EDITORIAL: SOTU put Ohio in national spotlight

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 5, 2022

When President Joe Biden gave his first State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday night, the Buckeye State played a big hand in the speech.

Most notably, Biden called on Congress to take action to aid veterans who are suffering health effects after exposure to toxic “burn pits” during their service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Effects of this exposure include headaches, numbness, dizziness and, in some cases, have been linked to cancer.

Sitting with first lady Jill Biden during the speech was Danielle Robinson, whose husband, Heath Robinson, was an Ohio veteran who died last year from lung cancer after being exposed to smoke from burn pits.

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Mrs. Robinson also met with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, before the speech. Brown was the author of legislation, which passed the Senate earlier this year and would establish a process by which the U.S. Veterans Administration could determine future presumptive conditions and provide overdue benefits to veterans who were exposed to the toxic pits.

Also sitting with the first lady was Refynd Duro, a progressive care unit nurse at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, who has been treating patients with COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. Duro has been so committed to the effort, she has repeatedly had to quarantine away from her family. Her presence served to highlight the fight against the virus and the steps that need to be taken to get the pandemic behind us.

Brown also played a key role in the speech when he was quoted directly by the president, when he said we need to “bury the term rust belt” when describing the region’s economy. Brown used this phrase in a column in January, published in state newspapers (including here in The Ironton Tribune), in which he announced that Intel would be bringing 10,000 manufacturing jobs to the state in New Albany. Intel’s CEO, Pat Gelsinger, also sat with Dr. Biden during the president’s speech.

And lastly, the president made a proposal that should be of great interest to Ohioans. As one of the four goals in the Unity Agenda he announced at the close of the speech, Biden called on lawmakers to commit resources to tackling the opioid epidemic that has so greatly impact Ohio and other states. Biden is requesting $41 billion to invest in research, prevention, harm reduction, treatment and recovery services, as well as a change in rules that prevent doctors from administering some treatments.

The speech highlighted heroes from the state, efforts to revitalize its economy and the need to take on the addiction crisis.
It is good to see that Ohio is in the president’s focus and that he has built a partnership with its lawmakers on these issues.