President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington on Jan. 28, 2014.
Photo by Larry Downing/AFP/Pool/Getty

The state of the issues you care about in America

Updated

Over the past week, msnbc.com has published “The State of America,” a series culminating in President Barack Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Address on Tuesday, Jan. 20. This is the state of the issues you care about, as told by organizations promoting social change and other policy experts.

The state of inequality in America · By Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at Berkeley and former Secretary of Labor

The president has an opportunity in the State of the Union to tell the truth about the economy: Jobs are coming back, but wages aren’t. In December, the average wage actually dropped. The deeper truth is that this recovery, like the last five recoveries, masks the longer-term decline of most peoples’ wages – and the decline of the American middle class. Three decades ago, we took a giant U-turn. 

The state of LGBT equality in America · By Adam Talbot, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign

Today, the state of the union for LGBT people is deeply imperfect, but progress is being made. LGBT people face big challenges, but at the root of all these challenges is a simple truth. LGBT people have the same hopes, dreams and aspirations as anyone else.

The state of the youth vote in America · By Ashley Spillane, President of Rock the Vote

Millennials often get a bad reputation, portrayed in the media as spoiled, lazy and entitled. The truth of the matter, though, is that we inherited some overwhelming problems from previous generations. We also inherited a bitingly partisan, polarized political system that seems to be stuck in gridlock more often than not. 

The state of America’s wars · By Steven Simon, member of the National Security Council staff from 1994-1999 and 2011-12

The Middle East has not figured prominently in President Obama’s past State of the Union addresses. This year, however, it will warrant a bit more discussion, given that the preceding year saw two major U.S. initiatives: An intensive effort by Secretary of State John Kerry to negotiate a Palestinian-Israeli peace accord, which seemed to worsen U.S.-Israeli tensions while motivating Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to revert to the United Nations Security Council for diplomatic satisfaction and the International Criminal Court for legal retaliation; and a U.S.-led military campaign against Islamic State (ISIS) militants in both Iraq and Syria.

The state of low-wage America · By Arun Ivatury, campaign strategist with the National Employment Law Project

Perhaps the most important development for struggling American families over the past two years has been the emergence of stagnant wages as a major issue – redefining our political debate and spurring direct intervention to raise pay at the state and local level.

The state of the climate movement in America · By Jamie Henn, Strategy and Communications Director at 350.org

As we enter 2015, the state of the climate movement is strong. Over the last year, we have grown in leaps and bounds. Together, we turned out over 400,000 people into the streets of New York City during last September’s People’s Climate March. It was the largest demonstration for climate action in history – and the largest march on any issue for over a decade in New York.

The state of women and families in America · By Stephanie Schriock, President of EMILY’s List

We can make strides in the next two years for women – we must. Women across the country deserve policies that give them a fair shot at a better future, access to good jobs, and workplace policies that work for their lives. Congress and the president can help make that vision a reality.

The state of race and policing reform in America · By Alexis McGill Johnson, Executive Director of Perception Institute

The year 2014 brought us multiple tragic deaths of unarmed black men and a growing leaderless protest movement calling for police reform encapsulated by the hashtag: #BlackLivesMatter. 

The state of immigration in America · By Simon Rosenberg, President of NDN/New Policy Institute

While the GOP’s latest rejection of immigration reform has dominated the headlines in recent weeks, the reality is that the United States is already undergoing a major societal shift as a result of significant Hispanic migration. And 2015 – regardless of Republican opposition – looks to be a tipping point. 

The state of the economy in America · By Jared Bernstein, Senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 

This year, we may well hear something different. In recent speeches, the president has hedged a lot less on economic conditions. “American resurgence is real. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise” is how he put it the other day.

The state of human rights in America · By Julian Brookes, Senior Editor with the U.S. Program at Human Rights Watch

The right to live free of discrimination is a core human rights principle. But as protests in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, and throughout the nation have lately reminded us, too many Americans of color feel, with justification, that the U.S. criminal justice system is biased against them.

The state of affordable housing in America · By Jonathan T.M. Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International

In 1970, the percentage of Americans who owned their home outright was almost 40%; now it’s only about 29%, according to the real estate site Zillow. As many Habitat affiliates reach their 20- and 30-year anniversaries — and beyond — more and more Habitat partner families across the country are paying off their mortgages.

The state of felony disenfranchisement in America · By Joseph “Jazz” Hayden and Lewis Webb, Jr., All Things Harlem

President Obama, the numbers are in, the research has been done, [felony disenfranchisement] has been … well publicized. What is needed now is the power of the White House. Mr. President: Harlem, African-Americans across this Union, and people throughout the world are wondering: Is America democratic? The answer will frame your legacy.

The state of voting in Texas · By Jenn Brown, Executive Director for Battleground Texas and Jerry Villegas, Esq,  lawyer, and voter protection volunteer for Battleground Texas

This country has a long and complicated history with voting rights. Though universal suffrage was granted in 1920, it took years of organizing to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and finally secure unencumbered access to polling places. Now, nearly five decades later, politicians in Texas have been systematically chipping away at those protections — through voter ID laws, overreaching registration regulations, and other hurdles designed to drive down the number of people who are able to make their voices heard at the ballot box.

The state of immigration reform in America · By Emilia Gutierrez, Director of Reform Immigration FOR America and Kica Matos, Director of Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice at the Center for Community Change

At this year’s State of the Union, we expect that the president will issue a call to support his efforts to advance immigration reform and join the growing movement of Americans who are advocating for change. When Obama speaks to the nation he must demonstrate to us that immigrant families are still a top priority.

Don’t miss President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address tonight, Tuesday, Jan. 20 at 9 p.m. ET LIVE on msnbc and shift.msnbc.com

State of the Union and The State Of The Union

The state of the issues you care about in America

Updated