We have to do better,” Biden said.
“Let’s commit ourselves to make the words of Tyre’s mother come true: ‘Something good must come from this,’” he added.
Biden’s discussion of education garnered loud applause from those in attendance at the IOP, even bringing some to their feet.
“Folks, you all know 12 years is not enough to win the economic competition for the 21st century,” Biden said. “Let’s give public school teachers a raise.”
Many at the watch party broke out in laughter as the camera turned to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) as Biden made jabs at policy regarding the deficit, energy, and social security, respectively.
As Biden’s second State of the Union drew to a close, he focused on bipartisan issues and ended on an optimistic note highlighting America’s resilience through the past turbulent years.
“Because the soul of this nation is strong, because the backbone of this nation is strong, because the people of this nation are strong, the State of the Union is strong.” Biden said.