A big crowd packed into the Howard Zinn room of the last night to watch as President Barack Obama laid out a broad set of policy goals for the coming year.
They were there not just to watch, but to talk as well. It was all a part of a State of the Union watch party organized by the popular downtown eatery and social space.
The Prince George's County Young Democrats also invited their membership to attend, with many attending. Expectedly, then, most of the people in the room identified themselves as Democratic leaning voters. But the audience's reaction to the speech showed they did not agree with all that Obama proposed. For instance, there were audible boos throughout the room when Obama announced his intent to expand offshore fossil fuel exploration in U.S. waters.
One of the loudest applause lines of the night at the Hyattsville Busboys came after Obama called for equal pay between men and women for equal work. Later, an even more enthusiastic response followed Obama's call to clamp down on Congressional insider stock trading.
After the speech, a forum moderated by Hyattsville's Ward 1 City Councilor and community activist Candace Hollingsworth began. She posed questions to a small panel and tried to draw out the crowd into talking about their reaction to Obama's speech.
Panelist Chris Bradshaw, executive director for Dreaming Out Loud, a non-profit which focuses on improving educational opportunities in urban areas, noted that the president struck a more aggressive tone in this speech than in previous State of the Union speeches.
"The president needed to be more assertive in expressing what he needs, and he needed to challenge the opposition to come up with ideas other than just saying no," said Bradshaw.
Panelist Elahe Izadi, a reporter for 88.5 WAMU-FM who covers race and class for that station's DCentric blog said she was surprised that Obama brought up comprehensive immigration reform in his speech.
"Deportations are certainly on the rise under Obama and the illegal crossings are much less than what they might have been before," said Izadi. "Some experts attribute this to the weak economy…but he did reference the DREAM act and said that's what he wants to get through."
The DREAM act would give legal resident status to some illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States as children in exchange for promises that they pursue higher education opportunities or military service.
She also noted Obama's goal of reducing the drop-out rate by requiring high school students to stay enrolled in school until they turn 18 or graduate.
"I'm curious how that's going to work," said Izadi to the audience.
One teacher in the audience thought the idea might be a bit far reaching.
"I personally do not think everyone needs to go to college," she told the panel. "I'm sorry, some jobs don't need to have three classes in philosophy, and those jobs make quite a bit of money."
Panelist Brandon White, a law student at the University of the District of Columbia and a former community activist in his native Detroit, said that Obama's speech was both humbling and inspirational.
"The speech was really a wake up call," said White. "We can't have our cake and eat it too, we can't have two wars overseas–primarily Iraq and Afghanistan–and also talk about how we can cut taxes for millionaires. That type of politics is gone."
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated who organized the watch party. Hyattsville Patch regrets the error.