WORD LISTS

A Quick Current Events Vocab Quiz! A State of the State and State of the Union Roundup

January 28, 2014
After a month of State of the State addresses by governors across the country, President Barack Obama gave a State of the Union address last night focusing on the economy and plans for unilateral action from the executive branch. Follow "State Of..." news coverage from a vocabularian's perspective by learning these ten words drawn from New York Times and Washington Post coverage.
beleaguer
When you feel like you've "got it coming from all sides," you can describe yourself as beleaguered. It's related to besiege. When an army beleaguers a city, they camp out around it, waiting to attack.
The state's immediate focus, Ms. Brewer said, was a comprehensive overhaul of the beleaguered child welfare system.
--State of the States, The New York Times, Jan. 28, 2014
scorch
Although scorch is a word you often seen used figuratively, here it refers to a literal burning, as Colorado was plagued by wildfires throughout a dry summer.
“This past year, Colorado has been scorched. Colorado has been flooded. Colorado — once again — endured senseless, inexplicable violence. Yet, despite all of it, we did not let that define us. That is not our story.”
--State of the States, The New York Times, Jan. 28, 2014
escalate
Think of escalators in a mall to remember that this word means to "move up" or "increase." In political contexts, it will often refer to a growth in a trend, as in gun violence or hostilities between groups.
“Far too often, gun violence is committed by shooters who cannot legally own guns, so it is critical that we do a better job tracing these weapons back to their sources. We must redouble our efforts to confront the gun trafficking that is escalating the gang wars.”
--State of the States, The New York Times, Jan. 28, 2014
sustainable
As sustainable becomes increasingly familiar in the context of "environmental sustainability," we see it cropping up in other contexts as well. It describes things that can be maintained or continued. You'll want to set a sustainable pace when running or you'll have to stop to catch your breath.
“We have the resources to deliver services to the people of Hawaii while living within our means. And, what is most important is my administration’s budget philosophy ensures our budget is sustainable.”
--State of the States, The New York Times, Jan. 28, 2014
repeal
In French, appeler means to call, and thus re + appeler means to call back. It's the verb for cancelling a law. When you hear about "repealing Obamacare," it means taking that law off the books.
Among her legislative priorities are renewing a proposal to hold back third-graders who fail reading tests and the repeal of a law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain a drivers' licenses.
--State of the States, The New York Times, Jan. 28, 2014
unilaterally
This word is important to know in understanding one of the main takeaways from Obama's State of the Union: he's prepared to act alone, or without the support of Congress, in seeing his agenda through. Morphology fans will note that uni means "one" and lateral means side, so unilaterally means one-sided.
But in a concession to reality, he signaled strongly he would act unilaterally when bipartisan agreement remained out of reach — a possibility he raised himself.
--Executive Order May Be Only Option, but It Comes With Limits, The New York Times, Jan. 28, 2014
elude
Elude means to escape, as in slipping through someone's fingers. Criminals will elude the police. That the facts of a story elude you means you can't remember them.
When it comes to Congress, the formula for success in dealing with a balky opposition continues to elude the White House except perhaps for a new opening with Republicans on immigration.
--Executive Order May Be Only Option, but It Comes With Limits, The New York Times, Jan. 28, 2014
concede
Concede here is used to describe the acceptance of a fact. In political contexts, you'll also recognize it as a word used to admit electoral defeat. A candidate will concede an election when he or she is ready to admit that their opponent collected more votes.
Representative Joseph Crowley, Democrat of New York, conceded that governance by executive order is not ideal but was justifiable given the depth of Republican opposition.
--Executive Order May Be Only Option, but It Comes With Limits, The New York Times, Jan. 28, 2014
partisan
This word sums up much of the gridlock in the federal government, with elected representatives clinging to "partisan politics" rather than practical approaches to problem solving.
But for Mr. Obama, who began his presidency with a gauzy vision of a post-partisan brand of politics that proved to be unrealistic, leading through executive order is not what he had in mind.
--Executive Order May Be Only Option, but It Comes With Limits, The New York Times, Jan. 28, 2014
embark
Because embark and its cousins debark and disembark all apply to getting on or getting off a ship, it's come to describe the beginning of an adventure or a journey.
White House aides acknowledged that the program pertains to future contracts, and they were unable to quantify how many could be helped by the program in the next year, saying more details will be announced in the coming days as Obama embarks on a four-state tour Wednesday and Thursday to rally the public behind his initiatives.
--In State of the Union, Obama vows to expand opportunity, with or without Congress, The Washington Post, Jan. 29, 2014

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