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´╗┐Title: State of the Union Addresses of Barack Obama - 2009-2016
Author: Obama, Barack
Language: English
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State of the Union Addresses of Barack Obama


The addresses are separated by three asterisks: ***

Dates of Addresses by Barack Obama in this eBook:

  February 24, 2009
  January 27, 2010
  January 25, 2011
  January 24, 2012
  February 12, 2013
  January 28, 2014
  January 20, 2015
  January 12, 2016


***


Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress
Barack Obama
February 24, 2009

Madam Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, the First Lady
of the United States--she's around here somewhere: I have come here
tonight not only to address the distinguished men and women in this
great Chamber, but to speak frankly and directly to the men and women
who sent us here.

I know that for many Americans watching right now, the state of our
economy is a concern that rises above all others, and rightly so. If
you haven't been personally affected by this recession, you probably
know someone who has: a friend, a neighbor, a member of your family.
You don't need to hear another list of statistics to know that our
economy is in crisis, because you live it every day. It's the worry you
wake up with and the source of sleepless nights. It's the job you
thought you'd retire from but now have lost, the business you built
your dreams upon that's now hanging by a thread, the college acceptance
letter your child had to put back in the envelope. The impact of this
recession is real, and it is everywhere.

But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken, though
we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want
every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the
United States of America will emerge stronger than before.

The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this Nation.
The answers to our problems don't lie beyond our reach. They exist in
our laboratories and our universities, in our fields and our factories,
in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest
working people on Earth. Those qualities that have made America the
greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history, we still
possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to
pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take
responsibility for our future once more.

Now, if we're honest with ourselves, we'll admit that for too long, we
have not always met these responsibilities as a Government or as a
people. I say this not to lay blame or to look backwards, but because
it is only by understanding how we arrived at this moment that we'll be
able to lift ourselves out of this predicament.

The fact is, our economy did not fall into decline overnight, nor did
all of our problems begin when the housing market collapsed or the
stock market sank. We have known for decades that our survival depends
on finding new sources of energy, yet we import more oil today than
ever before. The cost of health care eats up more and more of our
savings each year, yet we keep delaying reform. Our children will
compete for jobs in a global economy that too many of our schools do
not prepare them for. And though all these challenges went unsolved, we
still managed to spend more money and pile up more debt, both as
individuals and through our Government, than ever before.

In other words, we have lived through an era where too often short-term
gains were prized over long-term prosperity, where we failed to look
beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election. A
surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of
an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the
sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People
bought homes they knew they couldn't afford from banks and lenders who
pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and
difficult decisions were put off for some other time, on some other day.
Well, that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of
our future is here.

Now is the time to act boldly and wisely to not only revive this
economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity. Now is
the time to jump-start job creation, restart lending, and invest in
areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our
economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. That
is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that is what I'd like
to talk to you about tonight. It's an agenda that begins with jobs.

As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me a recovery
plan by President's Day that would put people back to work and put
money in their pockets, not because I believe in bigger Government--I
don't--not because I'm not mindful of the massive debt we've inherited-
-I am. I called for action because the failure to do so would have cost
more jobs and caused more hardship. In fact, a failure to act would
have worsened our long-term deficit by assuring weak economic growth
for years. And that's why I pushed for quick action. And tonight I am
grateful that this Congress delivered and pleased to say that the
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is now law.

Over the next 2 years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs.
More than 90 percent of these jobs will be in the private sector: jobs
rebuilding our roads and bridges, constructing wind turbines and solar
panels, laying broadband and expanding mass transit.

Because of this plan, there are teachers who can now keep their jobs
and educate our kids, health care professionals can continue caring for
our sick. There are 57 police officers who are still on the streets of
Minneapolis tonight because this plan prevented the layoffs their
department was about to make. Because of this plan, 95 percent of
working households in America will receive a tax cut; a tax cut that
you will see in your paychecks beginning on April 1st. Because of this
plan, families who are struggling to pay tuition costs will receive a
$2,500 tax credit for all 4 years of college, and Americans who have
lost their jobs in this recession will be able to receive extended
unemployment benefits and continued health care coverage to help them
weather this storm.

Now, I know there are some in this Chamber and watching at home who are
skeptical of whether this plan will work, and I understand that
skepticism. Here in Washington, we've all seen how quickly good
intentions can turn into broken promises and wasteful spending. And
with a plan of this scale comes enormous responsibility to get it right.

And that's why I've asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough,
unprecedented oversight effort; because nobody messes with Joe. I--am I
right? They don't mess with him. I have told each of my Cabinet, as
well as mayors and Governors across the country, that they will be held
accountable by me and the American people for every dollar they spend.
I've appointed a proven and aggressive Inspector General to ferret out
any and all cases of waste and fraud. And we have created a new web
site called recovery.gov, so that every American can find out how and
where their money is being spent.

So the recovery plan we passed is the first step in getting our economy
back on track. But it is just the first step. Because even if we manage
this plan flawlessly, there will be no real recovery unless we clean up
the credit crisis that has severely weakened our financial system.

I want to speak plainly and candidly about this issue tonight, because
every American should know that it directly affects you and your
family's well-being. You should also know that the money you've
deposited in banks across the country is safe, your insurance is secure,
you can rely on the continued operation of our financial system. That's
not the source of concern. The concern is that if we do not restart
lending in this country, our recovery will be choked off before it even
begins.

You see, the flow of credit is the lifeblood of our economy. The
ability to get a loan is how you finance the purchase of everything
from a home to a car to a college education, how stores stock their
shelves, farms buy equipment, and businesses make payroll.

But credit has stopped flowing the way it should. Too many bad loans
from the housing crisis have made their way onto the books of too many
banks. And with so much debt and so little confidence, these banks are
now fearful of lending out any more money to households, to businesses,
or even to each other. And when there is no lending, families can't
afford to buy homes or cars, so businesses are forced to make layoffs.
Our economy suffers even more, and credit dries up even further. That
is why this administration is moving swiftly and aggressively to break
this destructive cycle, to restore confidence, and restart lending. And
we will do so in several ways.

First, we are creating a new lending fund that represents the largest
effort ever to help provide auto loans, college loans, and small-
business loans to the consumers and entrepreneurs who keep this economy
running.

Second, we have launched a housing plan that will help responsible
families facing the threat of foreclosure lower their monthly payments
and refinance their mortgages. It's a plan that won't help speculators
or that neighbor down the street who bought a house he could never hope
to afford, but it will help millions of Americans who are struggling
with declining home values; Americans who will now be able to take
advantage of the lower interest rates that this plan has already helped
to bring about. In fact, the average family who refinances today can
save nearly $2,000 per year on their mortgage.

Third, we will act with the full force of the Federal Government to
ensure that the major banks that Americans depend on have enough
confidence and enough money to lend even in more difficult times. And
when we learn that a major bank has serious problems, we will hold
accountable those responsible, force the necessary adjustments, provide
the support to clean up their balance sheets, and assure the continuity
of a strong, viable institution that can serve our people and our
economy.

Now, I understand that on any given day, Wall Street may be more
comforted by an approach that gives bank bailouts with no strings
attached and that holds nobody accountable for their reckless decisions.
But such an approach won't solve the problem, and our goal is to
quicken the day when we restart lending to the American people and
American business and end this crisis once and for all.

And I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for the assistance
they receive, and this time, they will have to clearly demonstrate how
taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer. This
time, CEOs won't be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks
or buy fancy drapes or disappear on a private jet. Those days are over.

Still, this plan will require significant resources from the Federal
Government--and, yes, probably more than we've already set aside. But
while the cost of action will be great, I can assure you that the cost
of inaction will be far greater, for it could result in an economy that
sputters along for not months or years, but perhaps a decade. That
would be worse for our deficit, worse for business, worse for you, and
worse for the next generation. And I refuse to let that happen.

Now, I understand that when the last administration asked this Congress
to provide assistance for struggling banks, Democrats and Republicans
alike were infuriated by the mismanagement and the results that
followed. So were the American taxpayers; so was I. So I know how
unpopular it is to be seen as helping banks right now, especially when
everyone is suffering in part from their bad decisions. I promise you,
I get it.

But I also know that in a time of crisis, we cannot afford to govern
out of anger or yield to the politics of the moment. My job--our job is
to solve the problem. Our job is to govern with a sense of
responsibility. I will not send--I will not spend a single penny for
the purpose of rewarding a single Wall Street executive, but I will do
whatever it takes to help the small business that can't pay its workers
or the family that has saved and still can't get a mortgage. That's
what this is about. It's not about helping banks; it's about helping
people. [Applause]

It's not about helping banks; it's about helping people. Because when
credit is available again, that young family can finally buy a new home.
And then some company will hire workers to build it. And then those
workers will have money to spend. And if they can get a loan too, maybe
they'll finally buy that car or open their own business. Investors will
return to the market, and American families will see their retirement
secured once more. Slowly but surely, confidence will return and our
economy will recover.

So I ask this Congress to join me in doing whatever proves necessary,
because we cannot consign our Nation to an open-ended recession. And to
ensure that a crisis of this magnitude never happens again, I ask
Congress to move quickly on legislation that will finally reform our
outdated regulatory system. It is time to put in place tough, new,
commonsense rules of the road so that our financial market rewards
drive and innovation, and punishes shortcuts and abuse.

The recovery plan and the financial stability plan are the immediate
steps we're taking to revive our economy in the short term. But the
only way to fully restore America's economic strength is to make the
long-term investments that will lead to new jobs, new industries, and a
renewed ability to compete with the rest of the world. The only way
this century will be another American century is if we confront at last
the price of our dependence on oil and the high cost of health care,
the schools that aren't preparing our children and the mountain of debt
they stand to inherit. That is our responsibility.

In the next few days, I will submit a budget to Congress. So often,
we've come to view these documents as simply numbers on a page or a
laundry list of programs. I see this document differently. I see it as
a vision for America, as a blueprint for our future.

My budget does not attempt to solve every problem or address every
issue. It reflects the stark reality of what we've inherited, a
trillion-dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession.
Given these realities, everyone in this Chamber, Democrats and
Republicans, will have to sacrifice some worthy priorities for which
there are no dollars. And that includes me. But that does not mean we
can afford to ignore our long-term challenges. I reject the view that
says our problems will simply take care of themselves, that says
Government has no role in laying the foundation for our common
prosperity.

For history tells a different story. History reminds us that at every
moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this Nation has
responded with bold action and big ideas. In the midst of Civil War, we
laid railroad tracks from one coast to another that spurred commerce
and industry. From the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution came a
system of public high schools that prepared our citizens for a new age.
In the wake of war and depression, the GI bill sent a generation to
college and created the largest middle class in history. And a twilight
struggle for freedom led to a nation of highways, an American on the
Moon, and an explosion of technology that still shapes our world. In
each case, Government didn't supplant private enterprise; it catalyzed
private enterprise. It created the conditions for thousands of
entrepreneurs and new businesses to adapt and to thrive.

We are a nation that has seen promise amid peril and claimed
opportunity from ordeal. Now we must be that nation again, and that is
why, even as it cuts back on programs we don't need, the budget I
submit will invest in the three areas that are absolutely critical to
our economic future: energy, health care, and education.

It begins with energy. We know the country that harnesses the power of
clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century. And yet, it is
China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their
economy energy efficient. We invented solar technology, but we've
fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it. New
plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, but they will run on
batteries made in Korea. Well, I do not accept a future where the jobs
and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders, and I know you
don't either. It is time for America to lead again.

Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this Nation's supply of
renewable energy in the next 3 years. We've also made the largest
investment in basic research funding in American history, an investment
that will spur not only new discoveries in energy but breakthroughs in
medicine and science and technology.

We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry
new energy to cities and towns across this country. And we will put
Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that
we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills.

But to truly transform our economy, to protect our security, and save
our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately
make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. So I ask
this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on
carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in
America. That's what we need. And to support that innovation, we will
invest $15 billion a year to develop technologies like wind power and
solar power, advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more efficient cars and
trucks built right here in America.

Speaking of our auto industry, everyone recognizes that years of bad
decisionmaking and a global recession have pushed our automakers to the
brink. We should not, and will not, protect them from their own bad
practices. But we are committed to the goal of a retooled, reimagined
auto industry that can compete and win. Millions of jobs depend on it;
scores of communities depend on it. And I believe the Nation that
invented the automobile cannot walk away from it.

Now, none of this will come without cost, nor will it be easy. But this
is America. We don't do what's easy. We do what's necessary to move
this country forward.

And for that same reason, we must also address the crushing cost of
health care. This is a cost that now causes a bankruptcy in America
every 30 seconds. By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million
Americans to lose their homes. In the last 8 years, premiums have grown
four times faster than wages. And in each of these years, 1 million
more Americans have lost their health insurance. It is one of the major
reasons why small businesses close their doors and corporations ship
jobs overseas. And it's one of the largest and fastest growing parts of
our budget. Given these facts, we can no longer afford to put health
care reform on hold. We can't afford to do it. It's time.

Already, we've done more to advance the cause of health care reform in
the last 30 days than we've done in the last decade. When it was days
old, this Congress passed a law to provide and protect health insurance
for 11 million American children whose parents work full time. Our
recovery plan will invest in electronic health records, a new
technology that will reduce errors, bring down costs, ensure privacy,
and save lives. It will launch a new effort to conquer a disease that
has touched the life of nearly every American, including me, by seeking
a cure for cancer in our time. And it makes the largest investment ever
in preventive care, because that's one of the best ways to keep our
people healthy and our costs under control.

This budget builds on these reforms. It includes a historic commitment
to comprehensive health care reform, a down payment on the principle
that we must have quality, affordable health care for every American.
It's a commitment that's paid for in part by efficiencies in our system
that are long overdue. And it's a step we must take if we hope to bring
down our deficit in the years to come.

Now, there will be many different opinions and ideas about how to
achieve reform, and that's why I'm bringing together businesses and
workers, doctors and health care providers, Democrats and Republicans
to begin work on this issue next week.

I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process. Once again, it
will be hard. But I also know that nearly a century after Teddy
Roosevelt first called for reform, the cost of our health care has
weighed down our economy and our conscience long enough. So let there
be no doubt: Health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it
will not wait another year.

The third challenge we must address is the urgent need to expand the
promise of education in America. In a global economy where the most
valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no
longer just a pathway to opportunity, it is a prerequisite. Right now,
three-quarters of the fastest growing occupations require more than a
high school diploma. And yet, just over half of our citizens have that
level of education. We have one of the highest high school dropout
rates of any industrialized nation, and half of the students who begin
college never finish.

This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the
countries that out-teach us today will outcompete us tomorrow. That is
why it will be the goal of this administration to ensure that every
child has access to a complete and competitive education, from the day
they are born to the day they begin a career. That is a promise we have
to make to the children of America.

Already, we've made historic investment in education through the
economic recovery plan. We've dramatically expanded early childhood
education and will continue to improve its quality, because we know
that the most formative learning comes in those first years of life.
We've made college affordable for nearly 7 million more students--7
million. And we have provided the resources necessary to prevent
painful cuts and teacher layoffs that would set back our children's
progress.

But we know that our schools don't just need more resources, they need
more reform. And that is why this budget creates new teachers--new
incentives for teacher performance, pathways for advancement, and
rewards for success. We'll invest in innovative programs that are
already helping schools meet high standards and close achievement gaps,
and we will expand our commitment to charter schools.

It is our responsibility as lawmakers and as educators to make this
system work. But it is the responsibility of every citizen to
participate in it. So tonight I ask every American to commit to at
least 1 year or more of higher education or career training. This can
be community college or a 4-year school, vocational training or an
apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will
need to get more than a high school diploma.

And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It's not just
quitting on yourself, it's quitting on your country, and this country
needs and values the talents of every American. That's why we will
support--we will provide the support necessary for all young Americans
to complete college and meet a new goal. By 2020, America will once
again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.
That is a goal we can meet. That's a goal we can meet.

Now, I know that the price of tuition is higher than ever, which is why
if you are willing to volunteer in your neighborhood or give back to
your community or serve your country, we will make sure that you can
afford a higher education. And to encourage a renewed spirit of
national service for this and future generations, I ask Congress to
send me the bipartisan legislation that bears the name of Senator Orrin
Hatch, as well as an American who has never stopped asking what he can
do for his country, Senator Edward Kennedy.

These education policies will open the doors of opportunity for our
children, but it is up to us to ensure they walk through them. In the
end, there is no program or policy that can substitute for a parent,
for a mother or father who will attend those parent-teacher conferences
or help with homework or turn off the TV, put away the video games,
read to their child. I speak to you not just as a President, but as a
father, when I say that responsibility for our children's education
must begin at home. That is not a Democratic issue or a Republican
issue; that's an American issue.

There is, of course, another responsibility we have to our children.
And that's the responsibility to ensure that we do not pass on to them
a debt they cannot pay. That is critical. [Applause] I agree,
absolutely. See, I know we can get some consensus in here. [Laughter]
With the deficit we inherited, the cost of the crisis we face, and the
long-term challenges we must meet, it has never been more important to
ensure that as our economy recovers, we do what it takes to bring this
deficit down. That is critical.

Now, I'm proud that we passed a recovery plan free of earmarks, and I
want to pass a budget next year that ensures that each dollar we spend
reflects only our most important national priorities.

And yesterday I held a fiscal summit where I pledged to cut the deficit
in half by the end of my first term in office. My administration has
also begun to go line by line through the Federal budget in order to
eliminate wasteful and ineffective programs. As you can imagine, this
is a process that will take some time. But we have already identified
$2 trillion in savings over the next decade.

In this budget, we will end education programs that don't work and end
direct payments to large agribusiness that don't need them. We'll
eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq and
reform our defense budget so that we're not paying for cold war-era
weapons systems we don't use. We will root out the waste and fraud and
abuse in our Medicare program that doesn't make our seniors any
healthier. We will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our Tax
Code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our
jobs overseas.

In order to save our children from a future of debt, we will also end
the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. Now, let me
be clear--let me be absolutely clear, because I know you'll end up
hearing some of the same claims that rolling back these tax breaks
means a massive tax increase on the American people: If your family
earns less than $250,000 a year, a quarter million dollars a year, you
will not see your taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: Not one
single dime. In fact--not a dime--in fact, the recovery plan provides a
tax cut--that's right, a tax cut--for 95 percent of working families.
And by the way, these checks are on the way.

Now, to preserve our long-term fiscal health, we must also address the
growing costs in Medicare and Social Security. Comprehensive health
care reform is the best way to strengthen Medicare for years to come.
And we must also begin a conversation on how to do the same for Social
Security, while creating tax-free universal savings accounts for all
Americans.

Finally, because we're also suffering from a deficit of trust, I am
committed to restoring a sense of honesty and accountability to our
budget. That is why this budget looks ahead 10 years and accounts for
spending that was left out under the old rules. And for the first time,
that includes the full cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. For 7
years, we have been a nation at war. No longer will we hide its price.

Along with our outstanding national security team, I'm now carefully
reviewing our policies in both wars, and I will soon announce a way
forward in Iraq that leaves Iraq to its people and responsibly ends
this war.

And with our friends and allies, we will forge a new and comprehensive
strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat Al Qaida and combat
extremism, because I will not allow terrorists to plot against the
American people from safe havens halfway around the world. We will not
allow it.

As we meet here tonight, our men and women in uniform stand watch
abroad and more are readying to deploy. To each and every one of them
and to the families who bear the quiet burden of their absence,
Americans are united in sending one message: We honor your service; we
are inspired by your sacrifice; and you have our unyielding support.

To relieve the strain on our forces, my budget increases the number of
our soldiers and marines. And to keep our sacred trust with those who
serve, we will raise their pay and give our veterans the expanded
health care and benefits that they have earned.


To overcome extremism, we must also be vigilant in upholding the values
our troops defend, because there is no force in the world more powerful
than the example of America. And that is why I have ordered the closing
of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay and will seek swift and
certain justice for captured terrorists. Because living our values
doesn't make us weaker, it makes us safer and it makes us stronger. And
that is why I can stand here tonight and say without exception or
equivocation that the United States of America does not torture. We can
make that commitment here tonight.

In words and deeds, we are showing the world that a new era of
engagement has begun. For we know that America cannot meet the threats
of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America.
We cannot shun the negotiating table, nor ignore the foes or forces
that could do us harm. We are instead called to move forward with the
sense of confidence and candor that serious times demand.

To seek progress towards a secure and lasting peace between Israel and
her neighbors, we have appointed an envoy to sustain our effort. To
meet the challenges of the 21st century--from terrorism to nuclear
proliferation, from pandemic disease to cyber threats to crushing
poverty--we will strengthen old alliances, forge new ones, and use all
elements of our national power.

And to respond to an economic crisis that is global in scope, we are
working with the nations of the G-20 to restore confidence in our
financial system, avoid the possibility of escalating protectionism,
and spur demand for American goods in markets across the globe. For the
world depends on us having a strong economy, just as our economy
depends on the strength of the world's.

As we stand at this crossroads of history, the eyes of all people in
all nations are once again upon us, watching to see what we do with
this moment, waiting for us to lead. Those of us gathered here tonight
have been called to govern in extraordinary times. It is a tremendous
burden, but also a great privilege, one that has been entrusted to few
generations of Americans. For in our hands lies the ability to shape
our world for good or for ill.

I know that it's easy to lose sight of this truth, to become cynical
and doubtful, consumed with the petty and the trivial. But in my life,
I have also learned that hope is found in unlikely places, that
inspiration often comes not from those with the most power or celebrity,
but from the dreams and aspirations of ordinary Americans who are
anything but ordinary.

I think of Leonard Abess, a bank president from Miami who reportedly
cashed out of his company, took a $60 million bonus, and gave it out to
all 399 people who worked for him, plus another 72 who used to work for
him. He didn't tell anyone, but when the local newspaper found out, he
simply said, "I knew some of these people since I was 7 years old. It
didn't feel right getting the money myself."

I think about Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was completely destroyed
by a tornado, but is being rebuilt by its residents as a global example
of how clean energy can power an entire community, how it can bring
jobs and businesses to a place where piles of bricks and rubble once
lay. "The tragedy was terrible," said one of the men who helped them
rebuild. "But the folks here know that it also provided an incredible
opportunity."

I think about Ty'Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I
visited in Dillon, South Carolina, a place where the ceilings leak, the
paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a
day because the train barrels by their classroom. She had been told
that her school is hopeless, but the other day after class she went to
the public library and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this
Chamber. She even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp. The
letter asks us for help and says: "We are just students trying to
become lawyers, doctors, Congressmen like yourself, and one day
President, so we can make a change to not just the State of South
Carolina, but also the world. We are not quitters." That's what she
said: "We are not quitters."

These words and these stories tell us something about the spirit of the
people who sent us here. They tell us that even in the most trying
times, amid the most difficult circumstances, there is a generosity, a
resilience, a decency, and a determination that perseveres, a
willingness to take responsibility for our future and for posterity.
Their resolve must be our inspiration. Their concerns must be our cause.
And we must show them and all our people that we are equal to the task
before us.

I know--look, I know that we haven't agreed on every issue thus far.
[Laughter] There are surely times in the future where we will part ways.
But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves
this country and wants it to succeed. I know that. That must be the
starting point for every debate we have in the coming months and where
we return after those debates are done. That is the foundation on which
the American people expect us to build common ground.

And if we do, if we come together and lift this Nation from the depths
of this crisis, if we put our people back to work and restart the
engine of our prosperity, if we confront without fear the challenges of
our time and summon that enduring spirit of an America that does not
quit, then someday years from now our children can tell their children
that this was the time when we performed, in the words that are carved
into this very Chamber, "something worthy to be remembered."

Thank you. God bless you, and may God bless the United States of
America. Thank you.


***


Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress on the State of the Union
Barack Obama
January 27, 2010


Madam Speaker, Vice President Biden, Members of Congress, distinguished
guests, and fellow Americans: Our Constitution declares that from time
to time, the President shall give to Congress information about the
state of our Union. For 220 years, our leaders have fulfilled this duty.
They've done so during periods of prosperity and tranquility, and
they've done so in the midst of war and depression, at moments of great
strife and great struggle.

It's tempting to look back on these moments and assume that our
progress was inevitable, that America was always destined to succeed.
But when the Union was turned back at Bull Run and the Allies first
landed at Omaha Beach, victory was very much in doubt. When the market
crashed on Black Tuesday and marchers were beaten on Bloody Sunday, the
future was anything but certain. These were the times that tested the
courage of our convictions and the strength of our Union. And despite
all our divisions and disagreements, our hesitations and our fears,
America prevailed because we chose to move forward as one Nation, as
one people. Again, we are tested. And again, we must answer history's
call.

One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economy rocked by a
severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse, and a
Government deeply in debt. Experts from across the political spectrum
warned that if we did not act, we might face a second depression. So we
acted, immediately and aggressively. And 1 year later, the worst of the
storm has passed.

But the devastation remains. One in 10 Americans still cannot find work.
Many businesses have shuttered. Home values have declined. Small towns
and rural communities have been hit especially hard. And for those
who'd already known poverty, life's become that much harder.

This recession has also compounded the burdens that America's families
have been dealing with for decades: the burden of working harder and
longer for less, of being unable to save enough to retire or help kids
with college.

So I know the anxieties that are out there right now. They're not new.
These struggles are the reason I ran for President. These struggles are
what I've witnessed for years, in places like Elkhart, Indiana;
Galesburg, Illinois. I hear about them in the letters that I read each
night. The toughest to read are those written by children asking why
they have to move from their home, asking when their mom or dad will be
able to go back to work.

For these Americans and so many others, change has not come fast enough.
Some are frustrated, some are angry. They don't understand why it seems
like bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded, but hard work on Main
Street isn't, or why Washington has been unable or unwilling to solve
any of our problems. They're tired of the partisanship and the shouting
and the pettiness. They know we can't afford it. Not now.

So we face big and difficult challenges. And what the American people
hope, what they deserve, is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans,
to work through our differences, to overcome the numbing weight of our
politics. For while the people who sent us here have different
backgrounds, different stories, different beliefs, the anxieties they
face are the same. The aspirations they hold are shared: a job that
pays the bills, a chance to get ahead, most of all, the ability to give
their children a better life.

And you know what else they share? They share a stubborn resilience in
the face of adversity. After one of the most difficult years in our
history, they remain busy building cars and teaching kids, starting
businesses and going back to school. They're coaching Little League and
helping their neighbors. One woman wrote to me and said, "We are
strained but hopeful, struggling but encouraged."

It's because of this spirit, this great decency and great strength,
that I have never been more hopeful about America's future than I am
tonight. Despite our hardships, our Union is strong. We do not give up.
We do not quit. We do not allow fear or division to break our spirit.
In this new decade, it's time the American people get a Government that
matches their decency, that embodies their strength. And tonight I'd
like to talk about how together we can deliver on that promise.

It begins with our economy. Our most urgent task upon taking office was
to shore up the same banks that helped cause this crisis. It was not
easy to do. And if there's one thing that has unified Democrats and
Republicans and everybody in between, it's that we all hated the bank
bailout. I hated it. I hated it; you hated it. It was about as popular
as a root canal. [Laughter]

But when I ran for President, I promised I wouldn't just do what was
popular; I would do what was necessary. And if we had allowed the
meltdown of the financial system, unemployment might be double what it
is today. More businesses would certainly have closed. More homes would
have surely been lost.

So I supported the last administration's efforts to create the
financial rescue program. And when we took that program over, we made
it more transparent and more accountable. And as a result, the markets
are now stabilized, and we've recovered most of the money we spent on
the banks--most but not all.

To recover the rest, I've proposed a fee on the biggest banks. Now, I
know Wall Street isn't keen on this idea. But if these firms can afford
to hand out big bonuses again, they can afford a modest fee to pay back
the taxpayers who rescued them in their time of need.

Now, as we stabilized the financial system, we also took steps to get
our economy growing again, save as many jobs as possible, and help
Americans who had become unemployed. That's why we extended or
increased unemployment benefits for more than 18 million Americans,
made health insurance 65 percent cheaper for families who get their
coverage through COBRA, and passed 25 different tax cuts.

Now, let me repeat: We cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95 percent of
working families. We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for
first-time home buyers. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for
their children. We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college.
[Applause] I thought I'd get some applause on that one. [Laughter]

As a result, millions of Americans had more to spend on gas and food
and other necessities, all of which helped businesses keep more workers.
And we haven't raised income taxes by a single dime on a single person-
-not a single dime.

Now, because of the steps we took, there are about 2 million Americans
working right now who would otherwise be unemployed. Two hundred
thousand work in construction and clean energy. Three hundred thousand
are teachers and other education workers. Tens of thousands are cops,
firefighters, correctional officers, first-responders. And we're on
track to add another 1 1/2 million jobs to this total by the end of the
year.

The plan that has made all of this possible, from the tax cuts to the
jobs, is the Recovery Act. That's right, the Recovery Act, also known
as the stimulus bill. Economists on the left and the right say this
bill has helped save jobs and avert disaster. But you don't have to
take their word for it. Talk to the small business in Phoenix that will
triple its workforce because of the Recovery Act. Talk to the window
manufacturer in Philadelphia who said he used to be skeptical about the
Recovery Act, until he had to add two more work shifts just because of
the business it created. Talk to the single teacher raising two kids
who was told by her principal in the last week of school that because
of the Recovery Act, she wouldn't be laid off after all.

There are stories like this all across America. And after 2 years of
recession, the economy is growing again. Retirement funds have started
to gain back some of their value. Businesses are beginning to invest
again, and slowly some are starting to hire again.

But I realize that for every success story, there are other stories, of
men and women who wake up with the anguish of not knowing where their
next paycheck will come from, who send out resumes week after week and
hear nothing in response. That is why jobs must be our number-one focus
in 2010, and that's why I'm calling for a new jobs bill tonight.

Now, the true engine of job creation in this country will always be
America's businesses. [Applause] I agree, absolutely. But Government
can create the conditions necessary for businesses to expand and hire
more workers. We should start where most new jobs do, in small
businesses, companies that begin when an entrepreneur takes a chance on
a dream or a worker decides it's time she became her own boss. Through
sheer grit and determination, these companies have weathered the
recession, and they're ready to grow. But when you talk to small-
business owners in places like Allentown, Pennsylvania, or Elyria, Ohio,
you find out that even though banks on Wall Street are lending again,
they're mostly lending to bigger companies. Financing remains difficult
for small-business owners across the country, even those that are
making a profit.

So tonight I'm proposing that we take $30 billion of the money Wall
Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks give small
businesses the credit they need to stay afloat. I'm also proposing a
new small business tax credit, one that will go to over 1 million small
businesses who hire new workers or raise wages. While we're at it,
let's also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small-business
investment and provide a tax incentive for all large businesses and all
small businesses to invest in new plants and equipment.

Next, we can put Americans to work today building the infrastructure of
tomorrow. From the first railroads to the Interstate Highway System,
our Nation has always been built to compete. There's no reason Europe
or China should have the fastest trains or the new factories that
manufacture clean energy products. Tomorrow I'll visit Tampa, Florida,
where workers will soon break ground on a new high-speed railroad
funded by the Recovery Act. There are projects like that all across
this country that will create jobs and help move our Nation's goods,
services, and information.

We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities
and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy
efficient, which supports clean energy jobs. And to encourage these and
other businesses to stay within our borders, it is time to finally
slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas and give
those tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in the United
States of America.

Now, the House has passed a jobs bill that includes some of these steps.
As the first order of business this year, I urge the Senate to do the
same, and I know they will. They will. People are out of work. They're
hurting. They need our help. And I want a jobs bill on my desk without
delay.

But the truth is, these steps won't make up for the 7 million jobs that
we've lost over the last 2 years. The only way to move to full
employment is to lay a new foundation for long-term economic growth and
finally address the problems that America's families have confronted
for years.

We can't afford another so-called economic expansion like the one from
the last decade, what some call the "lost decade," where jobs grew more
slowly than during any prior expansion, where the income of the average
American household declined while the cost of health care and tuition
reached record highs, where prosperity was built on a housing bubble
and financial speculation.

From the day I took office, I've been told that addressing our larger
challenges is too ambitious; such an effort would be too contentious.
I've been told that our political system is too gridlocked and that we
should just put things on hold for a while. For those who make these
claims, I have one simple question: How long should we wait? How long
should America put its future on hold?

You see, Washington has been telling us to wait for decades, even as
the problems have grown worse. Meanwhile, China's not waiting to revamp
its economy. Germany's not waiting. India's not waiting. These nations
are--they're not standing still. These nations aren't playing for
second place. They're putting more emphasis on math and science.
They're rebuilding their infrastructure. They're making serious
investments in clean energy because they want those jobs. Well, I do
not accept second place for the United States of America. As hard as it
may be, as uncomfortable and contentious as the debates may become,
it's time to get serious about fixing the problems that are hampering
our growth.

Now, one place to start is serious financial reform. Look, I am not
interested in punishing banks. I'm interested in protecting our economy.
A strong, healthy financial market makes it possible for businesses to
access credit and create new jobs. It channels the savings of families
into investments that raise incomes. But that can only happen if we
guard against the same recklessness that nearly brought down our entire
economy.

We need to make sure consumers and middle class families have the
information they need to make financial decisions. We can't allow
financial institutions, including those that take your deposits, to
take risks that threaten the whole economy.

Now, the House has already passed financial reform with many of these
changes, and the lobbyists are trying to kill it. But we cannot let
them win this fight. And if the bill that ends up on my desk does not
meet the test of real reform, I will send it back until we get it right.
We've got to get it right.

Next, we need to encourage American innovation. Last year, we made the
largest investment in basic research funding in history, an investment
that could lead to the world's cheapest solar cells or treatment that
kills cancer cells, but leaves healthy ones untouched. And no area is
more ripe for such innovation than energy. You can see the results of
last year's investments in clean energy in the North Carolina company
that will create 1,200 jobs nationwide helping to make advanced
batteries or in the California business that will put a thousand people
to work making solar panels.

But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production,
more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new
generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It
means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil
and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels
and clean coal technologies. And yes, it means passing a comprehensive
energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean
energy the profitable kind of energy in America. Now, I am grateful to
the House for passing such a bill last year. And this year, I'm eager
to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate.

I know there have been questions about whether we can afford such
changes in a tough economy. I know that there are those who disagree
with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change. But here's
the thing: Even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for
energy efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our
future, because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be
the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that
nation.

Third, we need to export more of our goods, because the more products
we make and sell to other countries, the more jobs we support right
here in America. So tonight we set a new goal: We will double our
exports over the next 5 years, an increase that will support 2 million
jobs in America. To help meet this goal, we're launching a National
Export Initiative that will help farmers and small businesses increase
their exports and reform export controls consistent with national
security.

We have to seek new markets aggressively, just as our competitors are.
If America sits on the sidelines while other nations sign trade deals,
we will lose the chance to create jobs on our shores. But realizing
those benefits also means enforcing those agreements so our trading
partners play by the rules. And that's why we'll continue to shape a
Doha trade agreement that opens global markets and why we will
strengthen our trade relations in Asia and with key partners like South
Korea and Panama and Colombia.

Fourth, we need to invest in the skills and education of our people.
Now, this year, we've broken through the stalemate between left and
right by launching a national competition to improve our schools. And
the idea here is simple: Instead of rewarding failure, we only reward
success. Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform,
reform that raises student achievement, inspires students to excel in
math and science, and turns around failing schools that steal the
future of too many young Americans, from rural communities to the inner
city. In the 21st century, the best antipoverty program around is a
world-class education. And in this country, the success of our children
cannot depend more on where they live than on their potential. When we
renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we will work with
Congress to expand these reforms to all 50 States.

Still, in this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a
good job. That's why I urge the Senate to follow the House and pass a
bill that will revitalize our community colleges, which are a career
pathway to the children of so many working families.

To make college more affordable, this bill will finally end the
unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that go to banks for student loans.
Instead, let's take that money and give families a $10,000 tax credit
for 4 years of college and increase Pell grants. And let's tell another
1 million students that when they graduate, they will be required to
pay only 10 percent of their income on student loans and all of their
debt will be forgiven after 20 years and forgiven after 10 years if
they choose a career in public service, because in the United States of
America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college.
And by the way, it's time for colleges and universities to get serious
about cutting their own costs, because they too have a responsibility
to help solve this problem.

Now, the price of college tuition is just one of the burdens facing the
middle class. That's why last year, I asked Vice President Biden to
chair a task force on middle class families. That's why we're nearly
doubling the childcare tax credit and making it easier to save for
retirement by giving access to every worker a retirement account and
expanding the tax credit for those who start a nest egg. That's why
we're working to lift the value of a family's single largest investment,
their home. The steps we took last year to shore up the housing market
have allowed millions of Americans to take out new loans and save an
average of $1,500 on mortgage payments. This year, we will step up
refinancing so that homeowners can move into more affordable mortgages.

And it is precisely to relieve the burden on middle class families that
we still need health insurance reform. Yes, we do.

Now, let's clear a few things up. I didn't choose to tackle this issue
to get some legislative victory under my belt. And by now it should be
fairly obvious that I didn't take on health care because it was good
politics. [Laughter] I took on health care because of the stories I've
heard from Americans with preexisting conditions whose lives depend on
getting coverage, patients who've been denied coverage, families, even
those with insurance, who are just one illness away from financial ruin.

After nearly a century of trying--Democratic administrations,
Republican administrations--we are closer than ever to bringing more
security to the lives of so many Americans. The approach we've taken
would protect every American from the worst practices of the insurance
industry. It would give small businesses and uninsured Americans a
chance to choose an affordable health care plan in a competitive market.
It would require every insurance plan to cover preventive care.

And by the way, I want to acknowledge our First Lady, Michelle Obama,
who this year is creating a national movement to tackle the epidemic of
childhood obesity and make kids healthier. [Applause] Thank you, honey.
She gets embarrassed. [Laughter]

Our approach would preserve the right of Americans who have insurance
to keep their doctor and their plan. It would reduce costs and premiums
for millions of families and businesses. And according to the
Congressional Budget Office, the independent organization that both
parties have cited as the official scorekeeper for Congress, our
approach would bring down the deficit by as much as $1 trillion over
the next two decades.

Still, this is a complex issue, and the longer it was debated, the more
skeptical people became. I take my share of the blame for not
explaining it more clearly to the American people. And I know that with
all the lobbying and horse-trading, the process left most Americans
wondering, "What's in it for me?"

But I also know this problem is not going away. By the time I'm
finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health
insurance. Millions will lose it this year. Our deficit will grow.
Premiums will go up. Patients will be denied the care they need. Small-
business owners will continue to drop coverage altogether. I will not
walk away from these Americans, and neither should the people in this
Chamber.

So as temperatures cool, I want everyone to take another look at the
plan we've proposed. There's a reason why many doctors, nurses, and
health care experts who know our system best consider this approach a
vast improvement over the status quo. But if anyone from either party
has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the
deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop
insurance company abuses, let me know. Let me know. Let me know. I'm
eager to see it.

Here's what I ask Congress, though: Don't walk away from reform. Not
now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and
finish the job for the American people. Let's get it done. Let's get it
done.

Now, even as health care reform would reduce our deficit, it's not
enough to dig us out of a massive fiscal hole in which we find
ourselves. It's a challenge that makes all others that much harder to
solve and one that's been subject to a lot of political posturing. So
let me start the discussion of Government spending by setting the
record straight.

At the beginning of the last decade, the year 2000, America had a
budget surplus of over $200 billion. By the time I took office, we had
a 1-year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8
trillion over the next decade. Most of this was the result of not
paying for two wars, two tax cuts, and an expensive prescription drug
program. On top of that, the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion
hole in our budget. All this was before I walked in the door. [Laughter]

Now--[applause]--just stating the facts. Now, if we had taken office in
ordinary times, I would have liked nothing more than to start bringing
down the deficit. But we took office amid a crisis. And our efforts to
prevent a second depression have added another $1 trillion to our
national debt. That too is a fact.

I'm absolutely convinced that was the right thing to do. But families
across the country are tightening their belts and making tough
decisions. The Federal Government should do the same. So tonight I'm
proposing specific steps to pay for the trillion dollars that it took
to rescue the economy last year.

Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze Government spending for 3
years. Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid,
and Social Security will not be affected. But all other discretionary
Government programs will. Like any cash-strapped family, we will work
within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don't.
And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will.

We will continue to go through the budget, line by line, page by page,
to eliminate programs that we can't afford and don't work. We've
already identified $20 billion in savings for next year. To help
working families, we'll extend our middle class tax cuts. But at a time
of record deficits, we will not continue tax cuts for oil companies,
for investment fund managers, and for those making over $250,000 a year.
We just can't afford it.

Now, even after paying for what we spent on my watch, we'll still face
the massive deficit we had when I took office. More importantly, the
cost of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will continue to
skyrocket. That's why I've called for a bipartisan fiscal commission,
modeled on a proposal by Republican Judd Gregg and Democrat Kent Conrad.
This can't be one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend we
solve a problem. The commission will have to provide a specific set of
solutions by a certain deadline.

Now, yesterday the Senate blocked a bill that would have created this
commission, so I'll issue an Executive order that will allow us to go
forward, because I refuse to pass this problem on to another generation
of Americans. And when the vote comes tomorrow, the Senate should
restore the pay-as-you-go law that was a big reason for why we had
record surpluses in the 1990s.

Now, I know that some in my own party will argue that we can't address
the deficit or freeze Government spending when so many are still
hurting. And I agree, which is why this freeze won't take effect until
next year, when the economy is stronger. That's how budgeting works.
[Laughter] But understand, if we don't take meaningful steps to rein in
our debt, it could damage our markets, increase the cost of borrowing,
and jeopardize our recovery, all of which would have an even worse
effect on our job growth and family incomes.

From some on the right, I expect we'll hear a different argument, that
if we just make fewer investments in our people, extend tax cuts,
including those for the wealthier Americans, eliminate more regulations,
maintain the status quo on health care, our deficits will go away. The
problem is, that's what we did for 8 years. That's what helped us into
this crisis. It's what helped lead to these deficits. We can't do it
again.

Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington
for decades, it's time to try something new. Let's invest in our people
without leaving them a mountain of debt. Let's meet our responsibility
to the citizens who sent us here. Let's try common sense--[Laughter]--a
novel concept.

Now, to do that, we have to recognize that we face more than a deficit
of dollars right now. We face a deficit of trust, deep and corrosive
doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years. To
close that credibility gap, we have to take action on both ends of
Pennsylvania Avenue to end the outsized influence of lobbyists, to do
our work openly, to give our people the Government they deserve.

Now, that's what I came to Washington to do. That's why, for the first
time in history, my administration posts on--our White House visitors
online. That's why we've excluded lobbyists from policymaking jobs or
seats on Federal boards and commissions. But we can't stop there. It's
time to require lobbyists to disclose each contact they make on behalf
of a client, with my administration or with Congress. It's time to put
strict limits on the contributions that lobbyists give to candidates
for Federal office.

With all due deference to separation of powers, last week, the Supreme
Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates
for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without
limit in our elections. I don't think American elections should be
bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign
entities. They should be decided by the American people. And I'd urge
Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps correct some of
these problems.

I'm also calling on Congress to continue down the path of earmark
reform, Democrats and Republicans--Democrats and Republicans. Look,
you've trimmed some of this spending, you've embraced some meaningful
change, but restoring the public trust demands more. For example, some
Members of Congress post some earmark requests online. Tonight I'm
calling on Congress to publish all earmark requests on a single web
site before there's a vote so that the American people can see how
their money is being spent.

Of course, none of these reforms will even happen if we don't also
reform how we work with one another. Now, I'm not naive. I never
thought that the mere fact of my election would usher in peace and
harmony and--[Laughter]--some postpartisan era. I knew that both
parties have fed divisions that are deeply entrenched. And on some
issues, there are simply philosophical differences that will always
cause us to part ways. These disagreements, about the role of
government in our lives, about our national priorities and our national
security, they've been taking place for over 200 years. They're the
very essence of our democracy.

But what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day
is election day. We can't wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal
is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about the other
side, a belief that if you lose, I win. Neither party should delay or
obstruct every single bill just because they can. The confirmation of--
I'm speaking to both parties now--the confirmation of well-qualified
public servants shouldn't be held hostage to the pet projects or
grudges of a few individual Senators.

Washington may think that saying anything about the other side, no
matter how false, no matter how malicious, is just part of the game.
But it's precisely such politics that has stopped either party from
helping the American people. Worse yet, it's sowing further division
among our citizens, further distrust in our Government. So no, I will
not give up on trying to change the tone of our politics. I know it's
an election year. And after last week, it's clear that campaign fever
has come even earlier than usual. But we still need to govern.

To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest
majority in decades and the people expect us to solve problems, not run
for the hills. And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that
60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this
town--a supermajority--then the responsibility to govern is now yours
as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics,
but it's not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not
our ambitions. So let's show the American people that we can do it
together.

This week, I'll be addressing a meeting of the House Republicans. I'd
like to begin monthly meetings with both Democratic and Republican
leadership. I know you can't wait. [Laughter]

Now, throughout our history, no issue has united this country more than
our security. Sadly, some of the unity we felt after 9/11 has
dissipated. And we can argue all we want about who's to blame for this,
but I'm not interested in relitigating the past. I know that all of us
love this country. All of us are committed to its defense. So let's put
aside the schoolyard taunts about who's tough. Let's reject the false
choice between protecting our people and upholding our values. Let's
leave behind the fear and division and do what it takes to defend our
Nation and forge a more hopeful future for America and for the world.

That's the work we began last year. Since the day I took office, we've
renewed our focus on the terrorists who threaten our Nation. We've made
substantial investments in our homeland security and disrupted plots
that threatened to take American lives. We are filling unacceptable
gaps revealed by the failed Christmas attack, with better airline
security and swifter action on our intelligence. We've prohibited
torture and strengthened partnerships from the Pacific to South Asia to
the Arabian Peninsula. And in the last year, hundreds of Al Qaida's
fighters and affiliates, including many senior leaders, have been
captured or killed, far more than in 2008.

And in Afghanistan, we're increasing our troops and training Afghan
security forces so they can begin to take the lead in July of 2011 and
our troops can begin to come home. We will reward good governance, work
to reduce corruption, and support the rights of all Afghans, men and
women alike. We're joined by allies and partners who have increased
their own commitments and who will come together tomorrow in London to
reaffirm our common purpose. There will be difficult days ahead, but I
am absolutely confident we will succeed.

As we take the fight to Al Qaida, we are responsibly leaving Iraq to
its people. As a candidate, I promised that I would end this war, and
that is what I am doing as President. We will have all of our combat
troops out of Iraq by the end of this August. We will support the Iraqi
Government as they hold elections, and we will continue to partner with
the Iraqi people to promote regional peace and prosperity. But make no
mistake: This war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home.

Tonight all of our men and women in uniform, in Iraq, in Afghanistan,
and around the world, they have to know that we--that they have our
respect, our gratitude, our full support. And just as they must have
the resources they need in war, we all have a responsibility to support
them when they come home. That's why we made the largest increase in
investments for veterans in decades last year. That's why we're
building a 21st-century VA. And that's why Michelle has joined with
Jill Biden to forge a national commitment to support military families.

Now, even as we prosecute two wars, we're also confronting perhaps the
greatest danger to the American people, the threat of nuclear weapons.
I've embraced the vision of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan through a
strategy that reverses the spread of these weapons and seeks a world
without them. To reduce our stockpiles and launchers, while ensuring
our deterrent, the United States and Russia are completing negotiations
on the farthest reaching arms control treaty in nearly two decades. And
at April's Nuclear Security Summit, we will bring 44 nations together
here in Washington, DC, behind a clear goal: securing all vulnerable
nuclear materials around the world in 4 years so that they never fall
into the hands of terrorists.

Now, these diplomatic efforts have also strengthened our hand in
dealing with those nations that insist on violating international
agreements in pursuit of nuclear weapons. That's why North Korea now
faces increased isolation and stronger sanctions, sanctions that are
being vigorously enforced. That's why the international community is
more united and the Islamic Republic of Iran is more isolated. And as
Iran's leaders continue to ignore their obligations, there should be no
doubt: They too will face growing consequences. That is a promise.

That's the leadership we are providing: engagement that advances the
common security and prosperity of all people. We're working through the
G-20 to sustain a lasting global recovery. We're working with Muslim
communities around the world to promote science and education and
innovation. We have gone from a bystander to a leader in the fight
against climate change. We're helping developing countries to feed
themselves and continuing the fight against HIV/AIDS. And we are
launching a new initiative that will give us the capacity to respond
faster and more effectively to bioterrorism or an infectious disease, a
plan that will counter threats at home and strengthen public health
abroad.

As we have for over 60 years, America takes these actions because our
destiny is connected to those beyond our shores. But we also do it
because it is right. That's why, as we meet here tonight, over 10,000
Americans are working with many nations to help the people of Haiti
recover and rebuild. That's why we stand with the girl who yearns to go
to school in Afghanistan, why we support the human rights of the women
marching through the streets of Iran, why we advocate for the young man
denied a job by corruption in Guinea. For America must always stand on
the side of freedom and human dignity--always.

Abroad, America's greatest source of strength has always been our
ideals. The same is true at home. We find unity in our incredible
diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution: The
notion that we're all created equal; that no matter who you are or what
you look like, if you abide by the law, you should be protected by it;
if you adhere to our common values, you should be treated no different
than anyone else.

We must continually renew this promise. My administration has a
Division that is once again prosecuting violations and employment
discrimination. We finally strengthened our laws to protect against
crimes driven by hate. This year, I will work with Congress and our
military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right
to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right
thing to do.

We're going to crack down on violations of equal pay laws so that women
get equal pay for an equal day's work. And we should continue the work
of fixing our broken immigration system, to secure our borders and
enforce our laws and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can
contribute to our economy and enrich our Nation.

In the end, it's our ideals, our values that built America, values that
allowed us to forge a nation made up of immigrants from every corner of
the globe, values that drive our citizens still. Every day, Americans
meet their responsibilities to their families and their employers. Time
and again, they lend a hand to their neighbors and give back to their
country. They take pride in their labor and are generous in spirit.
These aren't Republican values or Democratic values that they're living
by, business values or labor values, they're American values.

Unfortunately, too many of our citizens have lost faith that our
biggest institutions--our corporations, our media, and, yes, our
Government--still reflect these same values. Each of these institutions
are full of honorable men and women doing important work that helps our
country prosper. But each time a CEO rewards himself for failure or a
banker puts the rest of us at risk for his own selfish gain, people's
doubts grow. Each time lobbyists game the system or politicians tear
each other down instead of lifting this country up, we lose faith. The
more that TV pundits reduce serious debates to silly arguments, big
issues into sound bites, our citizens turn away. No wonder there's so
much cynicism out there. No wonder there's so much disappointment.

I campaigned on the promise of change. Change we can believe in, the
slogan went. And right now I know there are many Americans who aren't
sure if they still believe we can change or that I can deliver it.

But remember this: I never suggested that change would be easy or that
I could do it alone. Democracy in a nation of 300 million people can be
noisy and messy and complicated. And when you try to do big things and
make big changes, it stirs passions and controversy. That's just how it
is.

Those of us in public office can respond to this reality by playing it
safe and avoid telling hard truths and pointing fingers. We can do
what's necessary to keep our poll numbers high and get through the next
election, instead of doing what's best for the next generation.

But I also know this: If people had made that decision 50 years ago or
100 years ago or 200 years ago, we wouldn't be here tonight. The only
reason we are here is because generations of Americans were unafraid to
do what was hard, to do what was needed even when success was uncertain,
to do what it took to keep the dream of this Nation alive for their
children and their grandchildren.

Now, our administration has had some political setbacks this year, and
some of them were deserved. But I wake up every day knowing that they
are nothing compared to the setbacks that families all across this
country have faced this year. And what keeps me going, what keeps me
fighting, is that despite all these setbacks, that spirit of
determination and optimism, that fundamental decency that has always
been at the core of the American people, that lives on.

It lives on in the struggling small-business owner who wrote to me of
his company, "None of us," he said, ". . . are willing to consider,
even slightly, that we might fail." It lives on in the woman who said
that even though she and her neighbors have felt the pain of recession,
"We are strong. We are resilient. We are American." It lives on in the
8-year-old boy in Louisiana who just sent me his allowance and asked if
I would give it to the people of Haiti. And it lives on in all the
Americans who've dropped everything to go someplace they've never been
and pull people they've never known from the rubble, prompting chants
of "U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" when another life was saved.

The spirit that has sustained this Nation for more than two centuries
lives on in you, its people. We have finished a difficult year. We have
come through a difficult decade. But a new year has come. A new decade
stretches before us. We don't quit. I don't quit. Let's seize this
moment to start anew, to carry the dream forward, and to strengthen our
Union once more.

Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.


***


Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress on the State of the Union
Barack Obama
January 25, 2011


Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, distinguished
guests, and fellow Americans: Tonight I want to begin by congratulating
the men and women of the 112th Congress, as well as your new Speaker,
John Boehner. And as we mark this occasion, we're also mindful of the
empty chair in this Chamber, and we pray for the health of our
colleague and our friend Gabby Giffords.

It's no secret that those of us here tonight have had our differences
over the last 2 years. The debates have been contentious; we have
fought fiercely for our beliefs. And that's a good thing. That's what a
robust democracy demands. That's what helps set us apart as a nation.

But there's a reason the tragedy in Tucson gave us pause. Amid all the
noise and passion and rancor of our public debate, Tucson reminded us
that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part
of something greater, something more consequential than party or
political preference.

We are part of the American family. We believe that in a country where
every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound
together as one people, that we share common hopes and a common creed,
that the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different than
those of our own children, that they all deserve the chance to be
fulfilled. That too is what sets us apart as a nation.

Now, by itself, this simple recognition won't usher in a new era of
cooperation. What comes of this moment is up to us. What comes of this
moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight,
but whether we can work together tomorrow.

I believe we can, and I believe we must. That's what the people who
sent us here expect of us. With their votes, they've determined that
governing will now be a shared responsibility between parties. New laws
will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will
move forward together or not at all, for the challenges we face are
bigger than party and bigger than politics.

At stake right now is not who wins the next election. After all, we
just had an election. At stake is whether new jobs and industries take
root in this country or somewhere else. It's whether the hard work and
industry of our people is rewarded. It's whether we sustain the
leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but the
light to the world.

We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of
us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back, corporate
profits are up, the economy is growing again.

But we have never measured progress by these yardsticks alone. We
measure progress by the success of our people, by the jobs they can
find and the quality of life those jobs offer, by the prospects of a
small-business owner who dreams of turning a good idea into a thriving
enterprise, by the opportunities for a better life that we pass on to
our children.

That's the project the American people want us to work on--together.

Now, we did that in December. Thanks to the tax cuts we passed,
Americans' paychecks are a little bigger today. Every business can
write off the full cost of new investments that they make this year.
And these steps, taken by Democrats and Republicans, will grow the
economy and add to the more than 1 million private sector jobs created
last year.

But we have to do more. These steps we've taken over the last 2 years
may have broken the back of this recession, but to win the future,
we'll need to take on challenges that have been decades in the making.

Many people watching tonight can probably remember a time when finding
a good job meant showing up at a nearby factory or a business downtown.
You didn't always need a degree, and your competition was pretty much
limited to your neighbors. If you worked hard, chances are you'd have a
job for life, with a decent paycheck and good benefits and the
occasional promotion. Maybe you'd even have the pride of seeing your
kids work at the same company.

That world has changed. And for many, the change has been painful. I've
seen it in the shuttered windows of once booming factories and the
vacant storefronts on once busy Main Streets. I've heard it in the
frustrations of Americans who've seen their paychecks dwindle or their
jobs disappear, proud men and women who feel like the rules have been
changed in the middle of the game.

They're right. The rules have changed. In a single generation,
revolutions in technology have transformed the way we live, work, and
do business. Steel mills that once needed 1,000 workers can now do the
same work with 100. Today, just about any company can set up shop, hire
workers, and sell their products wherever there's an Internet
connection.

Meanwhile, nations like China and India realized that with some changes
of their own, they could compete in this new world. And so they started
educating their children earlier and longer, with greater emphasis on
math and science. They're investing in research and new technologies.
Just recently, China became the home to the world's largest private
solar research facility and the world's fastest computer.

So yes, the world is changed. The competition for jobs is real. But
this shouldn't discourage us. It should challenge us. Remember, for all
the hits we've taken these last few years, for all the naysayers
predicting our decline, America still has the largest, most prosperous
economy in the world. No workers are more productive than ours. No
country has more successful companies or grants more patents to
inventors and entrepreneurs. We're the home to the world's best
colleges and universities, where more students come to study than any
place on Earth.

What's more, we are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an
idea: the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own
destiny. That's why centuries of pioneers and immigrants have risked
everything to come here. It's why our students don't just memorize
equations, but answer questions like: "What do you think of that idea?
What would you change about the world? What do you want to be when you
grow up?"

The future is ours to win. But to get there, we can't just stand still.
As Robert Kennedy told us: "The future is not a gift. It is an
achievement." Sustaining the American Dream has never been about
standing pat. It has required each generation to sacrifice and struggle
and meet the demands of a new age.

And now it's our turn. We know what it takes to compete for the jobs
and industries of our time. We need to outinnovate, outeducate, and
outbuild the rest of the world. We have to make America the best place
on Earth to do business. We need to take responsibility for our deficit
and reform our Government. That's how our people will prosper. That's
how we'll win the future. And tonight I'd like to talk about how we get
there.

The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation.
None of us can predict with certainty what the next big industry will
be or where the new jobs will come from. Thirty years ago, we couldn't
know that something called the Internet would lead to an economic
revolution. What we can do--what America does better than anyone else--
is spark the creativity and imagination of our people. We're the nation
that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of
Edison and the Wright brothers, of Google and Facebook. In America,
innovation doesn't just change our lives. It is how we make our living.

Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation. But because it's
not always profitable for companies to invest in basic research,
throughout our history, our Government has provided cutting-edge
scientists and inventors with the support that they need. That's what
planted the seeds for the Internet. That's what helped make possible
things like computer chips and GPS. Just think of all the good jobs--
from manufacturing to retail--that have come from these breakthroughs.

Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch
of a satellite called Sputnik, we had no idea how we would beat them to
the Moon. The science wasn't even there yet. NASA didn't exist. But
after investing in better research and education, we didn't just
surpass the Soviets, we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new
industries and millions of new jobs.

This is our generation's Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we
needed to reach a level of research and development we haven't seen
since the height of the space race. And in a few weeks, I will be
sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We'll invest
in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean
energy technology, an investment that will strengthen our security,
protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.

Already, we're seeing the promise of renewable energy. Robert and Gary
Allen are brothers who run a small Michigan roofing company. After
September 11, they volunteered their best roofers to help repair the
Pentagon. But half of their factory went unused, and the recession hit
them hard. Today, with the help of a Government loan, that empty space
is being used to manufacture solar shingles that are being sold all
across the country. In Robert's words, "We reinvented ourselves."

That's what Americans have done for over 200 years: reinvented
ourselves. And to spur on more success stories like the Allen Brothers,
we've begun to reinvent our energy policy. We're not just handing out
money. We're issuing a challenge. We're telling America's scientists
and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their
fields and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we'll fund
the Apollo projects of our time.

At the California Institute of Technology, they're developing a way to
turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars. At Oak Ridge National
Laboratory, they're using supercomputers to get a lot more power out of
our nuclear facilities. With more research and incentives, we can break
our dependence on oil with biofuels and become the first country to
have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I'm
asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we
currently give to oil companies. I don't know if you've noticed, but
they're doing just fine on their own. [Laughter] So instead of
subsidizing yesterday's energy, let's invest in tomorrow's.

Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy
jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they're selling.
So tonight I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: By 2035,
80 percent of America's electricity will come from clean energy sources.

Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and
natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all, and I urge
Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen.

Maintaining our leadership in research and technology is crucial to
America's success. But if we want to win the future, if we want
innovation to produce jobs in America and not overseas, then we also
have to win the race to educate our kids.

Think about it. Over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs
will require education that goes beyond a high school education. And
yet as many as a quarter of our students aren't even finishing high
school. The quality of our math and science education lags behind many
other nations. America has fallen to ninth in the proportion of young
people with a college degree. And so the question is whether all of us,
as citizens and as parents, are willing to do what's necessary to give
every child a chance to succeed.

That responsibility begins not in our classrooms, but in our homes and
communities. It's family that first instills the love of learning in a
child. Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework
gets done. We need to teach our kids that it's not just the winner of
the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the
science fair. We need to teach them that success is not a function of
fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline.

Our schools share this responsibility. When a child walks into a
classroom, it should be a place of high expectations and high
performance. But too many schools don't meet this test. That's why
instead of just pouring money into a system that's not working, we
launched a competition called Race to the Top. To all 50 States, we
said, "If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher
quality and student achievement, we'll show you the money."

Race to the Top is the most meaningful reform of our public schools in
a generation. For less than 1 percent of what we spend on education
each year, it has led over 40 States to raise their standards for
teaching and learning. And these standards were developed, by the way,
not by Washington, but by Republican and Democratic Governors
throughout the country. And Race to the Top should be the approach we
follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that's
more flexible and focused on what's best for our kids.

You see, we know what's possible from our children when reform isn't
just a top-down mandate, but the work of local teachers and principals,
school boards and communities. Take a school like Bruce Randolph in
Denver. Three years ago, it was rated one of the worst schools in
Colorado, located on turf between two rival gangs. But last May, 97
percent of the seniors received their diploma. Most will be the first
in their families to go to college. And after the first year of the
school's transformation, the principal who made it possible wiped away
tears when a student said, "Thank you, Ms. Waters, for showing that we
are smart and we can make it." That's what good schools can do, and we
want good schools all across the country.

Let's also remember that after parents, the biggest impact on a child's
success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom. In
South Korea, teachers are known as nation builders. Here in America,
it's time we treated the people who educate our children with the same
level of respect. We want to reward good teachers and stop making
excuses for bad ones. And over the next 10 years, with so many baby
boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new
teachers in the fields of science and technology and engineering and
math.

In fact, to every young person listening tonight who's contemplating
their career choice: If you want to make a difference in the life of
our Nation, if you want to make a difference in the life of a child,
become a teacher. Your country needs you.

Of course, the education race doesn't end with a high school diploma.
To compete, higher education must be within the reach of every American.
That's why we've ended the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that went to
banks and used the savings to make college affordable for millions of
students. And this year, I ask Congress to go further and make
permanent our tuition tax credit, worth $10,000 for 4 years of college.
It's the right thing to do.

Because people need to be able to train for new jobs and careers in
today's fast-changing economy, we're also revitalizing America's
community colleges. Last month, I saw the promise of these schools at
Forsyth Tech in North Carolina. Many of the students there used to work
in the surrounding factories that have since left town. One mother of
two, a woman named Kathy Proctor, had worked in the furniture industry
since she was 18 years old. And she told me she's earning her degree in
biotechnology now, at 55 years old, not just because the furniture jobs
are gone, but because she wants to inspire her children to pursue their
dreams too. As Kathy said, "I hope it tells them to never give up."

If we take these steps, if we raise expectations for every child and
give them the best possible chance at an education, from the day they
are born until the last job they take, we will reach the goal that I
set 2 years ago: By the end of the decade, America will once again have
the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

One last point about education: Today, there are hundreds of thousands
of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens.
Some are the children of undocumented workers, who had nothing to do
with the actions of their parents. They grew up as Americans and pledge
allegiance to our flag, and yet they live every day with the threat of
deportation. Others come here from abroad to study in our colleges and
universities. But as soon as they obtain advanced degrees, we send them
back home to compete against us. It makes no sense.

Now, I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the
issue of illegal immigration. And I am prepared to work with
Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws, and
address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the
shadows. I know that debate will be difficult. I know it will take time.
But tonight, let's agree to make that effort. And let's stop expelling
talented, responsible young people who could be staffing our research
labs or starting a new business, who could be further enriching this
Nation.

The third step in winning the future is rebuilding America. To attract
new businesses to our shores, we need the fastest, most reliable ways
to move people, goods, and information, from high-speed rail to high-
speed Internet.

Our infrastructure used to be the best, but our lead has slipped. South
Korean homes now have greater Internet access than we do. Countries in
Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do.
China is building faster trains and newer airports. Meanwhile, when our
own engineers graded our Nation's infrastructure, they gave us a D.

We have to do better. America is the nation that built the
transcontinental railroad, brought electricity to rural communities,
constructed the Interstate Highway System. The jobs created by these
projects didn't just come from laying down track or pavement. They came
from businesses that opened near a town's new train station or the new
off-ramp.

So over the last 2 years, we've begun rebuilding for the 21st century,
a project that has meant thousands of good jobs for the hard-hit
construction industry. And tonight I'm proposing that we redouble those
efforts.

We'll put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges.
We'll make sure this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and
pick projects based [on]* what's best for the economy, not politicians.

Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to
high-speed rail. This could allow you to go places in half the time it
takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying,
without the pat-down. [Laughter] As we speak, routes in California and
the Midwest are already underway.

Within the next 5 years, we'll make it possible for businesses to
deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98
percent of all Americans. This isn't just about--this isn't about
faster Internet or fewer dropped calls. It's about connecting every
part of America to the digital age. It's about a rural community in
Iowa or Alabama where farmers and small-business owners will be able to
sell their products all over the world. It's about a firefighter who
can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device, a
student who can take classes with a digital textbook, or a patient who
can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor.

All these investments--in innovation, education, and infrastructure--
will make America a better place to do business and create jobs. But to
help our companies compete, we also have to knock down barriers that
stand in the way of their success.

For example, over the years, a parade of lobbyists has rigged the Tax
Code to benefit particular companies and industries. Those with
accountants or lawyers to work the system can end up paying no taxes at
all. But all the rest are hit with one of the highest corporate tax
rates in the world. It makes no sense, and it has to change.

So tonight I'm asking Democrats and Republicans to simplify the system,
get rid of the loopholes, level the playing field, and use the savings
to lower the corporate tax rate for the first time in 25 years without
adding to our deficit. It can be done.

To help businesses sell more products abroad, we set a goal of doubling
our exports by 2014. Because the more we export, the more jobs we
create here at home. Already, our exports are up. Recently, we signed
agreements with India and China that will support more than 250,000
jobs here in the United States. And last month, we finalized a trade
agreement with South Korea that will support at least 70,000 American
jobs. This agreement has unprecedented support from business and labor,
Democrats and Republicans, and I ask this Congress to pass it as soon
as possible.

Now, before I took office, I made it clear that we would enforce our
trade agreements and that I would only sign deals that keep faith with
American workers and promote American jobs. That's what we did with
Korea, and that's what I intend to do as we pursue agreements with
Panama and Colombia and continue our Asia-Pacific and global trade
talks.

To reduce barriers to growth and investment, I've ordered a review of
Government regulations. When we find rules that put an unnecessary
burden on businesses, we will fix them. But I will not hesitate to
create or enforce commonsense safeguards to protect the American people.
That's what we've done in this country for more than a century. It's
why our food is safe to eat, our water is safe to drink, and our air is
safe to breathe. It's why we have speed limits and child labor laws.
It's why last year, we put in place consumer protections against hidden
fees and penalties by credit card companies and new rules to prevent
another financial crisis. And it's why we passed reform that finally
prevents the health insurance industry from exploiting patients.

Now, I have heard rumors that a few of you still have concerns about
our new health care law. [Laughter] So let me be the first to say that
anything can be improved. If you have ideas about how to improve this
law by making care better or more affordable, I am eager to work with
you. We can start right now by correcting a flaw in the legislation
that has placed an unnecessary bookkeeping burden on small businesses.

What I'm not willing to do--what I'm not willing to do--is go back to
the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because
of a preexisting condition.

I'm not willing to tell James Howard, a brain cancer patient from Texas,
that his treatment might not be covered. I'm not willing to tell Jim
Houser, a small-businessman from Oregon, that he has to go back to
paying $5,000 more to cover his employees. As we speak, this law is
making prescription drugs cheaper for seniors and giving uninsured
students a chance to stay on their patients'--parents' coverage.

So I say to this Chamber tonight: Instead of refighting the battles of
the last 2 years, let's fix what needs fixing, and let's move forward.

Now, the final critical step in winning the future is to make sure we
aren't buried under a mountain of debt.

We are living with a legacy of deficit spending that began almost a
decade ago. And in the wake of the financial crisis, some of that was
necessary to keep credit flowing, save jobs, and put money in people's
pockets.

But now that the worst of the recession is over, we have to confront
the fact that our Government spends more than it takes in. That is not
sustainable. Every day, families sacrifice to live within their means.
They deserve a Government that does the same.

So tonight I am proposing that starting this year, we freeze annual
domestic spending for the next 5 years. Now, this would reduce the
deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade and will bring
discretionary spending to the lowest share of our economy since Dwight
Eisenhower was President.

This freeze will require painful cuts. Already, we've frozen the
salaries of hard-working Federal employees for the next 2 years. I've
proposed cuts to things I care deeply about, like community action
programs. The Secretary of Defense has also agreed to cut tens of
billions of dollars in spending that he and his generals believe our
military can do without.

Now, I recognize that some in this Chamber have already proposed deeper
cuts, and I'm willing to eliminate whatever we can honestly afford to
do without. But let's make sure that we're not doing it on the backs of
our most vulnerable citizens. And let's make sure that what we're
cutting is really excess weight. Cutting the deficit by gutting our
investments in innovation and education is like lightening an
overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may make you feel like
you're flying high at first, but it won't take long before you feel the
impact. [Laughter]

Now, most of the cuts and savings I've proposed only address annual
domestic spending, which represents a little more than 12 percent of
our budget. To make further progress, we have to stop pretending that
cutting this kind of spending alone will be enough. It won't.

The bipartisan fiscal commission I created last year made this crystal
clear. I don't agree with all their proposals, but they made important
progress. And their conclusion is that the only way to tackle our
deficit is to cut excessive spending wherever we find it, in domestic
spending, defense spending, health care spending, and spending through
tax breaks and loopholes.

This means further reducing health care costs, including programs like
Medicare and Medicaid, which are the single biggest contributor to our
long-term deficit. The health insurance law we passed last year will
slow these rising costs, which is part of the reason that nonpartisan
economists have said that repealing the health care law would add a
quarter of a trillion dollars to our deficit. Still, I'm willing to
look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans
suggested last year: medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous
lawsuits.

To put us on solid ground, we should also find a bipartisan solution to
strengthen Social Security for future generations. We must do it
without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or
people with disabilities, without slashing benefits for future
generations, and without subjecting Americans' guaranteed retirement
income to the whims of the stock market.

And if we truly care about our deficit, we simply can't afford a
permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of
Americans. Before we take money away from our schools or scholarships
away from our students, we should ask millionaires to give up their tax
break. It's not a matter of punishing their success, it's about
promoting America's success.

In fact, the best thing we could do on taxes for all Americans is to
simplify the individual Tax Code. This will be a tough job, but members
of both parties have expressed an interest in doing this, and I am
prepared to join them.

So now is the time to act. Now is the time for both sides and both
Houses of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, to forge a principled
compromise that gets the job done. If we make the hard choices now to
rein in our deficits, we can make the investments we need to win the
future.

Let me take this one step further. We shouldn't just give our people a
Government that's more affordable, we should give them a Government
that's more competent and more efficient. We can't win the future with
a Government of the past.

We live and do business in the Information Age, but the last major
reorganization of the Government happened in the age of black-and-white
TV. There are 12 different agencies that deal with exports. There are
at least five different agencies that deal with housing policy. Then
there's my favorite example: The Interior Department is in charge of
salmon while they're in fresh water, but the Commerce Department
handles them when they're in saltwater. [Laughter] I hear it gets even
more complicated once they're smoked. [Laughter]

Now, we've made great strides over the last 2 years in using technology
and getting rid of waste. Veterans can now download their electronic
medical records with a click of the mouse. We're selling acres of
Federal office space that hasn't been used in years, and we'll cut
through redtape to get rid of more. But we need to think bigger. In the
coming months, my administration will develop a proposal to merge,
consolidate, and reorganize the Federal Government in a way that best
serves the goal of a more competitive America. I will submit that
proposal to Congress for a vote, and we will push to get it passed.

In the coming year, we'll also work to rebuild people's faith in the
institution of Government. Because you deserve to know exactly how and
where your tax dollars are being spent, you'll be able to go to a web
site and get that information for the very first time in history.
Because you deserve to know when your elected officials are meeting
with lobbyists, I ask Congress to do what the White House has already
done: put that information online. And because the American people
deserve to know that special interests aren't larding up legislation
with pet projects, both parties in Congress should know this: If a bill
comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it. I will veto it.

The 21st-century Government that's open and competent, a government
that lives within its means, an economy that's driven by new skills and
new ideas--our success in this new and changing world will require
reform, responsibility, and innovation. It will also require us to
approach that world with a new level of engagement in our foreign
affairs.

Just as jobs and businesses can now race across borders, so can new
threats and new challenges. No single wall separates East and West. No
one rival superpower is aligned against us.

And so we must defeat determined enemies, wherever they are, and build
coalitions that cut across lines of region and race and religion. And
America's moral example must always shine for all who yearn for freedom
and justice and dignity. And because we've begun this work, tonight we
can say that American leadership has been renewed and America's
standing has been restored.

Look to Iraq, where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left
with their heads held high. American combat patrols have ended,
violence is down, and a new Government has been formed. This year, our
civilians will forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people, while
we finish the job of bringing our troops out of Iraq. America's
commitment has been kept. The Iraq war is coming to an end.

Of course, as we speak, Al Qaida and their affiliates continue to plan
attacks against us. Thanks to our intelligence and law enforcement
professionals, we're disrupting plots and securing our cities and skies.
And as extremists try to inspire acts of violence within our borders,
we are responding with the strength of our communities, with respect
for the rule of law, and with the conviction that American Muslims are
a part of our American family.

We've also taken the fight to Al Qaida and their allies abroad. In
Afghanistan, our troops have taken Taliban strongholds and trained
Afghan security forces. Our purpose is clear: By preventing the Taliban
from reestablishing a stranglehold over the Afghan people, we will deny
Al Qaida the safe haven that served as a launching pad for 9/11.

Thanks to our heroic troops and civilians, fewer Afghans are under the
control of the insurgency. There will be tough fighting ahead, and the
Afghan Government will need to deliver better governance. But we are
strengthening the capacity of the Afghan people and building an
enduring partnership with them. This year, we will work with nearly 50
countries to begin a transition to an Afghan lead, and this July, we
will begin to bring our troops home.

In Pakistan, Al Qaida's leadership is under more pressure than at any
point since 2001. Their leaders and operatives are being removed from
the battlefield. Their safe havens are shrinking. And we've sent a
message from the Afghan border to the Arabian Peninsula to all parts of
the globe: We will not relent, we will not waver, and we will defeat
you.

American leadership can also be seen in the effort to secure the worst
weapons of war. Because Republicans and Democrats approved the new
START Treaty, far fewer nuclear weapons and launchers will be deployed.
Because we rallied the world, nuclear materials are being locked down
on every continent so they never fall into the hands of terrorists.

Because of a diplomatic effort to insist that Iran meet its obligations,
the Iranian Government now faces tougher sanctions, tighter sanctions
than ever before. And on the Korean Peninsula, we stand with our ally
South Korea and insist that North Korea keeps its commitment to abandon
nuclear weapons.

This is just a part of how we're shaping a world that favors peace and
prosperity. With our European allies, we revitalized NATO and increased
our cooperation on everything from counterterrorism to missile defense.
We've reset our relationship with Russia, strengthened Asian alliances,
built new partnerships with nations like India.

This March, I will travel to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador to forge
new alliances across the Americas. Around the globe, we're standing
with those who take responsibility, helping farmers grow more food,
supporting doctors who care for the sick, and combating the corruption
that can rot a society and rob people of opportunity.

Recent events have shown us that what sets us apart must not just be
our power; it must also be the purpose behind it. In south Sudan--with
our assistance--the people were finally able to vote for independence
after years of war. Thousands lined up before dawn. People danced in
the streets. One man who lost four of his brothers at war summed up the
scene around him. "This was a battlefield for most of my life," he said.
"Now we want to be free."

And we saw that same desire to be free in Tunisia, where the will of
the people proved more powerful than the writ of a dictator. And
tonight let us be clear: The United States of America stands with the
people of Tunisia and supports the democratic aspirations of all people.

We must never forget that the things we've struggled for and fought for
live in the hearts of people everywhere. And we must always remember
that the Americans who have borne the greatest burden in this struggle
are the men and women who serve our country.

Tonight let us speak with one voice in reaffirming that our Nation is
united in support of our troops and their families. Let us serve them
as well as they've served us, by giving them the equipment they need,
by providing them with the care and benefits that they have earned, and
by enlisting our veterans in the great task of building our own Nation.

Our troops come from every corner of this country. They're Black, White,
Latino, Asian, Native American. They are Christian and Hindu, Jewish
and Muslim. And yes, we know that some of them are gay. Starting this
year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love
because of who they love. And with that change, I call on all our
college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and
ROTC. It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. It
is time to move forward as one Nation.

We should have no illusions about the work ahead of us. Reforming our
schools, changing the way we use energy, reducing our deficit, none of
this will be easy. All of it will take time. And it will be harder
because we will argue about everything: the costs, the details, the
letter of every law.

Of course, some countries don't have this problem. If the central
government wants a railroad, they build a railroad, no matter how many
homes get bulldozed. If they don't want a bad story in the newspaper,
it doesn't get written.

And yet, as contentious and frustrating and messy as our democracy can
sometimes be, I know there isn't a person here who would trade places
with any other nation on Earth.

We may have differences in policy, but we all believe in the rights
enshrined in our Constitution. We may have different opinions, but we
believe in the same promise that says this is a place where you can
make it if you try. We may have different backgrounds, but we believe
in the same dream that says this is a country where anything is
possible, no matter who you are, no matter where you come from.

That dream is why I can stand here before you tonight. That dream is
why a working class kid from Scranton can sit behind me. [Laughter]
That dream is why someone who began by sweeping the floors of his
father's Cincinnati bar can preside as Speaker of the House in the
greatest nation on Earth.

That dream--that American Dream--is what drove the Allen Brothers to
reinvent their roofing company for a new era. It's what drove those
students at Forsyth Tech to learn a new skill and work towards the
future. And that dream is the story of a small-business owner named
Brandon Fisher.

Brandon started a company in Berlin, Pennsylvania, that specializes in
a new kind of drilling technology. And one day last summer, he saw the
news that halfway across the world, 33 men were trapped in a Chilean
mine, and no one knew how to save them.

But Brandon thought his company could help. And so he designed a rescue
that would come to be known as Plan B. His employees worked around the
clock to manufacture the necessary drilling equipment, and Brandon left
for Chile.

Along with others, he began drilling a 2,000-foot hole into the ground,
working 3 or 4 hour--3 or 4 days at a time without any sleep. Thirty-
seven days later, Plan B succeeded and the miners were rescued. But
because he didn't want all of the attention, Brandon wasn't there when
the miners emerged. He'd already gone back home, back to work on his
next project.

And later, one of his employees said of the rescue, "We proved that
Center Rock is a little company, but we do big things."

We do big things.

From the earliest days of our founding, America has been the story of
ordinary people who dare to dream. That's how we win the future.

We're a nation that says, "I might not have a lot of money, but I have
this great idea for a new company." "I might not come from a family of
college graduates, but I will be the first to get my degree." "I might
not know those people in trouble, but I think I can help them, and I
need to try." "I'm not sure how we'll reach that better place beyond
the horizon, but I know we'll get there. I know we will."

We do big things.

The idea of America endures. Our destiny remains our choice. And
tonight, more than two centuries later, it's because of our people that
our future is hopeful, our journey goes forward, and the state of our
Union is strong.

Thank you. God bless you, and may God bless the United States of
America.


***


Address Before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union
Barack Obama
January 24, 2012


Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, distinguished
guests, and fellow Americans: Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force
Base and welcomed home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq.
Together, we offered a final, proud salute to the colors under which
more than a million of our fellow citizens fought and several thousand
gave their lives.

We gather tonight knowing that this generation of heroes has made the
United States safer and more respected around the world. For the first
time in 9 years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. For the first
time in two decades, Usama bin Laden is not a threat to this country.
Most of Al Qaida's top lieutenants have been defeated. The Taliban's
momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to
come home.

These achievements are a testament to the courage, selflessness, and
teamwork of America's Armed Forces. At a time when too many of our
institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations. They're
not consumed with personal ambition. They don't obsess over their
differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together.

Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example. Think
about the America within our reach: a country that leads the world in
educating its people; an America that attracts a new generation of
high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs; a future where we're in
control of our own energy and our security and prosperity aren't so
tied to unstable parts of the world; an economy built to last, where
hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded.

We can do this. I know we can, because we've done it before. At the end
of World War II, when another generation of heroes returned home from
combat, they built the strongest economy and middle class the world has
ever known. My grandfather, a veteran of Patton's army, got the chance
to go to college on the GI bill. My grandmother, who worked on a bomber
assembly line, was part of a workforce that turned out the best
products on Earth.

The two of them shared the optimism of a nation that had triumphed over
a depression and fascism. They understood they were part of something
larger, that they were contributing to a story of success that every
American had a chance to share, the basic American promise that if you
worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home,
send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.

The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No
challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important. We can either
settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well
while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an
economy where everyone gets a fair shot and everyone does their fair
share and everyone plays by the same set of rules. What's at stake
aren't Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. And
we have to reclaim them.

Let's remember how we got here. Long before the recession, jobs and
manufacturing began leaving our shores. Technology made businesses more
efficient, but also made some jobs obsolete. Folks at the top saw their
incomes rise like never before, but most hard-working Americans
struggled with costs that were growing, paychecks that weren't, and
personal debt that kept piling up.

In 2008, the house of cards collapsed. We learned that mortgages had
been sold to people who couldn't afford or understand them. Banks had
made huge bets and bonuses with other people's money. Regulators had
looked the other way or didn't have the authority to stop the bad
behavior.

It was wrong, it was irresponsible, and it plunged our economy into a
crisis that put millions out of work, saddled us with more debt, and
left innocent, hard-working Americans holding the bag. In the 6 months
before I took office, we lost nearly 4 million jobs. And we lost
another 4 million before our policies were in full effect.

Those are the facts. But so are these: In the last 22 months,
businesses have created more than 3 million jobs. Last year, they
created the most jobs since 2005. American manufacturers are hiring
again, creating jobs for the first time since the late 1990s. Together,
we've agreed to cut the deficit by more than $2 trillion. And we've put
in place new rules to hold Wall Street accountable so a crisis like
this never happens again.

The state of our Union is getting stronger. And we've come too far to
turn back now. As long as I'm President, I will work with anyone in
this Chamber to build on this momentum. But I intend to fight
obstruction with action, and I will oppose any effort to return to the
very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first
place.

No, we will not go back to an economy weakened by outsourcing, bad debt,
and phony financial profits. Tonight I want to speak about how we move
forward and lay out a blueprint for an economy that's built to last, an
economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for
American workers, and a renewal of American values.

Now, this blueprint begins with American manufacturing.

On the day I took office, our auto industry was on the verge of
collapse. Some even said we should let it die. With a million jobs at
stake, I refused to let that happen. In exchange for help, we demanded
responsibility. We got workers and automakers to settle their
differences. We got the industry to retool and restructure. Today,
General Motors is back on top as the world's number-one automaker.
Chrysler has grown faster in the U.S. than any major car company. Ford
is investing billions in U.S. plants and factories. And together, the
entire industry added nearly a hundred and sixty thousand jobs.

We bet on American workers. We bet on American ingenuity. And tonight,
the American auto industry is back.

What's happening in Detroit can happen in other industries. It can
happen in Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Raleigh. We can't bring every
job back that's left our shore. But right now it's getting more
expensive to do business in places like China. Meanwhile, America is
more productive. A few weeks ago, the CEO of Master Lock told me that
it now makes business sense for him to bring jobs back home. Today, for
the first time in 15 years, Master Lock's unionized plant in Milwaukee
is running at full capacity.


So we have a huge opportunity at this moment to bring manufacturing
back. But we have to seize it. Tonight my message to business leaders
is simple: Ask yourselves what you can do to bring jobs back to your
country, and your country will do everything we can to help you succeed.

We should start with our Tax Code. Right now companies get tax breaks
for moving jobs and profits overseas. Meanwhile, companies that choose
to stay in America get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the
world. It makes no sense, and everyone knows it. So let's change it.

First, if you're a business that wants to outsource jobs, you shouldn't
get a tax deduction for doing it. That money should be used to cover
moving expenses for companies like Master Lock that decide to bring
jobs home.

Second, no American company should be able to avoid paying its fair
share of taxes by moving jobs and profits overseas. From now on, every
multinational company should have to pay a basic minimum tax. And every
penny should go towards lowering taxes for companies that choose to
stay here and hire here in America.

Third, if you're an American manufacturer, you should get a bigger tax
cut. If you're a high-tech manufacturer, we should double the tax
deduction you get for making your products here. And if you want to
relocate in a community that was hit hard when a factory left town, you
should get help financing a new plant, equipment, or training for new
workers.

So my message is simple: It is time to stop rewarding businesses that
ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs
right here in America. Send me these tax reforms, and I will sign them
right away.

We're also making it easier for American businesses to sell products
all over the world. Two years ago, I set a goal of doubling U.S.
exports over 5 years. With the bipartisan trade agreements we signed
into law, we're on track to meet that goal ahead of schedule. And soon
there will be millions of new customers for American goods in Panama,
Colombia, and South Korea. Soon there will be new cars on the streets
of Seoul imported from Detroit and Toledo and Chicago.

I will go anywhere in the world to open new markets for American
products. And I will not stand by when our competitors don't play by
the rules. We've brought trade cases against China at nearly twice the
rate as the last administration, and it's made a difference. Over a
thousand Americans are working today because we stopped a surge in
Chinese tires. But we need to do more. It's not right when another
country lets our movies, music, and software be pirated. It's not fair
when foreign manufacturers have a leg up on ours only because they're
heavily subsidized.

Tonight I'm announcing the creation of a trade enforcement unit that
will be charged with investigating unfair trading practices in
countries like China. There will be more inspections to prevent
counterfeit or unsafe goods from crossing our borders. And this
Congress should make sure that no foreign company has an advantage over
American manufacturing when it comes to accessing financing or new
markets like Russia. Our workers are the most productive on Earth, and
if the playing field is level, I promise you, America will always win.

I also hear from many business leaders who want to hire in the United
States, but can't find workers with the right skills. Growing
industries in science and technology have twice as many openings as we
have workers who can do the job. Think about that: openings at a time
when millions of Americans are looking for work. It's inexcusable, and
we know how to fix it.

Jackie Bray is a single mom from North Carolina who was laid off from
her job as a mechanic. Then Siemens opened a gas turbine factory in
Charlotte and formed a partnership with Central Piedmont Community
College. The company helped the college design courses in laser and
robotics training. It paid Jackie's tuition, then hired her to help
operate their plant.

I want every American looking for work to have the same opportunity as
Jackie did. Join me in a national commitment to train 2 million
Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job. My
administration has already lined up more companies that want to help.
Model partnerships between businesses like Siemens and community
colleges in places like Charlotte and Orlando and Louisville are up and
running. Now you need to give more community colleges the resources
they need to become community career centers, places that teach people
skills that businesses are looking for right now, from data management
to high-tech manufacturing.

And I want to cut through the maze of confusing training programs so
that from now on, people like Jackie have one program, one web site,
and one place to go for all the information and help that they need. It
is time to turn our unemployment system into a reemployment system that
puts people to work.

These reforms will help people get jobs that are open today. But to
prepare for the jobs of tomorrow, our commitment to skills and
education has to start earlier.

For less than 1 percent of what our Nation spends on education each
year, we've convinced nearly every State in the country to raise their
standards for teaching and learning, the first time that's happened in
a generation. But challenges remain, and we know how to solve them.

At a time when other countries are doubling down on education, tight
budgets have forced States to lay off thousands of teachers. We know a
good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over
$250,000. A great teacher can offer an escape from poverty to the child
who dreams beyond his circumstance. Every person in this Chamber can
point to a teacher who changed the trajectory of their lives. Most
teachers work tirelessly, with modest pay, sometimes digging into their
own pocket for school supplies, just to make a difference.

Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them or defending the status quo,
let's offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good
teachers on the job and reward the best ones. And in return, grant
schools flexibility to teach with creativity and passion, to stop
teaching to the test, and to replace teachers who just aren't helping
kids learn. That's a bargain worth making.

We also know that when students don't walk away from their education,
more of them walk the stage to get their diploma. When students are not
allowed to drop out, they do better. So tonight I am proposing that
every State--every State--requires that all students stay in high school
until they graduate or turn 18.

When kids do graduate, the most daunting challenge can be the cost of
college. At a time when Americans owe more in tuition debt than credit
card debt, this Congress needs to stop the interest rates on student
loans from doubling in July.

Extend the tuition tax credit we started that saves millions of middle
class families thousands of dollars and give more young people the
chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of
work-study jobs in the next 5 years.

Of course, it's not enough for us to increase student aid. We can't
just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition; we'll run out of money.
States also need to do their part by making higher education a higher
priority in their budgets. And colleges and universities have to do
their part by working to keep costs down.

Recently, I spoke with a group of college presidents who have done just
that. Some schools redesign courses to help students finish more
quickly. Some use better technology. The point is, it's possible. So
let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can't stop
tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.
Higher education can't be a luxury. It is an economic imperative that
every family in America should be able to afford.

Let's also remember that hundreds of thousands of talented, hard-
working students in this country face another challenge: the fact that
they aren't yet American citizens. Many were brought here as small
children, are American through and through, yet they live every day
with the threat of deportation. Others came more recently, to study
business and science and engineering, but as soon as they get their
degree, we send them home to invent new products and create new jobs
somewhere else. That doesn't make sense.

I believe as strongly as ever that we should take on illegal
immigration. That's why my administration has put more boots on the
border than ever before. That's why there are fewer illegal crossings
than when I took office. The opponents of action are out of excuses. We
should be working on comprehensive immigration reform right now.

But if election-year politics keeps Congress from acting on a
comprehensive plan, let's at least agree to stop expelling responsible
young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses, defend
this country. Send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their
citizenship. I will sign it right away.

You see, an economy built to last is one where we encourage the talent
and ingenuity of every person in this country. That means women should
earn equal pay for equal work. It means we should support everyone
who's willing to work and every risk taker and entrepreneur who aspires
to become the next Steve Jobs.

After all, innovation is what America has always been about. Most new
jobs are created in startups and small businesses. So let's pass an
agenda that helps them succeed. Tear down regulations that prevent
aspiring entrepreneurs from getting the financing to grow. Expand tax
relief to small businesses that are raising wages and creating good
jobs. Both parties agree on these ideas. So put them in a bill and get
it on my desk this year.

Innovation also demands basic research. Today, the discoveries taking
place in our federally financed labs and universities could lead to new
treatments that kill cancer cells, but leave healthy ones untouched,
new lightweight vests for cops and soldiers that can stop any bullet.
Don't gut these investments in our budget. Don't let other countries
win the race for the future. Support the same kind of research and
innovation that led to the computer chip and the Internet, to new
American jobs and new American industries.

And nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made
energy. Over the last 3 years, we've opened millions of new acres for
oil and gas exploration, and tonight I'm directing my administration to
open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas
resources. Right now--right now--American oil production is the highest
that it's been in 8 years. That's right, 8 years. Not only that, last
year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past 16 years.

But with only 2 percent of the world's oil reserves, oil isn't enough.
This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops
every available source of American energy, a strategy that's cleaner,
cheaper, and full of new jobs.

We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years.
And my administration will take every possible action to safely develop
this energy. Experts believe this will support more than 600,000 jobs
by the end of the decade. And I'm requiring all companies that drill
for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. Because
America will develop this resource without putting the health and
safety of our citizens at risk.

The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and
factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don't have to
choose between our environment and our economy. And by the way, it was
public research dollars, over the course of 30 years, that helped
develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale
rock, reminding us that Government support is critical in helping
businesses get new energy ideas off the ground.

Now, what's true for natural gas is just as true for clean energy. In 3
years, our partnership with the private sector has already positioned
America to be the world's leading manufacturer of high-tech batteries.
Because of Federal investments, renewable energy use has nearly doubled,
and thousands of Americans have jobs because of it.

When Bryan Ritterby was laid off from his job making furniture, he said
he worried that at 55 no one would give him a second chance. But he
found work at Energetx, a wind turbine manufacturer in Michigan. Before
the recession, the factory only made luxury yachts. Today, it's hiring
workers like Bryan, who said, "I'm proud to be working in the industry
of the future."

Our experience with shale gas, our experience with natural gas, shows
us that the payoffs on these public investments don't always come right
away. Some technologies don't pan out, some companies fail. But I will
not walk away from the promise of clean energy. I will not walk away
from workers like Bryan. I will not cede the wind or solar or battery
industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same
commitment here.

We've subsidized oil companies for a century. That's long enough. It's
time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that rarely has been
more profitable and double down on a clean energy industry that never
has been more promising. Pass clean energy tax credits. Create these
jobs.

We can also spur energy innovation with new incentives. The differences
in this Chamber may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan
to fight climate change. But there's no reason why Congress shouldn't
at least set a clean energy standard that creates a market for
innovation. So far, you haven't acted. Well, tonight I will. I'm
directing my administration to allow the development of clean energy on
enough public land to power 3 million homes. And I'm proud to announce
that the Department of Defense, working with us, the world's largest
consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean
energy in history, with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a
quarter of a million homes a year.

Of course, the easiest way to save money is to waste less energy. So
here's a proposal: Help manufacturers eliminate energy waste in their
factories and give businesses incentives to upgrade their buildings.
Their energy bills will be a hundred billion dollars lower over the
next decade, and America will have less pollution, more manufacturing,
more jobs for construction workers who need them. Send me a bill that
creates these jobs.

Building this new energy future should be just one part of a broader
agenda to repair America's infrastructure. So much of America needs to
be rebuilt. We've got crumbling roads and bridges, a power grid that
wastes too much energy, an incomplete high-speed broadband network that
prevents a small-business owner in rural America from selling her
products all over the world.

During the Great Depression, America built the Hoover Dam and the
Golden Gate Bridge. After World War II, we connected our States with a
system of highways. Democratic and Republican administrations invested
in great projects that benefited everybody, from the workers who built
them to the businesses that still use them today.

In the next few weeks, I will sign an Executive order clearing away the
redtape that slows down too many construction projects. But you need to
fund these projects. Take the money we're no longer spending at war,
use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some
nation-building right here at home.

There's never been a better time to build, especially since the
construction industry was one of the hardest hit when the housing
bubble burst. Of course, construction workers weren't the only ones who
were hurt. So were millions of innocent Americans who've seen their
home values decline. And while Government can't fix the problem on its
own, responsible homeowners shouldn't have to sit and wait for the
housing market to hit bottom to get some relief.

And that's why I'm sending this Congress a plan that gives every
responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their
mortgage by refinancing at historically low rates. No more redtape. No
more runaround from the banks. A small fee on the largest financial
institutions will ensure that it won't add to the deficit and will give
those banks that were rescued by taxpayers a chance to repay a deficit
of trust.

Let's never forget: Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the
rules every day deserve a Government and a financial system that do the
same. It's time to apply the same rules from top to bottom. No bailouts,
no handouts, and no copouts. An America built to last insists on
responsibility from everybody.

We've all paid the price for lenders who sold mortgages to people who
couldn't afford them and buyers who knew they couldn't afford them.
That's why we need smart regulations to prevent irresponsible behavior.
Rules to prevent financial fraud or toxic dumping or faulty medical
devices, these don't destroy the free market. They make the free market
work better.

There's no question that some regulations are outdated, unnecessary, or
too costly. In fact, I've approved fewer regulations in the first 3
years of my Presidency than my Republican predecessor did in his. I've
ordered every Federal agency to eliminate rules that don't make sense.
We've already announced over 500 reforms, and just a fraction of them
will save business and citizens more than $10 billion over the next 5
years. We got rid of one rule from 40 years ago that could have forced
some dairy farmers to spend $10,000 a year proving that they could
contain a spill, because milk was somehow classified as an oil. With a
rule like that, I guess it was worth crying over spilled milk.
[Laughter]

Now, I'm confident a farmer can contain a milk spill without a Federal
agency looking over his shoulder. Absolutely. But I will not back down
from making sure an oil company can contain the kind of oil spill we
saw in the Gulf 2 years ago. I will not back down from protecting our
kids from mercury poisoning or making sure that our food is safe and
our water is clean. I will not go back to the days when health
insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny
your coverage, or charge women differently than men.

And I will not go back to the days when Wall Street was allowed to play
by its own set of rules. The new rules we passed restore what should be
any financial system's core purpose: getting funding to entrepreneurs
with the best ideas and getting loans to responsible families who want
to buy a home or start a business or send their kids to college.

So if you are a big bank or financial institution, you're no longer
allowed to make risky bets with your customers' deposits. You're
required to write out a "living will" that details exactly how you'll
pay the bills if you fail, because the rest of us are not bailing you
out ever again. And if you're a mortgage lender or a payday lender or a
credit card company, the days of signing people up for products they
can't afford with confusing forms and deceptive practices, those days
are over. Today, American consumers finally have a watchdog in Richard
Cordray, with one job: to look out for them.

We'll also establish a financial crimes unit of highly trained
investigators to crack down on large-scale fraud and protect people's
investments. Some financial firms violate major antifraud laws because
there's no real penalty for being a repeat offender. That's bad for
consumers, and it's bad for the vast majority of bankers and financial
service professionals who do the right thing. So pass legislation that
makes the penalties for fraud count.

And tonight I'm asking my Attorney General to create a special unit of
Federal prosecutors and leading State attorney general to expand our
investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky
mortgages that led to the housing crisis. This new unit will hold
accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners,
and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many
Americans.

Now, a return to the American values of fair play and shared
responsibility will help protect our people and our economy. But it
should also guide us as we look to pay down our debt and invest in our
future.

Right now our most immediate priority is stopping a tax hike on a
hundred and sixty million working Americans while the recovery is still
fragile. People cannot afford losing $40 out of each paycheck this year.
There are plenty of ways to get this done. So let's agree right here,
right now. No side issues. No drama. Pass the payroll tax cut without
delay. Let's get it done.

When it comes to the deficit, we've already agreed to more than $2
trillion in cuts and savings. But we need to do more, and that means
making choices. Right now we're poised to spend nearly $1 trillion more
on what was supposed to be a temporary tax break for the wealthiest 2
percent of Americans. Right now because of loopholes and shelters in
the Tax Code, a quarter of all millionaires pay lower tax rates than
millions of middle class households. Right now Warren Buffett pays a
lower tax rate than his secretary.

Do we want to keep these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans? Or do
we want to keep our investments in everything else, like education and
medical research, a strong military and care for our veterans? Because
if we're serious about paying down our debt, we can't do both.

The American people know what the right choice is. So do I. As I told
the Speaker this summer, I'm prepared to make more reforms that rein in
the long-term costs of Medicare and Medicaid and strengthen Social
Security, so long as those programs remain a guarantee of security for
seniors. But in return, we need to change our Tax Code so that people
like me, and an awful lot of Members of Congress, pay our fair share of
taxes.

Tax reform should follow the Buffett rule. If you make more than a
million dollars a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in
taxes. And my Republican friend Tom Coburn is right: Washington should
stop subsidizing millionaires. In fact, if you're earning a million
dollars a year, you shouldn't get special tax subsidies or deductions.
On the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year, like 98 percent
of American families, your taxes shouldn't go up. You're the ones
struggling with rising costs and stagnant wages. You're the ones who
need relief.

Now, you can call this class warfare all you want. But asking a
billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most
Americans would call that common sense.

We don't begrudge financial success in this country. We admire it. When
Americans talk about folks like me paying my fair share of taxes, it's
not because they envy the rich. It's because they understand that when
I get a tax break I don't need and the country can't afford, it either
adds to the deficit or somebody else has to make up the difference,
like a senior on a fixed income or a student trying to get through
school or a family trying to make ends meet. That's not right.
Americans know that's not right. They know that this generation's
success is only possible because past generations felt a responsibility
to each other and to the future of their country, and they know our way
of life will only endure if we feel that same sense of shared
responsibility. That's how we'll reduce our deficit. That's an America
built to last.

Now, I recognize that people watching tonight have differing views
about taxes and debt, energy and health care. But no matter what party
they belong to, I bet most Americans are thinking the same thing right
about now: Nothing will get done in Washington this year or next year
or maybe even the year after that, because Washington is broken.

Can you blame them for feeling a little cynical?

The greatest blow to our confidence in our economy last year didn't
come from events beyond our control. It came from a debate in
Washington over whether the United States would pay its bills or not.
Who benefited from that fiasco?

I've talked tonight about the deficit of trust between Main Street and
Wall Street. But the divide between this city and the rest of the
country is at least as bad, and it seems to get worse every year.

Now, some of this has to do with the corrosive influence of money in
politics. So together, let's take some steps to fix that. Send me a
bill that bans insider trading by Members of Congress. I will sign it
tomorrow. Let's limit any elected official from owning stocks in
industries they impact. Let's make sure people who bundle campaign
contributions for Congress can't lobby Congress and vice versa, an idea
that has bipartisan support, at least outside of Washington.

Some of what's broken has to do with the way Congress does its business
these days. A simple majority is no longer enough to get anything--even
routine business--passed through the Senate. Neither party has been
blameless in these tactics. Now both parties should put an end to it.
For starters, I ask the Senate to pass a simple rule that all judicial
and public service nominations receive a simple up-or-down vote within
90 days.

The executive branch also needs to change. Too often, it's inefficient,
outdated, and remote. That's why I've asked this Congress to grant me
the authority to consolidate the Federal bureaucracy so that our
Government is leaner, quicker, and more responsive to the needs of the
American people.

Finally, none of this can happen unless we also lower the temperature
in this town. We need to end the notion that the two parties must be
locked in a perpetual campaign of mutual destruction, that politics is
about clinging to rigid ideologies instead of building consensus around
commonsense ideas.

I'm a Democrat, but I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed:
That Government should do for people only what they cannot do better by
themselves and no more. That's why my education reform offers more
competition and more control for schools and States. That's why we're
getting rid of regulations that don't work. That's why our health care
law relies on a reformed private market, not a Government program.

On the other hand, even my Republican friends who complain the most
about Government spending have supported federally financed roads and
clean energy projects and Federal offices for the folks back home.

The point is, we should all want a smarter, more effective Government.
And while we may not be able to bridge our biggest philosophical
differences this year, we can make real progress. With or without this
Congress, I will keep taking actions that help the economy grow. But I
can do a whole lot more with your help. Because when we act together,
there's nothing the United States of America can't achieve.

That's the lesson we've learned from our actions abroad over the last
few years. Ending the Iraq war has allowed us to strike decisive blows
against our enemies. From Pakistan to Yemen, the Al Qaida operatives
who remain are scrambling, knowing that they can't escape the reach of
the United States of America.

From this position of strength, we've begun to wind down the war in
Afghanistan. Ten thousand of our troops have come home. Twenty-three
thousand more will leave by the end of this summer. This transition to
Afghan lead will continue, and we will build an enduring partnership
with Afghanistan so that it is never again a source of attacks against
America.

As the tide of war recedes, a wave of change has washed across the
Middle East and North Africa, from Tunis to Cairo, from Sana'a to
Tripoli. A year ago, Qadhafi was one of the world's longest serving
dictators, a murderer with American blood on his hands. Today, he is
gone. And in Syria, I have no doubt that the Asad regime will soon
discover that the forces of change cannot be reversed and that human
dignity cannot be denied.

How this incredible transformation will end remains uncertain. But we
have a huge stake in the outcome. And while it's ultimately up to the
people of the region to decide their fate, we will advocate for those
values that have served our own country so well. We will stand against
violence and intimidation. We will stand for the rights and dignity of
all human beings: men and women; Christians, Muslims, and Jews. We will
support policies that lead to strong and stable democracies and open
markets, because tyranny is no match for liberty.

And we will safeguard America's own security against those who threaten
our citizens, our friends, and our interests. Look at Iran. Through the
power of our diplomacy, a world that was once divided about how to deal
with Iran's nuclear program now stands as one. The regime is more
isolated than ever before. Its leaders are faced with crippling
sanctions, and as long as they shirk their responsibilities, this
pressure will not relent.

Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from
getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to
achieve that goal. But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still
possible, and far better. And if Iran changes course and meets its
obligations, it can rejoin the community of nations.

The renewal of American leadership can be felt across the globe. Our
oldest alliances in Europe and Asia are stronger than ever. Our ties to
the Americas are deeper. Our ironclad commitment--and I mean ironclad--to
Israel's security has meant the closest military cooperation between
our two countries in history.

We've made it clear that America is a Pacific power, and a new
beginning in Burma has lit a new hope. From the coalitions we've built
to secure nuclear materials, to the missions we've led against hunger
and disease, from the blows we've dealt to our enemies, to the enduring
power of our moral example, America is back.

Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in
decline or that our influence has waned, doesn't know what they're
talking about. That's not the message we get from leaders around the
world who are eager to work with us. That's not how people feel from
Tokyo to Berlin, from Cape Town to Rio, where opinions of America are
higher than they've been in years. Yes, the world is changing. No, we
can't control every event. But America remains the one indispensable
nation in world affairs, and as long as I'm President, I intend to keep
it that way.

That's why, working with our military leaders, I've proposed a new
defense strategy that ensures we maintain the finest military in the
world, while saving nearly half a trillion dollars in our budget. To
stay one step ahead of our adversaries, I've already sent this Congress
legislation that will secure our country from the growing dangers of
cyber threats.

Above all, our freedom endures because of the men and women in uniform
who defend it. As they come home, we must serve them as well as they've
served us. That includes giving them the care and the benefits they
have earned, which is why we've increased annual VA spending every year
I've been President. And it means enlisting our veterans in the work of
rebuilding our Nation.

With the bipartisan support of this Congress, we're providing new tax
credits to companies that hire vets. Michelle and Jill Biden have
worked with American businesses to secure a pledge of 135,000 jobs for
veterans and their families. And tonight I'm proposing a veterans jobs
corps that will help our communities hire veterans as cops and
firefighters, so that America is as strong as those who defend her.

Which brings me back to where I began. Those of us who've been sent
here to serve can learn a thing or two from the service of our troops.
When you put on that uniform, it doesn't matter if you're Black or
White, Asian, Latino, Native American; conservative, liberal; rich,
poor; gay, straight. When you're marching into battle, you look out for
the person next to you or the mission fails. When you're in the thick
of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one nation, leaving
no one behind.

You know, one of my proudest possessions is the flag that the SEAL team
took with them on the mission to get bin Laden. On it are each of their
names. Some may be Democrats, some may be Republicans, but that doesn't
matter. Just like it didn't matter that day in the Situation Room, when
I sat next to Bob Gates, a man who was George Bush's Defense Secretary,
and Hillary Clinton, a woman who ran against me for President.

All that mattered that day was the mission. No one thought about
politics. No one thought about themselves. One of the young men
involved in the raid later told me that he didn't deserve credit for
the mission. It only succeeded, he said, because every single member of
that unit did their job: the pilot who landed the helicopter that spun
out of control, the translator who kept others from entering the
compound, the troops who separated the women and children from the
fight, the SEALs who charged up the stairs. More than that, the mission
only succeeded because every member of that unit trusted each other,
because you can't charge up those stairs into darkness and danger
unless you know that there's somebody behind you, watching your back.

So it is with America. Each time I look at that flag, I'm reminded that
our destiny is stitched together like those 50 stars and those 13
stripes. No one built this country on their own. This Nation is great
because we built it together. This Nation is great because we worked as
a team. This Nation is great because we get each other's backs. And if
we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no
challenge too great, no mission too hard. As long as we are joined in
common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey
moves forward, and our future is hopeful, and the state of our Union
will always be strong.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.


***


Address Before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union
Barack Obama
February 12, 2013


Please, everybody, have a seat. Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President,
Members of Congress, fellow Americans: Fifty-one years ago, John F.
Kennedy declared to this Chamber that "the Constitution makes us not
rivals for power, but partners for progress." "It is my task," he said,
"to report the state of the Union; to improve it is the task of us
all."

Tonight, thanks to the grit and determination of the American people,
there is much progress to report. After a decade of grinding war, our
brave men and women in uniform are coming home. After years of grueling
recession, our businesses have created over 6 million new jobs. We buy
more American cars than we have in 5 years and less foreign oil than we
have in 20. Our housing market is healing, our stock market is
rebounding, and consumers, patients, and homeowners enjoy stronger
protections than ever before.

So together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and we can say
with renewed confidence that the state of our Union is stronger.

But we gather here knowing that there are millions of Americans whose
hard work and dedication have not yet been rewarded. Our economy is
adding jobs, but too many people still can't find full-time employment.
Corporate profits have skyrocketed to alltime highs, but for more than
a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged.

It is our generation's task, then, to reignite the true engine of
America's economic growth: a rising, thriving middle class.

It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this
country: the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities,
you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, no matter what you
look like or who you love.

It is our unfinished task to make sure that this Government works on
behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free
enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of
opportunity to every child across this great Nation.

The American people don't expect government to solve every problem.
They don't expect those of us in this Chamber to agree on every issue.
But they do expect us to put the Nation's interests before party. They
do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can. For they know
that America moves forward only when we do so together and that the
responsibility of improving this Union remains the task of us all.

Now, our work must begin by making some basic decisions about our
budget, decisions that will have a huge impact on the strength of our
recovery.

Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce
the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion, mostly through spending cuts,
but also by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.
As a result, we are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion
in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our
finances.

Now we need to finish the job. And the question is, how?

In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn't
agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars'
worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year.
These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military
readiness. They'd devastate priorities like education and energy and
medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery and cost us
hundreds of thousands of jobs. And that's why Democrats, Republicans,
business leaders, and economists have already said that these cuts--
known here in Washington as the sequester--are a really bad idea.

Now, some in Congress have proposed preventing only the defense cuts by
making even bigger cuts to things like education and job training,
Medicare, and Social Security benefits. That idea is even worse.

Yes, the biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost of
health care for an aging population. And those of us who care deeply
about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms;
otherwise, our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we
need for our children and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement
for future generations.

But we can't ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the
entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the
wealthiest and the most powerful. We won't grow the middle class simply
by shifting the cost of health care or college onto families that are
already struggling or by forcing communities to lay off more teachers
and more cops and more firefighters. Most Americans--Democrats,
Republicans, and Independents--understand that we can't just cut our way
to prosperity. They know that broad-based economic growth requires a
balanced approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue
and with everybody doing their fair share. And that's the approach I
offer tonight.

On Medicare, I'm prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same
amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as
the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Commission.

Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of
health care costs. And the reforms I'm proposing go even further. We'll
reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more
from the wealthiest seniors. We'll bring down costs by changing the way
our Government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn't
be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital;
they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive.
And I am open to additional reforms from both parties, so long as they
don't violate the guarantee of a secure retirement. Our Government
shouldn't make promises we cannot keep, but we must keep the promises
we've already made.

To hit the rest of our deficit reduction target, we should do what
leaders in both parties have already suggested and save hundreds of
billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for
the well-off and the well-connected. After all, why would we choose to
make deeper cuts to education and Medicare just to protect special
interest tax breaks? How is that fair? Why is it that deficit reduction
is a big emergency justifying making cuts in Social Security benefits,
but not closing some loopholes? How does that promote growth?

Now is our best chance for bipartisan, comprehensive tax reform that
encourages job creation and helps bring down the deficit. We can get
this done. The American people deserve a Tax Code that helps small
businesses spend less time filling out complicated forms and more time
expanding and hiring; a Tax Code that ensures billionaires with high-
powered accountants can't work the system and pay a lower rate than
their hard-working secretaries; a Tax Code that lowers incentives to
move jobs overseas and lowers tax rates for businesses and
manufacturers that are creating jobs right here in the United States of
America. That's what tax reform can deliver. That's what we can do
together.

I realize that tax reform and entitlement reform will not be easy. The
politics will be hard for both sides. None of us will get a hundred
percent of what we want. But the alternative will cost us jobs, hurt
our economy, visit hardship on millions of hard-working Americans. So
let's set party interests aside and work to pass a budget that replaces
reckless cuts with smart savings and wise investments in our future.
And let's do it without the brinksmanship that stresses consumers and
scares off investors. The greatest nation on Earth cannot keep
conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the
next. We can't do it.

Let's agree right here, right now to keep the people's Government open
and pay our bills on time and always uphold the full faith and credit
of the United States of America. The American people have worked too
hard, for too long, rebuilding from one crisis to see their elected
officials cause another.

Now, most of us agree that a plan to reduce the deficit must be part of
our agenda. But let's be clear: Deficit reduction alone is not an
economic plan. A growing economy that creates good, middle class jobs,
that must be the north star that guides our efforts. Every day, we
should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract
more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills
they need to get those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work
leads to a decent living?

Now, a year and a half ago, I put forward an American Jobs Act that
independent economists said would create more than 1 million new jobs.
And I thank the last Congress for passing some of that agenda. I urge
this Congress to pass the rest. But tonight I'll lay out additional
proposals that are fully paid for and fully consistent with the budget
framework both parties agreed to just 18 months ago. Let me repeat:
Nothing I'm proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single
dime. It is not a bigger Government we need, but a smarter Government
that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth. That's what we
should be looking for.

Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and
manufacturing. After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our
manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past 3.
Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan. Ford is bringing jobs
back from Mexico. And this year, Apple will start making Macs in
America again.

There are things we can do right now to accelerate this trend. Last
year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in
Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the-art
lab where new workers are mastering the 3-D printing that has the
potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. There's
no reason this can't happen in other towns.

So tonight I'm announcing the launch of three more of these
manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Department
of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into
global centers of high-tech jobs. And I ask this Congress to help
create a network of 15 of these hubs and guarantee that the next
revolution in manufacturing is made right here in America. We can get
that done.

Now, if we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in
the best ideas. Every dollar we invested to map the human genome
returned $140 to our economy--every dollar. Today, our scientists are
mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer's. They're
developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs, devising new materials
to make batteries 10 times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut
these job-creating investments in science and innovation, now is the
time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the
height of the space race. We need to make those investments.

Today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American
energy. After years of talking about it, we're finally poised to
control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have
in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon
of gas and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like
wind and solar, with tens of thousands of good American jobs to show
for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before, and nearly
everyone's energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last 4
years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens
our planet have actually fallen.

But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to
combat climate change. Now, it's true that no single event makes a
trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in
the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods--all are now more
frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm
Sandy and the most severe drought in decades and the worst wildfires
some States have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can
choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science and act
before it's too late.

Now, the good news is we can make meaningful progress on this issue
while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to get
together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change,
like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few
years ago. But if Congress won't act soon to protect future generations,
I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we
can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our
communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the
transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

And 4 years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and
the jobs that came with it. And we've begun to change that. Last year,
wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So
let's generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year; let's
drive down costs even further. As long as countries like China keep
going all in on clean energy, so must we.

Now, in the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and
greater energy independence. We need to encourage that. And that's why
my administration will keep cutting redtape and speeding up new oil and
gas permits. That's got to be part of an all-of-the-above plan. But I
also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and
technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our
air and our water.

In fact, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters
that we, the public, own together. So tonight I propose we use some of
our oil and gas revenues to fund an energy security trust that will
drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil
for good. If a nonpartisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and
admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we. Let's take their
advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in
gas prices we've put up with for far too long.

I'm also issuing a new goal for America: Let's cut in half the energy
wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20 years. We'll work
with the States to do it. Those States with the best ideas to create
jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings
will receive Federal support to help make that happen.

America's energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure
badly in need of repair. Ask any CEO where they'd rather locate and
hire, a country with deteriorating roads and bridges or one with high-
speed rail and Internet, high-tech schools, self-healing power grids.
The CEO of Siemens America--a company that brought hundreds of new jobs
to North Carolina--said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they'll
bring even more jobs. And that's the attitude of a lot of companies all
around the world. And I know you want these job-creating projects in
your district. I've seen all those ribbon-cuttings. [Laughter]

So tonight I propose a Fix-It-First program to put people to work as
soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000
structurally deficient bridges across the country. And to make sure
taxpayers don't shoulder the whole burden, I'm also proposing a
partnership to rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade
what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods, modern
pipelines to withstand a storm, modern schools worthy of our children.
Let's prove there's no better place to do business than here in the
United States of America, and let's start right away. We can get this
done.

And part of our rebuilding effort must also involve our housing sector.
The good news is, our housing market is finally healing from the
collapse of 2007. Home prices are rising at the fastest pace in 6 years.
Home purchases are up nearly 50 percent, and construction is expanding
again.

But even with mortgage rates near a 50-year low, too many families with
solid credit who want to buy a home are being rejected. Too many
families who never missed a payment and want to refinance are being
told no. That's holding our entire economy back. We need to fix it.

Right now there's a bill in this Congress that would give every
responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by
refinancing at today's rates. Democrats and Republicans have supported
it before, so what are we waiting for? Take a vote and send me that
bill. Why are--why would we be against that? Why would that be a
partisan issue, helping folks refinance? Right now overlapping
regulations keep responsible young families from buying their first
home. What's holding us back? Let's streamline the process and help our
economy grow.

These initiatives in manufacturing, energy, infrastructure, housing,
all these things will help entrepreneurs and small-business owners
expand and create new jobs. But none of it will matter unless we also
equip our citizens with the skills and training to fill those jobs.

And that has to start at the earliest possible age. Study after study
shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she
does down the road. But today, fewer than 3 in 10 4-year-olds are
enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Most middle class parents
can't afford a few hundred bucks a week for a private preschool. And
for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool
education can shadow them for the rest of their lives. So tonight I
propose working with States to make high-quality preschool available to
every single child in America. That's something we should be able to do.

Every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood education can
save more than 7 dollars later on: by boosting graduation rates,
reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. In States that
make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or
Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math
at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable
families of their own. We know this works. So let's do what works and
make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.
Let's give our kids that chance.

Let's also make sure that a high school diploma puts our kids on a path
to a good job. Right now countries like Germany focus on graduating
their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree
from one of our community colleges. So those German kids, they're ready
for a job when they graduate high school. They've been trained for the
jobs that are there. Now at schools like P-TECH in Brooklyn, a
collaboration between New York Public Schools and City University of
New York and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and
an associate's degree in computers or engineering. We need to give
every American student opportunities like this.

And 4 years ago, we started Race to the Top, a competition that
convinced almost every State to develop smarter curricula and higher
standards, all for about 1 percent of what we spend on education each
year. Tonight I'm announcing a new challenge to redesign America's high
schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech
economy. And we'll reward schools that develop new partnerships with
colleges and employers and create classes that focus on science,
technology, engineering, and math: the skills today's employers are
looking for to fill the jobs that are there right now and will be there
in the future.

Now, even with better high schools, most young people will need some
higher education. It's a simple fact: The more education you've got,
the more likely you are to have a good job and work your way into the
middle class. But today, skyrocketing costs price too many young people
out of a higher education or saddle them with unsustainable debt.

Through tax credits, grants, and better loans, we've made college more
affordable for millions of students and families over the last few
years. But taxpayers can't keep on subsidizing higher and higher and
higher costs for higher education. Colleges must do their part to keep
costs down, and it's our job to make sure that they do.

So tonight I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act so that
affordability and value are included in determining which colleges
receive certain types of Federal aid. And tomorrow my administration
will release a new college scorecard that parents and students can use
to compare schools based on a simple criterion: where you can get the
most bang for your educational buck.

Now, to grow our middle class, our citizens have to have access to the
education and training that today's jobs require. But we also have to
make sure that America remains a place where everyone who's willing to
work--everybody who's willing to work hard--has the chance to get ahead.

Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of
striving, hopeful immigrants. And right now leaders from the business,
labor, law enforcement, faith communities, they all agree that the time
has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Now is the time to
do it. Now is the time to get it done. [Applause] Now is the time to
get it done.

Real reform means stronger border security, and we can build on the
progress my administration has already made: putting more boots on the
southern border than at any time in our history and reducing illegal
crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.

Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned
citizenship, a path that includes passing a background check, paying
taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back
of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.

And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut
waiting periods and attract the highly skilled entrepreneurs and
engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy.

In other words, we know what needs to be done. And as we speak,
bipartisan groups in both Chambers are working diligently to draft a
bill, and I applaud their efforts. So let's get this done. Send me a
comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I
will sign it right away. And America will be better for it. Let's get
it done. [Applause] Let's get it done.

But we can't stop there. We know our economy is stronger when our wives,
our mothers, our daughters can live their lives free from
discrimination in the workplace and free from the fear of domestic
violence. Today the Senate passed the "Violence Against Women's Act"
that Joe Biden originally wrote almost 20 years ago. And I now urge the
House to do the same. Good job, Joe. And I ask this Congress to declare
that women should earn a living equal to their efforts, and finally
pass the "Paycheck Fairness Act" this year.

We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day's work
with honest wages. But today, a full-time worker making the minimum
wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we put in place, a
family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the
poverty line. That's wrong. That's why, since the last time this
Congress raised the minimum wage, 19 States have chosen to bump theirs
even higher.

Tonight let's declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one
who works full-time should have to live in poverty and raise the
Federal minimum wage to $9 an hour. We should be able to get that done.

This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working
families. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food
bank, rent or eviction, scraping by or finally getting ahead. For
businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money
in their pockets. And a whole lot of folks out there would probably
need less help from government. In fact, working folks shouldn't have
to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has
never been higher. So here's an idea that Governor Romney and I
actually agreed on last year: Let's tie the minimum wage to the cost of
living so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.

Tonight let's also recognize that there are communities in this country
where no matter how hard you work, it is virtually impossible to get
ahead: factory towns decimated from years of plants packing up;
inescapable pockets of poverty, urban and rural, where young adults are
still fighting for their first job. America is not a place where the
chance of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny. And that's
why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class
for all who are willing to climb them.

Let's offer incentives to companies that hire Americans who've got what
it takes to fill that job opening, but have been out of work so long
that no one will give them a chance anymore. Let's put people back to
work rebuilding vacant homes in rundown neighborhoods. And this year,
my administration will begin to partner with 20 of the hardest hit
towns in America to get these communities back on their feet. Now,
we'll work with local leaders to target resources at public safety and
education and housing.

We'll give new tax credits to businesses that hire and invest. And
we'll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents
to marriage for low-income couples and do more to encourage fatherhood,
because what makes you a man isn't the ability to conceive a child,
it's having the courage to raise one. And we want to encourage that. We
want to help that.

Stronger families. Stronger communities. A stronger America. It is this
kind of prosperity--broad, shared, built on a thriving middle class--that
has always been the source of our progress at home. It's also the
foundation of our power and influence throughout the world.

Tonight we stand united in saluting the troops and civilians who
sacrifice every day to protect us. Because of them, we can say with
confidence that America will complete its mission in Afghanistan and
achieve our objective of defeating the core of Al Qaida.

Already, we have brought home 33,000 of our brave service men and women.
This spring, our forces will move into a support role, while Afghan
security forces take the lead. Tonight I can announce that over the
next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from
Afghanistan. This drawdown will continue, and by the end of next year,
our war in Afghanistan will be over.

Beyond 2014, America's commitment to a unified and sovereign
Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of our commitment will change.
We're negotiating an agreement with the Afghan Government that focuses
on two missions: training and equipping Afghan forces so that the
country does not again slip into chaos and counterterrorism efforts
that allow us to pursue the remnants of Al Qaida and their affiliates.

Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its
former self. It's true, different Al Qaida affiliates and extremist
groups have emerged, from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa. The threat
these groups pose is evolving. But to meet this threat, we don't need
to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad or occupy
other nations. Instead, we'll need to help countries like Yemen and
Libya and Somalia provide for their own security and help allies who
take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali. And where necessary,
through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action
against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.

Now, as we do, we must enlist our values in the fight. That's why my
administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and
policy framework to guide our counterterrorism efforts. Throughout, we
have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts. I recognize that in
our democracy, no one should just take my word for it that we're doing
things the right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to
engage Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and
prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system
of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent
to the American people and to the world.

Of course, our challenges don't end with Al Qaida. America will
continue to lead the effort to prevent the spread of the world's most
dangerous weapons. The regime in North Korea must know they will only
achieve security and prosperity by meeting their international
obligations. Provocations of the sort we saw last night will only
further isolate them, as we stand by our allies, strengthen our own
missile defense, and lead the world in taking firm action in response
to these threats.

Likewise, the leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time for a
diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding
that they meet their obligations, and we will do what is necessary to
prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon.

At the same time, we'll engage Russia to seek further reductions in our
nuclear arsenals and continue leading the global effort to secure
nuclear materials that could fall into the wrong hands, because our
ability to influence others depends on our willingness to lead and meet
our obligations.

America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber attacks.
Now, we know hackers steal people's identities and infiltrate private
e-mails. We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate
secrets. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our
power grid, our financial institutions, our air traffic control systems.
We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the
face of real threats to our security and our economy.

And that's why, earlier today, I signed a new Executive order that will
strengthen our cyber defenses by increasing information sharing and
developing standards to protect our national security, our jobs, and
our privacy.

But now Congress must act as well, by passing legislation to give our
Government a greater capacity to secure our networks and deter attacks.
This is something we should be able to get done on a bipartisan basis.

Now, even as we protect our people, we should remember that today's
world presents not just dangers, not just threats, it presents
opportunities. To boost American exports, support American jobs and
level the playing field in the growing markets of Asia, we intend to
complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership. And tonight I'm
announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive transatlantic
trade and investment partnership with the European Union, because trade
that is fair and free across the Atlantic supports millions of good-
paying American jobs.

We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world
enriches us all, not only because it creates new markets, more stable
order in certain regions of the world, but also because it's the right
thing to do. In many places, people live on little more than a dollar a
day. So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such
extreme poverty in the next two decades by connecting more people to
the global economy, by empowering women, by giving our young and
brightest minds new opportunities to serve and helping communities to
feed and power and educate themselves, by saving the world's children
from preventable deaths, and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free
generation, which is within our reach.

You see, America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom during
this period of historic change. I saw the power of hope last year in
Rangoon, in Burma, when Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed an American President
into the home where she had been imprisoned for years; when thousands
of Burmese lined the streets, waving American flags, including a man
who said: "There is justice and law in the United States. I want our
country to be like that."

In defense of freedom, we'll remain the anchor of strong alliances from
the Americas to Africa, from Europe to Asia. In the Middle East, we
will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights and
support stable transitions to democracy.

We know the process will be messy, and we cannot presume to dictate the
course of change in countries like Egypt, but we can and will insist on
respect for the fundamental rights of all people. We'll keep the
pressure on a Syrian regime that has murdered its own people and
support opposition leaders that respect the rights of every Syrian. And
we will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a
lasting peace.

These are the messages I'll deliver when I travel to the Middle East
next month. And all this work depends on the courage and sacrifice of
those who serve in dangerous places at great personal risk: our
diplomats, our intelligence officers, and the men and women of the
United States Armed Forces. As long as I'm Commander in Chief, we will
do whatever we must to protect those who serve their country abroad,
and we will maintain the best military the world has ever known.

We'll invest in new capabilities, even as we reduce waste and wartime
spending. We will ensure equal treatment for all servicemembers and
equal benefits for their families, gay and straight. We will draw upon
the courage and skills of our sisters and daughters and moms, because
women have proven under fire that they are ready for combat.

We will keep faith with our veterans, investing in world-class care--
including mental health care--for our wounded warriors, supporting our
military families, giving our veterans the benefits and education and
job opportunities that they have earned. And I want to thank my wife
Michelle and Dr. Jill Biden for their continued dedication to serving
our military families as well as they have served us. Thank you, honey.
Thank you, Jill.

Defending our freedom, though, is not just the job of our military
alone. We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are
protected here at home. That includes one of the most fundamental
rights of a democracy: the right to vote. Now, when any American, no
matter where they live or what their party, are denied that right
because they can't afford to wait for 5 or 6 or 7 hours just to cast
their ballot, we are betraying our ideals.

So tonight I'm announcing a nonpartisan commission to improve the
voting experience in America. And it definitely needs improvement. I'm
asking two long-time experts in the field--who, by the way, recently
served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney's
campaign--to lead it. We can fix this, and we will. The American people
demand it, and so does our democracy.

Of course, what I've said tonight matters little if we don't come
together to protect our most precious resource: our children. It has
been 2 months since Newtown. I know this is not the first time this
country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is
different. Overwhelming majorities of Americans--Americans who believe
in the Second Amendment--have come together around commonsense reform,
like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get
their hands on a gun. Senators of both parties are working together on
tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to
criminals. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and
massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because these police
chiefs, they're tired of seeing their guys and gals being outgunned.

Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. Now, if you want
to vote no, that's your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote.
Because in the 2 months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays,
graduations, anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet
from a gun--more than a thousand.

One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton. She was
15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette.
She was so good to her friends, they all thought they were her best
friend. Just 3 weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her
classmates, performing for her country at my Inauguration. And a week
later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a
mile away from my house.

Hadiya's parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this Chamber tonight, along
with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by
gun violence. They deserve a vote. They deserve a vote. [Applause] They
deserve a vote. Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown
deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of
Oak Creek and Tucson and Blacksburg, and the countless other
communities ripped open by gun violence, they deserve a simple vote.
They deserve a simple vote.

Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this
country. In fact, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will
perfectly solve all the challenges I've outlined tonight. But we were
never sent here to be perfect. We were sent here to make what
difference we can, to secure this Nation, expand opportunity, uphold
our ideals through the hard, often frustrating, but absolutely
necessary work of self-government.

We were sent here to look out for our fellow Americans the same way
they look out for one another, every single day, usually without
fanfare, all across this country. We should follow their example.

We should follow the example of a New York City nurse named Menchu
Sanchez. When Hurricane Sandy plunged her hospital into darkness, she
wasn't thinking about how her own home was faring. Her mind was on the
20 precious newborns in her care and the rescue plan she devised that
kept them all safe.

We should follow the example of a North Miami woman named Desiline
Victor. When Desiline arrived at her polling place, she was told the
wait to vote might be 6 hours. And as time ticked by, her concern was
not with her tired body or aching feet, but whether folks like her
would get to have their say. And hour after hour, a throng of people
stayed in line to support her, because Desiline is 102 years old. And
they erupted in cheers when she finally put on a sticker that read, "I
voted." [Applause] There's Desiline.

We should follow the example of a police officer named Brian Murphy.
When a gunman opened fire on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and Brian was
the first to arrive--and he did not consider his own safety. He fought
back until help arrived and ordered his fellow officers to protect the
safety of the Americans worshiping inside, even as he lay bleeding from
12 bullet wounds. And when asked how he did that, Brian said, "That's
just the way we're made."

That's just the way we're made. We may do different jobs and wear
different uniforms and hold different views than the person beside us.
But as Americans, we all share the same proud title: We are citizens.
It's a word that doesn't just describe our nationality or legal status.
It describes the way we're made. It describes what we believe. It
captures the enduring idea that this country only works when we accept
certain obligations to one another and to future generations; that our
rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well into our
third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens
of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter of
our American story.

Thank you. God bless you, and God bless these United States of America.


***


Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress on the State of the Union
Barack Obama
January 28, 2014


The President. Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my
fellow Americans: Today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a
student who needed it and did her part to lift America's graduation
rate to its highest levels in more than three decades. An entrepreneur
flipped on the lights in her tech startup and did her part to add to
the more than 8 million new jobs our businesses have created over the
past 4 years. An autoworker fine-tuned some of the best, most fuel-
efficient cars in the world and did his part to help America wean
itself off foreign oil.

A farmer prepared for the spring after the strongest 5-year stretch of
farm exports in our history. A rural doctor gave a young child the
first prescription to treat asthma that his mother could afford. A man
took the bus home from the graveyard shift, bone-tired, but dreaming
big dreams for his son. And in tight-knit communities all across
America, fathers and mothers will tuck in their kids, put an arm around
their spouse, remember fallen comrades, and give thanks for being home
from a war that after 12 long years is finally coming to an end.

Tonight this Chamber speaks with one voice to the people we represent:
It is you, our citizens, who make the state of our Union strong.

And here are the results of your efforts: the lowest unemployment rate
in over 5 years; a rebounding housing market; a manufacturing sector
that's adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s; more oil
produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world, the first time
that's happened in nearly 20 years; our deficits cut by more than half.
And for the first time in over a decade, business leaders around the
world have declared that China is no longer the world's number-one
place to invest, America is.

That's why I believe this can be a breakthrough year for America. After
5 years of grit and determined effort, the United States is better
positioned for the 21st century than any other nation on Earth.

The question for everyone in this Chamber, running through every
decision we make this year, is whether we are going to help or hinder
this progress. For several years now, this town has been consumed by a
rancorous argument over the proper size of the Federal Government. It's
an important debate, one that dates back to our very founding. But when
that debate prevents us from carrying out even the most basic functions
of our democracy--when our differences shut down Government or threaten
the full faith and credit of the United States--then we are not doing
right by the American people.

Now, as President, I'm committed to making Washington work better and
rebuilding the trust of the people who sent us here. And I believe most
of you are too. Last month, thanks to the work of Democrats and
Republicans, Congress finally produced a budget that undoes some of
last year's severe cuts to priorities like education. Nobody got
everything they wanted, and we can still do more to invest in this
country's future while bringing down our deficit in a balanced way, but
the budget compromise should leave us freer to focus on creating new
jobs, not creating new crises.

And in the coming months, let's see where else we can make progress
together. Let's make this a year of action. That's what most Americans
want: for all of us in this Chamber to focus on their lives, their
hopes, their aspirations. And what I believe unites the people of this
Nation--regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or
poor--is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all: the notion
that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead in
America.

Now, let's face it, that belief has suffered some serious blows. Over
more than three decades, even before the great recession hit, massive
shifts in technology and global competition had eliminated a lot of
good, middle class jobs and weakened the economic foundations that
families depend on.

Today, after 4 years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock
prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done
better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened.
Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the
midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just
to get by, let alone to get ahead. And too many still aren't working at
all.

So our job is to reverse these trends. It won't happen right away, and
we won't agree on everything. But what I offer tonight is a set of
concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle
class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class. Some
require congressional action, and I am eager to work with all of you.
But America does not stand still, and neither will I. So wherever and
whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for
more American families, that's what I'm going to do.

As usual, our First Lady sets a good example. [Applause] Well--
[applause]. Michelle's "Let's Move!" partnership with schools,
businesses, local leaders has helped bring down childhood obesity rates
for the first time in 30 years. And that's an achievement that will
improve lives and reduce health care costs for decades to come. The
Joining Forces alliance that Michelle and Jill Biden launched has
already encouraged employers to hire or train nearly 400,000 veterans
and military spouses.

Taking a page from that playbook, the White House just organized a
College Opportunity Summit, where already, 150 universities, businesses,
nonprofits have made concrete commitments to reduce inequality in
access to higher education and to help every hard-working kid go to
college and succeed when they get to campus. And across the country,
we're partnering with mayors, Governors, and State legislatures on
issues from homelessness to marriage equality.

The point is, there are millions of Americans outside of Washington who
are tired of stale political arguments and are moving this country
forward. They believe--and I believe--that here in America, our success
should depend not on accident of birth, but the strength of our work
ethic and the scope of our dreams. That's what drew our forebears here.
That's how the daughter of a factory worker is CEO of America's largest
automaker; how the son of a barkeep is Speaker of the House; how the
son of a single mom can be President of the greatest nation on Earth.

Opportunity is who we are. And the defining project of our generation
must be to restore that promise. We know where to start: The best
measure of opportunity is access to a good job. With the economy
picking up speed, companies say they intend to hire more people this
year. And over half of big manufacturers say they're thinking of
insourcing jobs from abroad.

So let's make that decision easier for more companies. Both Democrats
and Republicans have argued that our Tax Code is riddled with wasteful,
complicated loopholes that punish businesses investing here and reward
companies that keep profits abroad. Let's flip that equation. Let's
work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship
jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs
right here at home.

Moreover, we can take the money we save from this transition to tax
reform to create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports,
unclogging our commutes, because in today's global economy, first-class
jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure. We'll need Congress to
protect more than 3 million jobs by finishing transportation and
waterways bills this summer. That can happen. But I'll act on my own to
slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key
projects so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as
possible.

We also have the chance, right now, to beat other countries in the race
for the next wave of high-tech manufacturing jobs. My administration
has launched two hubs for high-tech manufacturing in Raleigh, North
Carolina, and Youngstown, Ohio, where we've connected businesses to
research universities that can help America lead the world in advanced
technologies. Tonight I'm announcing, we'll launch six more this year.
Bipartisan bills in both Houses could double the number of these hubs
and the jobs they create. So get those bills to my desk. Put more
Americans back to work.

Let's do more to help the entrepreneurs and small-business owners who
create most new jobs in America. Over the past 5 years, my
administration has made more loans to small-business owners than any
other. And when 98 percent of our exporters are small businesses, new
trade partnerships with Europe and Asia--the Asia-Pacific will help them
create more jobs. We need to work together on tools like bipartisan
trade promotion authority to protect our workers, protect our
environment, and open new markets to new goods stamped "Made in the
U.S.A."

Listen, China and Europe aren't standing on the sidelines, and neither
should we. We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today
will own the global economy tomorrow. This is an edge America cannot
surrender. Federally funded research helped lead to the ideas and
inventions behind Google and smartphones. And that's why Congress
should undo the damage done by last year's cuts to basic research so we
can unleash the next great American discovery. There are entire
industries to be built based on vaccines that stay ahead of drug-
resistant bacteria or paper-thin material that's stronger than steel.
And let's pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay
focused on innovation, not costly and needless litigation.

Now, one of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our
commitment to American energy. The all-of-the-above energy strategy I
announced a few years ago is working, and today, America is closer to
energy independence than we have been in decades.

One of the reasons why is natural gas. If extracted safely, it's the
bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon
pollution that causes climate change. Businesses plan to invest almost
$100 billion in new factories that use natural gas. I'll cut redtape to
help States get those factories built and put folks to work, and this
Congress can help by putting people to work building fueling stations
that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural
gas.

Meanwhile, my administration will keep working with the industry to
sustain production and jobs growth while strengthening protection of
our air, our water, our communities. And while we're at it, I'll use my
authority to protect more of our pristine Federal lands for future
generations.

Well, it's not just oil and natural gas production that's booming,
we're becoming a global leader in solar too. Every 4 minutes, another
American home or business goes solar, every panel pounded into place by
a worker whose job cannot be outsourced. Let's continue that progress
with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil
fuel industries that don't need it so we can invest more in fuels of
the future that do.

And even as we've increased energy production, we've partnered with
businesses, builders, and local communities to reduce the energy we
consume. When we rescued our automakers, for example, we worked with
them to set higher fuel efficiency standards for our cars. In the
coming months, I'll build on that success by setting new standards for
our trucks so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at
the pump.

And taken together, our energy policy is creating jobs and leading to a
cleaner, safer planet. Over the past 8 years, the United States has
reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth.
But we have to act with more urgency, because a changing climate is
already harming Western communities struggling with drought and coastal
cities dealing with floods. That's why I directed my administration to
work with States, utilities, and others to set new standards on the
amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into
the air.

The shift to a cleaner energy economy won't happen overnight, and it
will require some tough choices along the way. But the debate is
settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children's children
look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer,
more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to
say, yes, we did.

Finally, if we're serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the
call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, law enforcement
and fix our broken immigration system. Republicans and Democrats in the
Senate have acted, and I know that members of both parties in the House
want to do the same. Independent economists say immigration reform will
grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the
next two decades. And for good reason: When people come here to fulfill
their dreams--to study, invent, contribute to our culture--they make our
country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create
jobs for everybody. So let's get immigration reform done this year.
[Applause] Let's get it done. It's time.

The ideas I've outlined so far can speed up growth and create more jobs.
But in this rapidly changing economy, we have to make sure that every
American has the skills to fill those jobs. The good news is, we know
how to do it.

Two years ago, as the auto industry came roaring back, Andra Rush
opened up a manufacturing firm in Detroit. She knew that Ford needed
parts for the best selling truck in America, and she knew how to make
those parts. She just needed the workforce. So she dialed up what we
call an American Job Center, places where folks can walk in to get the
help or training they need to find a new job or a better job. She was
flooded with new workers. And today, Detroit Manufacturing Systems has
more than 700 employees. And what Andra and her employees experienced
is how it should be for every employer and every job seeker.

So tonight I've asked Vice President Biden to lead an across-the-board
reform of America's training programs to make sure they have one
mission: train Americans with the skills employers need and match them
to good jobs that need to be filled right now. That means more on-the-
job training and more apprenticeships that set a young worker on an
upward trajectory for life. It means connecting companies to community
colleges that can help design training to fill their specific needs.
And if Congress wants to help, you can concentrate funding on proven
programs that connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-
filled jobs.

I'm also convinced we can help Americans return to the workforce faster
by reforming unemployment insurance so that it's more effective in
today's economy. But first, this Congress needs to restore the
unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people.

Let me tell you why. Misty DeMars is a mother of two young boys. She'd
been steadily employed since she was a teenager, put herself through
college. She'd never collected unemployment benefits, but she'd been
paying taxes. In May, she and her husband used their life savings to
buy their first home. A week later, budget cuts claimed the job she
loved. Last month, when their unemployment insurance was cut off, she
sat down and wrote me a letter, the kind I get every day. "We are the
face of the unemployment crisis," she wrote. "I'm not dependent on the
government. Our country depends on people like us who build careers,
contribute to society, care about our neighbors. I'm confident that in
time, I will find a job, I will pay my taxes, and we will raise our
children in their own home in the community we love. Please give us
this chance."

Congress, give these hard-working, responsible Americans that chance.
Give them that chance. [Applause] Give them the chance. They need our
help right now. But more important, this country needs them in the game.
That's why I've been asking CEOs to give more long-term unemployed
workers a fair shot at new jobs, a new chance to support their families.
And in fact, this week, many will come to the White House to make that
commitment real. Tonight I ask every business leader in America to join
us and to do the same, because we are stronger when America fields a
full team.

Of course, it's not enough to train today's workforce. We also have to
prepare tomorrow's workforce, by guaranteeing every child access to a
world-class education. Estiven Rodriguez couldn't speak a word of
English when he moved to New York City at age 9. But last month, thanks
to the support of great teachers and an innovative tutoring program, he
led a march of his classmates through a crowd of cheering parents and
neighbors from their high school to the post office, where they mailed
off their college applications. And this son of a factory worker just
found out, he's going to college this fall.

Five years ago, we set out to change the odds for all our kids. We
worked with lenders to reform student loans, and today, more young
people are earning college degrees than ever before. Race to the Top,
with the help of Governors from both parties, has helped States raise
expectations and performance. Teachers and principals in schools from
Tennessee to Washington, DC, are making big strides in preparing
students with the skills for the new economy: problem solving, critical
thinking, science, technology, engineering, math.

Now, some of this change is hard. It requires everything from more
challenging curriculums and more demanding parents to better support
for teachers and new ways to measure how well our kids think, not how
well they can fill in a bubble on a test. But it is worth it, and it is
working. The problem is, we're still not reaching enough kids, and
we're not reaching them in time. And that has to change.

Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a
child's life is high-quality early education. Last year, I asked this
Congress to help States make high-quality pre-K available to every 4-
year-old. And as a parent as well as a President, I repeat that request
tonight. But in the meantime, 30 States have raised pre-K funding on
their own. They know we can't wait. So just as we worked with States to
reform our schools, this year, we'll invest in new partnerships with
States and communities across the country in a Race to the Top for our
youngest children. And as Congress decides what it's going to do, I'm
going to pull together a coalition of elected officials, business
leaders, and philanthropists willing to help more kids access the high-
quality pre-K that they need. It is right for America. We need to get
this done.

Last year, I also pledged to connect 99 percent of our students to
high-speed broadband over the next 4 years. Tonight I can announce that
with the support of the FCC and companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint,
and Verizon, we've got a down payment to start connecting more than
15,000 schools and 20 million students over the next 2 years, without
adding a dime to the deficit.

We're working to redesign high schools and partner them with colleges
and employers that offer the real-world education and hands-on training
that can lead directly to a job and career. We're shaking up our system
of higher education to give parents more information and colleges more
incentive to offer better value so that no middle class kid is priced
out of a college education.

We're offering millions the opportunity to cap their monthly student
loan payments to 10 percent of their income, and I want to work with
Congress to see how we can help even more Americans who feel trapped by
student loan debt. And I'm reaching out to some of America's leading
foundations and corporations on a new initiative to help more young men
of color facing especially tough odds to stay on track and reach their
full potential.

The bottom line is, Michelle and I want every child to have the same
chance this country gave us. But we know our opportunity agenda won't
be complete, and too many young people entering the workforce today
will see the American Dream as an empty promise, unless we also do more
to make sure our economy honors the dignity of work and hard work pays
off for every single American.

Today, women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77
cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it's an
embarrassment. Women deserve equal pay for equal work. She deserves to
have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to
care for a sick child or a sick parent without running into hardship.
And you know what, a father does too. It is time to do away with
workplace policies that belong in a "Mad Men" episode. [Laughter] This
year, let's all come together--Congress, the White House, businesses
from Wall Street to Main Street--to give every woman the opportunity she
deserves. Because I believe when women succeed, America succeeds.

Now, women hold a majority of lower wage jobs, but they're not the only
ones stifled by stagnant wages. Americans understand that some people
will earn more money than others, and we don't resent those who, by
virtue of their efforts, achieve incredible success. That's what
America is all about. But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one
who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.

In the year since I asked this Congress to raise the minimum wage, five
States have passed laws to raise theirs. Many businesses have done it
on their own. Nick Chute is here today with his boss, John Soranno.
John's an owner of Punch Pizza in Minneapolis, and Nick helps make the
dough. [Laughter] Only now he makes more of it. [Laughter] John just
gave his employees a raise to 10 bucks an hour, and that's a decision
that has eased their financial stress and boosted their morale.

Tonight I ask more of America's business leaders to follow John's lead:
Do what you can to raise your employees' wages. It's good for the
economy. It's good for America. To every mayor, Governor, State
legislator in America, I say: You don't have to wait for Congress to
act; Americans will support you if you take this on.

And as a chief executive, I intend to lead by example. Profitable
corporations like Costco see higher wages as the smart way to boost
productivity and reduce turnover. We should too. In the coming weeks, I
will issue an Executive order requiring Federal contractors to pay
their federally funded employees a fair wage of at least 10 dollars and
10 cents an hour. Because if you cook our troops' meals or wash their
dishes, you should not have to live in poverty.

Of course, to reach millions more, Congress does need to get on board.
Today, the Federal minimum wage is worth about 20 percent less than it
was when Ronald Reagan first stood here. And Tom Harkin and George
Miller have a bill to fix that by lifting the minimum wage to 10
dollars and 10 cents. It's easy to remember: 10-10. This will help
families. It will give businesses customers with more money to spend.
It does not involve any new bureaucratic program. So join the rest of
the country. Say yes. Give America a raise. Give them a raise.

There are other steps we can take to help families make ends meet, and
few are more effective at reducing inequality and helping families pull
themselves up through hard work than the earned-income tax credit.
Right now it helps about half of all parents at some point. Think about
that: It helps about half of all parents in America at some point in
their lives. But I agree with Republicans like Senator Rubio that it
doesn't do enough for single workers who don't have kids. So let's work
together to strengthen the credit, reward work, help more Americans get
ahead.

Let's do more to help Americans save for retirement. Today, most
workers don't have a pension. A Social Security check often isn't
enough on its own. And while the stock market has doubled over the last
5 years, that doesn't help folks who don't have 401(k)s. That's why,
tomorrow, I will direct the Treasury to create a new way for working
Americans to start their own retirement savings: MyI--MyRA.

It's a new savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest egg. MyRA
guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in. And
if this Congress wants to help, work with me to fix an upside-down Tax
Code that gives big tax breaks to help the wealthy save, but does
little or nothing for middle class Americans. Offer every American
access to an automatic IRA on the job so they can save at work just
like everybody in this Chamber can.

And since the most important investment many families make is their
home, send me legislation that protects taxpayers from footing the bill
for a housing crisis ever again and keeps the dream of homeownership
alive for future generations.

One last point on financial security: For decades, few things exposed
hard-working families to economic hardship more than a broken health
care system. And in case you haven't heard, we're in the process of
fixing that. Now, a preexisting condition used to mean that someone
like Amanda Shelley, a physician's assistant and single mom from
Arizona, couldn't get health insurance. But on January 1, she got
covered. On January 3, she felt a sharp pain. On January 6, she had
emergency surgery. Just one week earlier, Amanda said, and that surgery
would have meant bankruptcy.

That's what health insurance reform is all about: the peace of mind
that if misfortune strikes, you don't have to lose everything. Already,
because of the Affordable Care Act, more than 3 million Americans under
age 26 have gained coverage under their parent's plan. More than 9
million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or
Medicaid coverage. Nine million.

And here's another number: zero. Because of this law, no American--none,
zero--can ever again be dropped or denied coverage for a preexisting
condition like asthma or back pain or cancer. No woman can ever be
charged more just because she's a woman. And we did all this while
adding years to Medicare's finances, keeping Medicare premiums flat,
and lowering prescription costs for millions of seniors.

Now, I do not expect to convince my Republican friends on the merits of
this law. [Laughter] But I know that the American people are not
interested in refighting old battles. So again, if you have specific
plans to cut costs, cover more people, increase choice, tell America
what you'd do differently. Let's see if the numbers add up. But let's
not have another 40-something votes to repeal a law that's already
helping millions of Americans like Amanda. The first 40 were plenty.
[Laughter]

We all owe it to the American people to say what we're for, not just
what we're against. And if you want to know the real impact this law is
having, just talk to Governor Steve Beshear of Kentucky, who's here
tonight. Now, Kentucky is not the most liberal part of the country.
That's not where I got my highest vote totals. [Laughter] But he's like
a man possessed when it comes to covering his Commonwealth's families.
They're our neighbors and our friends, he said: "They're people we shop
and go to church with, farmers out on the tractor, grocery clerks.
They're people who go to work every morning praying they don't get sick.
No one deserves to live that way."

Steve's right. That's why tonight I ask every American who knows
someone without health insurance to help them get covered by March 31.
[Applause] Help them get covered. Moms, get on your kids to sign up.
Kids, call your mom and walk her through the application. It will give
her some peace of mind, and plus, she'll appreciate hearing from you.
[Laughter]

After all, that's the spirit that has always moved this Nation forward.
It's the spirit of citizenship, the recognition that through hard work
and responsibility, we can pursue our individual dreams, but still come
together as one American family to make sure the next generation can
pursue its dreams as well.

Citizenship means standing up for everyone's right to vote. Last year,
part of the Voting Rights Act was weakened, but conservative
Republicans and liberal Democrats are working together to strengthen it.
And the bipartisan Commission I appointed, chaired by my campaign
lawyer and Governor Romney's campaign lawyer, came together and have
offered reforms so that no one has to wait more than a half hour to
vote. Let's support these efforts. It should be the power of our vote,
not the size of our bank accounts, that drives our democracy.

Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals
from us each day. I've seen the courage of parents, students, pastors,
police officers all over this country who say, "We are not afraid." And
I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more
tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters, in
our shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook.

Citizenship demands a sense of common purpose, participation in the
hard work of self-government, an obligation to serve our communities.
And I know this Chamber agrees that few Americans give more to their
country than our diplomats and the men and women of the United States
Armed Forces. Thank you. Tonight, because of the extraordinary troops
and civilians who risk and lay down their lives to keep us free, the
United States is more secure. When I took office, nearly 180,000
Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, all our troops
are out of Iraq. More than 60,000 of our troops have already come home
from Afghanistan. With Afghan forces now in the lead for their own
security, our troops have moved to a support role. Together with our
allies, we will complete our mission there by the end of this year, and
America's longest war will finally be over.

After 2014, we will support a unified Afghanistan as it takes
responsibility for its own future. If the Afghan Government signs a
security agreement that we have negotiated, a small force of Americans
could remain in Afghanistan with NATO allies to carry out two narrow
missions: training and assisting Afghan forces and counterterrorism
operations to pursue any remnants of Al Qaida. For while our
relationship with Afghanistan will change, one thing will not: our
resolve that terrorists do not launch attacks against our country.

The fact is, that danger remains. While we've put Al Qaida's core
leadership on a path to defeat, the threat has evolved as Al Qaida
affiliates and other extremists take root in different parts of the
world. In Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Mali, we have to keep working with
partners to disrupt and disable those networks. In Syria, we'll support
the opposition that rejects the agenda of terrorist networks. Here at
home, we'll keep strengthening our defenses and combat new threats like
cyber attacks. And as we reform our defense budget, we will have to
keep faith with our men and women in uniform and invest in the
capabilities they need to succeed in future missions.

We have to remain vigilant. But I strongly believe our leadership and
our security cannot depend on our outstanding military alone. As
Commander in Chief, I have used force when needed to protect the
American people, and I will never hesitate to do so as long as I hold
this office. But I will not send our troops into harm's way unless it
is truly necessary, nor will I allow our sons and daughters to be mired
in open-ended conflicts. We must fight the battles that need to be
fought, not those that terrorists prefer from us: large-scale
deployments that drain our strength and may ultimately feed extremism.

So even as we actively and aggressively pursue terrorist networks
through more targeted efforts and by building the capacity of our
foreign partners, America must move off a permanent war footing. That's
why I've imposed prudent limits on the use of drones. For we will not
be safer if people abroad believe we strike within their countries
without regard for the consequence.

That's why, working with this Congress, I will reform our surveillance
programs, because the vital work of our intelligence community depends
on public confidence, here and abroad, that privacy of ordinary people
is not being violated.

And with the Afghan war ending, this needs to be the year Congress
lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the
prison at Guantanamo Bay. Because we counter terrorism not just through
intelligence and military actions, but by remaining true to our
constitutional ideals and setting an example for the rest of the world.

You see, in a world of complex threats, our security, our leadership,
depends on all elements of our power, including strong and principled
diplomacy. American diplomacy has rallied more than 50 countries to
prevent nuclear materials from falling into the wrong hands and allowed
us to reduce our own reliance on cold war stockpiles. American
diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria's chemical
weapons are being eliminated.

And we will continue to work with the international community to usher
in the future the Syrian people deserve, a future free of dictatorship,
terror, and fear. As we speak, American diplomacy is supporting
Israelis and Palestinians as they engage in the difficult but necessary
talks to end the conflict there, to achieve dignity and an independent
state for Palestinians and lasting peace and security for the State of
Israel, a Jewish state that knows America will always be at their side.

And it is American diplomacy, backed by pressure, that has halted the
progress of Iran's nuclear program and rolled back parts of that
program for the very first time in a decade. As we gather here tonight,
Iran has begun to eliminate its stockpile of higher levels of enriched
uranium. It's not installing advanced centrifuges. Unprecedented
inspections help the world verify every day that Iran is not building a
bomb. And with our allies and partners, we're engaged in negotiations
to see if we can peacefully achieve a goal we all share: preventing
Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

These negotiations will be difficult. They may not succeed. We are
clear eyed about Iran's support for terrorist organizations like
Hizballah, which threatens our allies. And we're clear about the
mistrust between our nations, mistrust that cannot be wished away. But
these negotiations don't rely on trust. Any long-term deal we agree to
must be based on verifiable action that convinces us and the
international community that Iran is not building a nuclear bomb. If
John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet Union,
then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with less
powerful adversaries today.

The sanctions that we put in place helped make this opportunity
possible. But let me be clear: If this Congress sends me a new
sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it.
For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance
to succeed. If Iran's leaders do not seize this opportunity, then I
will be the first to call for more sanctions and stand ready to
exercise all options to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon.
But if Iran's leaders do seize the chance--and we'll know soon enough--
then Iran could take an important step to rejoin the community of
nations, and we will have resolved one of the leading security
challenges of our time without the risks of war.

Now, finally, let's remember that our leadership is defined not just by
our defense against threats, but by the enormous opportunities to do
good and promote understanding around the globe: to forge greater
cooperation, to expand new markets, to free people from fear and want.
And no one is better positioned to take advantage of those
opportunities than America.

Our alliance with Europe remains the strongest the world has ever known.
From Tunisia to Burma, we're supporting those who are willing to do the
hard work of building democracy. In Ukraine, we stand for the principle
that all people have the right to express themselves freely and
peacefully and to have a say in their country's future. Across Africa,
we're bringing together businesses and governments to double access to
electricity and help end extreme poverty. In the Americas, we're
building new ties of commerce, but we're also expanding cultural and
educational exchanges among young people. And we will continue to focus
on the Asia-Pacific, where we support our allies, shape a future of
greater security and prosperity, and extend a hand to those devastated
by disaster, as we did in the Philippines, when our Marines and
civilians rushed to aid those battered by a typhoon, and who were
greeted with words like, "We will never forget your kindness" and "God
bless America."

We do these things because they help promote our long-term security,
and we do them because we believe in the inherent dignity and equality
of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual
orientation. And next week, the world will see one expression of that
commitment, when Team U.S.A. marches the red, white, and blue into the
Olympic Stadium and brings home the gold. [Laughter]

Audience members. U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

The President. My fellow Americans, no other country in the world does
what we do. On every issue, the world turns to us, not simply because
of the size of our economy or our military might, but because of the
ideals we stand for and the burdens we bear to advance them. No one
knows this better than those who serve in uniform.

As this time of war draws to a close, a new generation of heroes
returns to civilian life. We'll keep slashing that backlog so our
veterans receive the benefits they've earned and our wounded warriors
receive the health care--including the mental health care--that they need.
We'll keep working to help all our veterans translate their skills and
leadership into jobs here at home. And we will all continue to join
forces to honor and support our remarkable military families.

Let me tell you about one of those families I've come to know. I first
met Cory Remsburg, a proud Army Ranger, at Omaha Beach on the 65th
anniversary of D-day. Along with some of his fellow Rangers, he walked
me through the program and the ceremony. He was a strong, impressive
young man, had an easy manner, he was sharp as a tack. And we joked
around and took pictures, and I told him to stay in touch.

A few months later, on his 10th deployment, Cory was nearly killed by a
massive roadside bomb in Afghanistan. His comrades found him in a canal,
face down, underwater, shrapnel in his brain. For months, he lay in a
coma. And the next time I met him, in the hospital, he couldn't speak,
could barely move. Over the years, he's endured dozens of surgeries and
procedures, hours of grueling rehab every day.

Even now, Cory is still blind in one eye, still struggles on his left
side. But slowly, steadily, with the support of caregivers like his dad
Craig and the community around him, Cory has grown stronger. And day by
day, he's learned to speak again and stand again and walk again. And
he's working toward the day when he can serve his country again. "My
recovery has not been easy," he says. "Nothing in life that's worth
anything is easy." Cory is here tonight. And like the Army he loves,
like the America he serves, Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg never
gives up, and he does not quit. Cory.

My fellow Americans, men and women like Cory remind us that America has
never come easy. Our freedom, our democracy, has never been easy.
Sometimes, we stumble, we make mistakes; we get frustrated or
discouraged. But for more than 200 years, we have put those things
aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress: to
create and build and expand the possibilities of individual achievement,
to free other nations from tyranny and fear, to promote justice and
fairness and equality under the law so that the words set to paper by
our Founders are made real for every citizen. The America we want for
our kids--a rising America where honest work is plentiful and
communities are strong, where prosperity is widely shared and
opportunity for all lets us go as far as our dreams and toil will take
us--none of it is easy. But if we work together--if we summon what is
best in us, the way Cory summoned what is best in him--with our feet
planted firmly in today, but our eyes cast toward tomorrow, I know it
is within our reach. Believe it.

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.


***


Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress on the State of the Union
Barack Obama
January 20, 2015


The President. Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my
fellow Americans: We are 15 years into this new century. Fifteen years
that dawned with terror touching our shores, that unfolded with a new
generation fighting two long and costly wars, that saw a vicious
recession spread across our Nation and the world. It has been and still
is a hard time for many.

But tonight we turn the page. Tonight, after a breakthrough year for
America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace
since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the
financial crisis. More of our kids are graduating than ever before.
More of our people are insured than ever before. And we are as free
from the grip of foreign oil as we've been in almost 30 years.

Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in
Afghanistan is over. Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops
served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, fewer than 15,000 remain. And we
salute the courage and sacrifice of every man and woman in this 9/11
generation who has served to keep us safe. We are humbled and grateful
for your service.

America, for all that we have endured, for all the grit and hard work
required to come back, for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this: The
shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.

At this moment--with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling
industry, booming energy production--we have risen from recession freer
to write our own future than any other nation on Earth. It's now up to
us to choose who we want to be over the next 15 years and for decades
to come.

Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?
Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes
and chances for everyone who makes the effort?

Will we approach the world fearful and reactive, dragged into costly
conflicts that strain our military and set back our standing? Or will
we lead wisely, using all elements of our power to defeat new threats
and protect our planet?

Will we allow ourselves to be sorted into factions and turned against
one another? Or will we recapture the sense of common purpose that has
always propelled America forward?

In 2 weeks, I will send this Congress a budget filled with ideas that
are practical, not partisan. And in the months ahead, I'll crisscross
the country making a case for those ideas. So tonight I want to focus
less on a checklist of proposals and focus more on the values at stake
in the choices before us.

It begins with our economy. Seven years ago, Rebekah and Ben Erler of
Minneapolis were newlyweds. [Laughter] She waited tables. He worked
construction. Their first child Jack was on the way. They were young
and in love in America. And it doesn't get much better than that. "If
only we had known," Rebekah wrote to me last spring, "what was about to
happen to the housing and construction market." As the crisis worsened,
Ben's business dried up, so he took what jobs he could find, even if
they kept him on the road for long stretches of time. Rebekah took out
student loans and enrolled in community college and retrained for a new
career. They sacrificed for each other. And slowly, it paid off. They
bought their first home. They had a second son Henry. Rebekah got a
better job and then a raise. Ben is back in construction and home for
dinner every night.

"It is amazing," Rebekah wrote, "what you can bounce back from when you
have to. . . . We are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it
through some very, very hard times." We are a strong, tight-knit family
who has made it through some very, very hard times.

America, Rebekah and Ben's story is our story. They represent the
millions who have worked hard and scrimped and sacrificed and retooled.
You are the reason that I ran for this office. You are the people I was
thinking of 6 years ago today, in the darkest months of the crisis,
when I stood on the steps of this Capitol and promised we would rebuild
our economy on a new foundation. And it has been your resilience, your
effort that has made it possible for our country to emerge stronger.

We believed we could reverse the tide of outsourcing and draw new jobs
to our shores. And over the past 5 years, our businesses have created
more than 11 million new jobs.

We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect
our planet. And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is
number one in wind power. Every 3 weeks, we bring online as much solar
power as we did in all of 2008. And thanks to lower gas prices and
higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save about
$750 at the pump.

We believed we could prepare our kids for a more competitive world. And
today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading
scores on record. Our high school graduation rate has hit an alltime
high. More Americans finish college than ever before.

We believed that sensible regulations could prevent another crisis,
shield families from ruin, and encourage fair competition. Today, we
have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts and a new consumer
watchdog to protect us from predatory lending and abusive credit card
practices. And in the past year alone, about 10 million uninsured
Americans finally gained the security of health coverage.

At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious,
that we would crush jobs and explode deficits. Instead, we've seen the
fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-
thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health care inflation at
its lowest rate in 50 years. This is good news, people. [Laughter]

So the verdict is clear. Middle class economics works. Expanding
opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work as long as
politics don't get in the way. We can't slow down businesses or put our
economy at risk with Government shutdowns or fiscal showdowns. We can't
put the security of families at risk by taking away their health
insurance or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street or refighting past
battles on immigration when we've got to fix a broken system. And if a
bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, I will veto
it. It will have earned my veto.

Today, thanks to a growing economy, the recovery is touching more and
more lives. Wages are finally starting to rise again. We know that more
small-business owners plan to raise their employees' pay than at any
time since 2007. But here's the thing: Those of us here tonight, we
need to set our sights higher than just making sure Government doesn't
screw things up--[laughter]--that Government doesn't halt the progress
we're making. We need to do more than just do no harm. Tonight,
together, let's do more to restore the link between hard work and
growing opportunity for every American.

Because families like Rebekah's still need our help. She and Ben are
working as hard as ever, but they've had to forego vacations and a new
car so that they can pay off student loans and save for retirement.
Friday night pizza, that's a big splurge. Basic childcare for Jack and
Henry costs more than their mortgage and almost as much as a year at
the University of Minnesota. Like millions of hard-working Americans,
Rebekah isn't asking for a handout, but she is asking that we look for
more ways to help families get ahead.

And in fact, at every moment of economic change throughout our history,
this country has taken bold action to adapt to new circumstances and to
make sure everyone gets a fair shot. We set up worker protections,
Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid to protect ourselves from the
harshest adversity. We gave our citizens schools and colleges,
infrastructure and the Internet, tools they needed to go as far as
their efforts and their dreams will take them.

That's what middle class economics is: the idea that this country does
best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share,
everyone plays by the same set of rules. We don't just want everyone to
share in America's success, we want everyone to contribute to our
success.

So what does middle class economics require in our time? First, middle
class economics means helping working families feel more secure in a
world of constant change. That means helping folks afford childcare,
college, health care, a home, retirement. And my budget will address
each of these issues, lowering the taxes of working families and
putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets each year.

Here's one example. During World War II, when men like my grandfather
went off to war, having women like my grandmother in the workforce was
a national security priority, so this country provided universal
childcare. In today's economy, when having both parents in the
workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need
affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever.

It's not a nice-to-have, it's a must-have. So it's time we stop
treating childcare as a side issue, or as a women's issue, and treat it
like the national economic priority that it is for all of us. And
that's why my plan will make quality childcare more available and more
affordable for every middle class and low-income family with young
children in America, by creating more slots and a new tax cut of up to
$3,000 per child, per year.

Here's another example. Today, we are the only advanced country on
Earth that doesn't guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to
our workers. Forty-three million workers have no paid sick leave--43
million. Think about that. And that forces too many parents to make the
gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home. So I'll
be taking new action to help States adopt paid leave laws of their own.
And since paid sick leave won where it was on the ballot last November,
let's put it to a vote right here in Washington. Send me a bill that
gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn 7 days of paid
sick leave. It's the right thing to do. [Applause] It's the right thing
to do.

Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages.
That's why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a
woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. I mean, it's
2015. [Laughter] It's time. We still need to make sure employees get
the overtime they've earned. And to everyone in this Congress who still
refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you
could work full time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year,
try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest working people in
America a raise.

Now, these ideas won't make everybody rich, won't relieve every
hardship. That's not the job of government. To give working families a
fair shot, we still need more employers to see beyond next quarter's
earnings and recognize that investing in their workforce is in their
company's long-term interest. We still need laws that strengthen rather
than weaken unions, and give American workers a voice.

But you know, things like childcare and sick leave and equal pay,
things like lower mortgage premiums and a higher minimum wage--these
ideas will make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of
families. That's a fact. And that's what all of us, Republicans and
Democrats alike, were sent here to do.

Now, second, to make sure folks keep earning higher wages down the road,
we have to do more to help Americans upgrade their skills. America
thrived in the 20th century because we made high school free, sent a
generation of GIs to college, trained the best workforce in the world.
We were ahead of the curve. But other countries caught on. And in a
21st-century economy that rewards knowledge like never before, we need
to up our game. We need to do more.

By the end of this decade, two in three job openings will require some
higher education--two in three. And yet we still live in a country where
too many bright, striving Americans are priced out of the education
they need. It's not fair to them, and it's sure not smart for our
future. And that's why I'm sending this Congress a bold new plan to
lower the cost of community college to zero.

Keep in mind, 40 percent of our college students choose community
college. Some are young and starting out. Some are older and looking
for a better job. Some are veterans and single parents trying to
transition back into the job market. Whoever you are, this plan is your
chance to graduate ready for the new economy without a load of debt.
Understand, you've got to earn it. You've got to keep your grades up
and graduate on time.

Tennessee, a State with Republican leadership, and Chicago, a city with
Democratic leadership, are showing that free community college is
possible. I want to spread that idea all across America so that 2 years
of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is
today. Let's stay ahead of the curve. And I want to work with this
Congress to make sure those already burdened with student loans can
reduce their monthly payments so that student debt doesn't derail
anyone's dreams.

Thanks to Vice President Biden's great work to update our job training
system, we're connecting community colleges with local employers to
train workers to fill high-paying jobs like coding and nursing and
robotics. Tonight I'm also asking more businesses to follow the lead of
companies like CVS and UPS and offer more educational benefits and paid
apprenticeships, opportunities that give workers the chance to earn
higher paying jobs even if they don't have a higher education.

And as a new generation of veterans comes home, we owe them every
opportunity to live the American Dream they helped defend. Already,
we've made strides towards ensuring that every veteran has access to
the highest quality care. We're slashing the backlog that had too many
veterans waiting years to get the benefits they need. And we're making
it easier for vets to translate their training and experience into
civilian jobs. And Joining Forces, the national campaign launched by
Michelle and Jill Biden--[applause]--thank you, Michelle; thank you,
Jill--has helped nearly 700,000 veterans and military spouses get a new
job. So to every CEO in America, let me repeat: If you want somebody
who's going to get the job done and done right, hire a veteran.

Finally, as we better train our workers, we need the new economy to
keep churning out high-wage jobs for our workers to fill. Since 2010,
America has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and all
advanced economies combined.

Our manufacturers have added almost 800,000 new jobs. Some of our
bedrock sectors, like our auto industry, are booming. But there are
also millions of Americans who work in jobs that didn't even exist 10
or 20 years ago, jobs at companies like Google and eBay and Tesla.

So no one knows for certain which industries will generate the jobs of
the future. But we do know we want them here in America. We know that.
And that's why the third part of middle class economics is all about
building the most competitive economy anywhere, the place where
businesses want to locate and hire.

Twenty-first century businesses need 21st-century infrastructure:
modern ports and stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest
Internet. Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this. So let's set
our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. Let's pass a bipartisan
infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs
per year and make this country stronger for decades to come. Let's do
it. Let's get it done. [Applause] Let's get it done.

Twenty-first century businesses, including small businesses, need to
sell more American products overseas. Today, our businesses export more
than ever, and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages. But as
we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world's fastest
growing region. That would put our workers and our businesses at a
disadvantage. Why would we let that happen? We should write those rules.
We should level the playing field. And that's why I'm asking both
parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American
workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren't
just free, but are also fair. It's the right thing to do.

Look, I'm the first one to admit that past trade deals haven't always
lived up to the hype, and that's why we've gone after countries that
break the rules at our expense. But 95 percent of the world's customers
live outside our borders. We can't close ourselves off from those
opportunities. More than half of manufacturing executives have said
they're actively looking to bring jobs back from China. So let's give
them one more reason to get it done.

Twenty-first century businesses will rely on American science and
technology, research and development. I want the country that
eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of
medicine, one that delivers the right treatment at the right time.

In some patients with cystic fibrosis, this approach has reversed a
disease once thought unstoppable. So tonight I'm launching a new
precision medicine initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases
like cancer and diabetes and to give all of us access to the
personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families
healthier. We can do this.

I intend to protect a free and open Internet, extend its reach to every
classroom and every community and help folks build the fastest networks
so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs
have the platform to keep reshaping our world. I want Americans to win
the race for the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs: converting
sunlight into liquid fuel; creating revolutionary prosthetics so that a
veteran who gave his arms for his country can play catch with his kids
again; pushing out into the solar system not just to visit, but to stay.
Last month, we launched a new spacecraft as part of a reenergized space
program that will send American astronauts to Mars. And in 2 months, to
prepare us for those missions, Scott Kelly will begin a year-long stay
in space. So good luck, Captain. Make sure to Instagram it. We're proud
of you.

Now, the truth is, when it comes to issues like infrastructure and
basic research, I know there's bipartisan support in this Chamber.
Members of both parties have told me so. Where we too often run onto
the rocks is how to pay for these investments. As Americans, we don't
mind paying our fair share of taxes as long as everybody else does too.
But for far too long, lobbyists have rigged the Tax Code with loopholes
that let some corporations pay nothing while others pay full freight.
They've riddled it with giveaways that the super-rich don't need, while
denying a break to middle class families who do.

This year, we have an opportunity to change that. Let's close loopholes
so we stop rewarding companies that keep profits abroad and reward
those that invest here in America. Let's use those savings to rebuild
our infrastructure and to make it more attractive for companies to
bring jobs home. Let's simplify the system and let a small-business
owner file based on her actual bank statement, instead of the number of
accountants she can afford. And let's close the loopholes that lead to
inequality by allowing the top 1 percent to avoid paying taxes on their
accumulated wealth. We can use that money to help more families pay for
childcare and send their kids to college. We need a Tax Code that truly
helps working Americans trying to get a leg up in the new economy, and
we can achieve that together. [Applause] We can achieve it together.

Helping hard-working families make ends meet, giving them the tools
they need for good-paying jobs in this new economy, maintaining the
conditions of growth and competitiveness--this is where America needs to
go. I believe it's where the American people want to go. It will make
our economy stronger a year from now, 15 years from now, and deep into
the century ahead.

Of course, if there's one thing this new century has taught us, it's
that we cannot separate our work here at home from challenges beyond
our shores. My first duty as Commander in Chief is to defend the United
States of America. In doing so, the question is not whether America
leads in the world, but how. When we make rash decisions, reacting to
the headlines instead of using our heads, when the first response to a
challenge is to send in our military, then we risk getting drawn into
unnecessary conflicts and neglect the broader strategy we need for a
safer, more prosperous world. That's what our enemies want us to do.

I believe in a smarter kind of American leadership. We lead best when
we combine military power with strong diplomacy, when we leverage our
power with coalition building, when we don't let our fears blind us to
the opportunities that this new century presents. That's exactly what
we're doing right now. And around the globe, it is making a difference.

First, we stand united with people around the world who have been
targeted by terrorists, from a school in Pakistan to the streets of
Paris. We will continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their
networks, and we reserve the right to act unilaterally, as we have done
relentlessly since I took office, to take out terrorists who pose a
direct threat to us and our allies. At the same time, we've learned
some costly lessons over the last 13 years. Instead of Americans
patrolling the valleys of Afghanistan, we've trained their security
forces, who have now taken the lead, and we've honored our troops'
sacrifice by supporting that country's first democratic transition.
Instead of sending large ground forces overseas, we're partnering with
nations from South Asia to North Africa to deny safe haven to
terrorists who threaten America.

In Iraq and Syria, American leadership--including our military power--is
stopping ISIL's advance. Instead of getting dragged into another ground
war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including
Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group.
We're also supporting a moderate opposition in Syria that can help us
in this effort and assisting people everywhere who stand up to the
bankrupt ideology of violent extremism.

Now, this effort will take time. It will require focus. But we will
succeed. And tonight I call on this Congress to show the world that we
are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use
of force against ISIL. We need that authority.

Second, we're demonstrating the power of American strength and
diplomacy. We're upholding the principle that bigger nations can't
bully the small, by opposing Russian aggression and supporting
Ukraine's democracy and reassuring our NATO allies.

Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along
with our allies, as we were reinforcing our presence with frontline
states, Mr. Putin's aggression, it was suggested, was a masterful
display of strategy and strength. That's what I heard from some folks.
[Laughter] Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united
with our allies, while Russia is isolated with its economy in tatters.
That's how America leads: not with bluster, but with persistent, steady
resolve.

In Cuba, we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date.
When what you're doing doesn't work for 50 years, it's time to try
something new. [Laughter] And our shift in Cuba policy has the
potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere. It removes a
phony excuse for restrictions in Cuba. It stands up for democratic
values and extends the hand of friendship to the Cuban people. And this
year, Congress should begin the work of ending the embargo.

As His Holiness Pope Francis has said, diplomacy is the work of "small
steps." And these small steps have added up to new hope for the future
in Cuba. And after years in prison, we are overjoyed that Alan Gross is
back where he belongs. Welcome home, Alan. We're glad you're here.

Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first
time in a decade, we've halted the progress of its nuclear program and
reduced its stockpile of nuclear material. Between now and this spring,
we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a
nuclear-armed Iran, secures America and our allies, including Israel,
while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict. There are no
guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all options on
the table to prevent a nuclear Iran.

But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will
all but guarantee that diplomacy fails: alienating America from its
allies, making it harder to maintain sanctions, and ensuring that Iran
starts up its nuclear program again. It doesn't make sense. And that's
why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this
progress. The American people expect us only to go to war as a last
resort, and I intend to stay true to that wisdom. Third, we're looking
beyond the issues that have consumed us in the past to shape the coming
century. No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our
networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American
families, especially our kids. So we're making sure our Government
integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done
to combat terrorism.

And tonight I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we
need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber attacks, combat
identity theft, and protect our children's information. That should be
a bipartisan effort. If we don't act, we'll leave our Nation and our
economy vulnerable. If we do, we can continue to protect the
technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around
the globe.

In West Africa, our troops, our scientists, our doctors, our nurses,
our health care workers are rolling back Ebola, saving countless lives
and stopping the spread of disease. I could not be prouder of them, and
I thank this Congress for your bipartisan support of their efforts. But
the job is not yet done, and the world needs to use this lesson to
build a more effective global effort to prevent the spread of future
pandemics, invest in smart development, and eradicate extreme poverty.

In the Asia-Pacific, we are modernizing alliances while making sure
that other nations play by the rules: in how they trade, how they
resolve maritime disputes, how they participate in meeting common
international challenges like nonproliferation and disaster relief. And
no challenge--no challenge--poses a greater threat to future generations
than climate change.

Two thousand fourteen was the planet's warmest year on record. Now, 1
year doesn't make a trend, but this does: 14 of the 15 warmest years on
record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.

Now, I've heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they're
not scientists, that we don't have enough information to act. Well, I'm
not a scientist, either. But you know what, I know a lot of really good
scientists--[laughter]--at NASA and at NOAA and at our major universities.
And the best scientists in the world are all telling us that our
activities are changing the climate, and if we don't act forcefully,
we'll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves,
dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger
greater migration and conflict and hunger around the globe. The
Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national
security. We should act like it.

And that's why, over the past 6 years, we've done more than ever to
combat climate change, from the way we produce energy to the way we use
it. That's why we've set aside more public lands and waters than any
administration in history. And that's why I will not let this Congress
endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our
efforts. I am determined to make sure that American leadership drives
international action.

In Beijing, we made a historic announcement: The United States will
double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution. And China committed,
for the first time, to limiting their emissions. And because the
world's two largest economies came together, other nations are now
stepping up and offering hope that this year the world will finally
reach an agreement to protect the one planet we've got.

And there's one last pillar of our leadership, and that's the example
of our values. As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we're
threatened, which is why I have prohibited torture and worked to make
sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained.
It's why we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has
resurfaced in certain parts of the world. It's why we continue to
reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims, the vast majority of whom
share our commitment to peace. That's why we defend free speech and
advocate for political prisoners and condemn the persecution of women
or religious minorities or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or
transgender. We do these things not only because they are the right
thing to do, but because ultimately, they will make us safer.

As Americans, we have a profound commitment to justice. So it makes no
sense to spend $3 million per prisoner to keep open a prison that the
world condemns and terrorists use to recruit. Since I've been President,
we've worked responsibly to cut the population of Gitmo in half. Now it
is time to finish the job. And I will not relent in my determination to
shut it down. It is not who we are. It's time to close Gitmo.

As Americans, we cherish our civil liberties, and we need to uphold
that commitment if we want maximum cooperation from other countries and
industry in our fight against terrorist networks. So while some have
moved on from the debates over our surveillance programs, I have not.
As promised, our intelligence agencies have worked hard, with the
recommendations of privacy advocates, to increase transparency and
build more safeguards against potential abuse. And next month, we'll
issue a report on how we're keeping our promise to keep our country
safe while strengthening privacy.

Looking to the future instead of the past, making sure we match our
power with diplomacy and use force wisely, building coalitions to meet
new challenges and opportunities, leading always with the example of
our values--that's what makes us exceptional. That's what keeps us
strong. That's why we have to keep striving to hold ourselves to the
highest of standards: our own.

You know, just over a decade ago, I gave a speech in Boston where I
said there wasn't a liberal America or a conservative America, a Black
America or a White America, but a United States of America. I said this
because I had seen it in my own life, in a nation that gave someone
like me a chance; because I grew up in Hawaii, a melting pot of races
and customs; because I made Illinois my home, a State of small towns,
rich farmland, one of the world's great cities, a microcosm of the
country where Democrats and Republicans and Independents, good people
of every ethnicity and every faith, share certain bedrock values.

Over the past 6 years, the pundits have pointed out more than once that
my Presidency hasn't delivered on this vision. How ironic, they say,
that our politics seems more divided than ever. It's held up as proof
not just of my own flaws--of which there are many--but also as proof that
the vision itself is misguided, naive, that there are too many people
in this town who actually benefit from partisanship and gridlock for us
to ever do anything about it.

I know how tempting such cynicism may be. But I still think the cynics
are wrong. I still believe that we are one people. I still believe that
together, we can do great things, even when the odds are long.

I believe this because over and over in my 6 years in office, I have
seen America at its best. I've seen the hopeful faces of young
graduates from New York to California and our newest officers at West
Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs, New London. I've mourned with
grieving families in Tucson and Newtown, in Boston, in West, Texas, and
West Virginia. I've watched Americans beat back adversity from the Gulf
Coast to the Great Plains, from Midwest assembly lines to the Mid-
Atlantic seaboard. I've seen something like gay marriage go from a
wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our
country, a civil right now legal in States that 7 in 10 Americans call
home. So I know the good and optimistic and big-hearted generosity of
the American people who every day live the idea that we are our
brother's keeper and our sister's keeper. And I know they expect those
of us who serve here to set a better example.

So the question for those of us here tonight is how we, all of us, can
better reflect America's hopes. I've served in Congress with many of
you. I know many of you well. There are a lot of good people here on
both sides of the aisle. And many of you have told me that this isn't
what you signed up for: arguing past each other on cable shows, the
constant fundraising, always looking over your shoulder at how the base
will react to every decision.

Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns. Imagine if we did
something different. Understand, a better politics isn't one where
Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine. A
better politics is one where we appeal to each other's basic decency
instead of our basest fears. A better politics is one where we debate
without demonizing each other, where we talk issues and values and
principles and facts rather than "gotcha" moments or trivial gaffes or
fake controversies that have nothing to do with people's daily lives.

A politics--a better politics is one where we spend less time drowning
in dark money for ads that pull us into the gutter and spend more time
lifting young people up with a sense of purpose and possibility, asking
them to join in the great mission of building America.

If we're going to have arguments, let's have arguments, but let's make
them debates worthy of this body and worthy of this country. We still
may not agree on a woman's right to choose, but surely we can agree
it's a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing
alltime lows and that every woman should have access to the health care
that she needs.

Yes, passions still fly on immigration, but surely we can all see
something of ourselves in the striving young student and agree that no
one benefits when a hard-working mom is snatched from her child and
that it's possible to shape a law that upholds our tradition as a
nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. I've talked to Republicans
and Democrats about that. That's something that we can share.

We may go at it in campaign season, but surely we can agree that the
right to vote is sacred, that it's being denied to too many, and that
on this 50th anniversary of the great march from Selma to Montgomery
and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we can come together,
Democrats and Republicans, to make voting easier for every single
American.

We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York. But
surely we can understand a father who fears his son can't walk home
without being harassed. And surely we can understand the wife who won't
rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door
at the end of his shift. And surely we can agree that it's a good thing
that for the first time in 40 years, the crime rate and the
incarceration rate have come down together, and use that as a starting
point for Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law
enforcement, to reform America's criminal justice system so that it
protects and serves all of us.

That's a better politics. That's how we start rebuilding trust. That's
how we move this country forward. That's what the American people want.
And that's what they deserve.

I have no more campaigns to run.

[At this point, some audience members applauded.]

My only agenda--[laughter]. Audience member. [Inaudible]

The President. I know because I won both of them. [Laughter] My only
agenda for the next 2 years is the same as the one I've had since the
day I swore an oath on the steps of this Capitol: to do what I believe
is best for America. If you share the broad vision I outlined tonight,
I ask you to join me in the work at hand. If you disagree with parts of
it, I hope you'll at least work with me where you do agree. And I
commit to every Republican here tonight that I will not only seek out
your ideas, I will seek to work with you to make this country stronger.

Because I want this Chamber, I want this city to reflect the truth:
that for all our blind spots and shortcomings, we are a people with the
strength and generosity of spirit to bridge divides, to unite in common
effort, to help our neighbors, whether down the street or on the other
side of the world.

I want our actions to tell every child in every neighborhood, your life
matters, and we are committed to improving your life chances, as
committed as we are to working on behalf of our own kids. I want future
generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a
great gift, that we're a people who value the dignity and worth of
every citizen: man and woman, young and old, Black and White, Latino,
Asian, immigrant, Native American, gay, straight, Americans with mental
illness or physical disability. Everybody matters. I want them to grow
up in a country that shows the world what we still know to be true:
that we are still more than a collection of red States and blue States,
that we are the United States of America.

I want them to grow up in a country where a young mom can sit down and
write a letter to her President with a story that sums up these past 6
years: "It's amazing what you can bounce back from when you have
to. . . . We are a strong, tight-knit family who's made it through some
very, very hard times."

My fellow Americans, we too are a strong, tight-knit family. We too
have made it through some hard times. Fifteen years into this new
century, we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and begun
again the work of remaking America. We have laid a new foundation. A
brighter future is ours to write. Let's begin this new chapter together,
and let's start the work right now.

Thank you. God bless you. God bless this country we love. Thank you.


***


Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress on the State of the Union
Barack Obama
January 12, 2016


Thank you. Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my
fellow Americans: Tonight marks the eighth year that I've come here to
report on the State of the Union. And for this final one, I'm going to
try to make it a little shorter. I know some of you are antsy to get
back to Iowa. [Laughter] I've been there. I'll be shaking hands
afterwards if you want some tips. [Laughter]

Now, I understand that because it's an election season, expectations
for what we will achieve this year are low. But, Mr. Speaker, I
appreciate the constructive approach that you and other leaders took at
the end of last year to pass a budget and make tax cuts permanent for
working families. So I hope we can work together this year on some
bipartisan priorities like criminal justice reform and helping people
who are battling prescription drug abuse and heroin abuse. So, who
knows, we might surprise the cynics again.

But tonight I want to go easy on the traditional list of proposals for
the year ahead. Don't worry, I've got plenty--[laughter]--from helping
students learn to write computer code to personalizing medical
treatments for patients. And I will keep pushing for progress on the
work that I believe still needs to be done: fixing a broken immigration
system, protecting our kids from gun violence, equal pay for equal work,
paid leave, raising the minimum wage. All these things still matter to
hard-working families. They're still the right thing to do. And I won't
let up until they get done.

But for my final address to this Chamber, I don't want to just talk
about next year. I want to focus on the next 5 years, the next 10 years,
and beyond. I want to focus on our future.

We live in a time of extraordinary change, change that's reshaping the
way we live, the way we work, our planet, our place in the world. It's
change that promises amazing medical breakthroughs, but also economic
disruptions that strain working families. It promises this education
for girls in the most remote villages, but also connects terrorists
plotting an ocean away. It's change that can broaden opportunity or
widen inequality. And whether we like it or not, the pace of this
change will only accelerate.

America has been through big changes before: wars and depression, the
influx of new immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, movements
to expand civil rights. Each time, there have been those who told us to
fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change; who
promised to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that
was threatening America under control. And each time, we overcame those
fears. We did not, in the words of Lincoln, adhere to the "dogmas of
the quiet past." Instead, we thought anew and acted anew. We made
change work for us, always extending America's promise outward, to the
next frontier, to more people. And because we did, because we saw
opportunity with a--where others saw peril, we emerged stronger and
better than before.

What was true then can be true now. Our unique strengths as a nation--
our optimism and work ethic, our spirit of discovery, our diversity,
our commitment to rule of law--these things give us everything we need
to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come.

In fact, it's in that spirit that we have made progress these past 7
years. That's how we recovered from the worst economic crisis in
generations. That's how we reformed our health care system and
reinvented our energy sector. That's how we delivered more care and
benefits to our troops coming home and our veterans. That's how we
secured the freedom in every State to marry the person we love.

But such progress is not inevitable. It's the result of choices we make
together. And we face such choices right now. Will we respond to the
changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, turning
against each other as a people? Or will we face the future with
confidence in who we are, in what we stand for, in the incredible
things that we can do together?

So let's talk about the future and four big questions that I believe we
as a country have to answer, regardless of who the next President is or
who controls the next Congress. First, how do we give everyone a fair
shot at opportunity and security in this new economy? Second, how do we
make technology work for us and not against us, especially when it
comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change? Third, how do
we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman?
And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what's best in us and
not what's worst?

Let me start with the economy and a basic fact: The United States of
America right now has the strongest, most durable economy in the world.
We're in the middle of the longest streak of private sector job
creation in history. More than 14 million new jobs, the strongest 2
years of job growth since the 1990s, an unemployment rate cut in half.
Our auto industry just had its best year ever. That's just part of a
manufacturing surge that's created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past
6 years. And we've done all this while cutting our deficits by almost
three-quarters.

Anyone claiming that America's economy is in decline is peddling
fiction. Now, what is true--and the reason that a lot of Americans feel
anxious--is that the economy has been changing in profound ways, changes
that started long before the great recession hit, changes that have not
let up.

Today, technology doesn't just replace jobs on the assembly line, but
any job where work can be automated. Companies in a global economy can
locate anywhere, and they face tougher competition. As a result,
workers have less leverage for a raise. Companies have less loyalty to
their communities. And more and more wealth and income is concentrated
at the very top.

All these trends have squeezed workers, even when they have jobs, even
when the economy is growing. It's made it harder for a hard-working
family to pull itself out of poverty, harder for young people to start
their careers, tougher for workers to retire when they want to. And
although none of these trends are unique to America, they do offend our
uniquely American belief that everybody who works hard should get a
fair shot.

For the past 7 years, our goal has been a growing economy that also
works better for everybody. We've made progress, but we need to make
more. And despite all the political arguments that we've had these past
few years, there are actually some areas where Americans broadly agree.

We agree that real opportunity requires every American to get the
education and training they need to land a good-paying job. The
bipartisan reform of No Child Left Behind was an important start, and
together, we've increased early childhood education, lifted high school
graduation rates to new highs, boosted graduates in fields like
engineering. In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by
providing pre-K for all and offering every student the hands-on
computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one.
We should recruit and support more great teachers for our kids.

And we have to make college affordable for every American. No hard-
working student should be stuck in the red. We've already reduced
student loan payments by--to 10 percent of a borrower's income. And
that's good. But now we've actually got to cut the cost of college.
Providing 2 years of community college at no cost for every responsible
student is one of the best ways to do that, and I'm going to keep
fighting to get that started this year. It's the right thing to do.

But a great education isn't all we need in this new economy. We also
need benefits and protections that provide a basic measure of security.
It's not too much of a stretch to say that some of the only people in
America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a
health and retirement package for 30 years are sitting in this Chamber.
[Laughter] For everyone else, especially folks in their forties and
fifties, saving for retirement or bouncing back from job loss has
gotten a lot tougher. Americans understand that at some point in their
careers, in this new economy, they may have to retool, they may have to
retrain. But they shouldn't lose what they've already worked so hard to
build in the process.

That's why Social Security and Medicare are more important than ever.
We shouldn't weaken them, we should strengthen them. And for Americans
short of retirement, basic benefits should be just as mobile as
everything else is today. That, by the way, is what the Affordable Care
Act is all about. It's about filling the gaps in employer-based care so
that when you lose a job or you go back to school or you strike out and
launch that new business, you'll still have coverage. Nearly 18 million
people have gained coverage so far. And in the process, health care
inflation has slowed. And our businesses have created jobs every single
month since it became law.

Now, I'm guessing we won't agree on health care anytime soon, but--
[laughter]--a little applause back there. [Laughter] Just a guess. But
there should be other ways parties can work together to improve
economic security. Say a hard-working American loses his job. We
shouldn't just make sure that he can get unemployment insurance, we
should make sure that program encourages him to retrain for a business
that's ready to hire him. If that new job doesn't pay as much, there
should be a system of wage insurance in place so that he can still pay
his bills. And even if he's going from job to job, he should still be
able to save for retirement and take his savings with him. That's the
way we make the new economy work better for everybody.

I also know Speaker Ryan has talked about his interest in tackling
poverty. America is about giving everybody willing to work a chance, a
hand up. And I'd welcome a serious discussion about strategies we can
all support, like expanding tax cuts for low-income workers who don't
have children.

But there are some areas where--we just have to be honest--it has been
difficult to find agreement over the last 7 years. And a lot of them
fall under the category of what role the Government should play in
making sure the system's not rigged in favor of the wealthiest and
biggest corporations. And it's an honest disagreement, and the American
people have a choice to make.

I believe a thriving private sector is the lifeblood of our economy. I
think there are outdated regulations that need to be changed. There is
redtape that needs to be cut. [Applause] There you go! Yes! See? But
after years now of record corporate profits, working families won't get
more opportunity or bigger paychecks just by letting big banks or big
oil or hedge funds make their own rules at everybody else's expense.
Middle class families are not going to feel more secure because we
allowed attacks on collective bargaining to go unanswered. Food stamp
recipients did not cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall
Street did. Immigrants aren't the principal reason wages haven't gone
up; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that all too often put
quarterly earnings over long-term returns. It's sure not the average
family watching tonight that avoids paying taxes through offshore
accounts. [Laughter]

The point is, I believe that in this new economy, workers and startups
and small businesses need more of a voice, not less. The rules should
work for them. And I'm not alone in this. This year, I plan to lift up
the many businesses who have figured out that doing right by their
workers or their customers or their communities ends up being good for
their shareholders. And I want to spread those best practices across
America. That's part of a brighter future.

In fact, it turns, out many of our best corporate citizens are also our
most creative. And this brings me to the second big question we as a
country have to answer: How do we reignite that spirit of innovation to
meet our biggest challenges?

Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn't deny
Sputnik was up there. [Laughter] We didn't argue about the science or
shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program
almost overnight. And 12 years later, we were walking on the Moon.

Now, that spirit of discovery is in our DNA. America is Thomas Edison
and the Wright Brothers and George Washington Carver. America is Grace
Hopper and Katherine Johnson and Sally Ride. America is every immigrant
and entrepreneur from Boston to Austin to Silicon Valley, racing to
shape a better future. That's who we are.

And over the past 7 years, we've nurtured that spirit. We've protected
an open Internet and taken bold new steps to get more students and low-
income Americans online. We've launched next-generation manufacturing
hubs and online tools that give an entrepreneur everything he or she
needs to start a business in a single day. But we can do so much more.

Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America
can cure cancer. Last month, he worked with this Congress to give
scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources
that they've had in over a decade. Well--so tonight I'm announcing a new
national effort to get it done. And because he's gone to the mat for
all of us on so many issues over the past 40 years, I'm putting Joe in
charge of mission control. For the loved ones we've all lost, for the
families that we can still save, let's make America the country that
cures cancer once and for all. What do you say, Joe? Let's make it
happen.

Now, medical research is critical. We need the same level of commitment
when it comes to developing clean energy sources. Look, if anybody
still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it.
[Laughter] You will be pretty lonely, because you'll be debating our
military, most of America's business leaders, the majority of the
American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200
nations around the world who agree it's a problem and intend to solve
it. But even if the planet wasn't at stake, even if 2014 wasn't the
warmest year on record--until 2015 turned out to be even hotter--why
would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce
and sell the energy of the future? Listen, 7 years ago, we made the
single biggest investment in clean energy in our history. Here are the
results. In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than
dirtier, conventional power. On rooftops from Arizona to New York,
solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their
energy bills and employs more Americans than coal in jobs that pay
better than average. We're taking steps to give homeowners the freedom
to generate and store their own energy, something, by the way, that
environmentalists and Tea Partiers have teamed up to support. And
meanwhile, we've cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly 60 percent
and cut carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth. Gas
under 2 bucks a gallon ain't bad either. [Laughter]

Now we've got to accelerate the transition away from old, dirtier
energy sources. Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the
future, especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels. We do them
no favor when we don't show them where the trends are going. And that's
why I'm going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal
resources so that they better reflect the costs they impose on
taxpayers and our planet. And that way, we put money back into those
communities and put tens of thousands of Americans to work building a
21st-century transportation system.

Now, none of this is going to happen overnight. And yes, there are
plenty of entrenched interests who want to protect the status quo. But
the jobs we'll create, the money we'll save, the planet we'll preserve--
that is the kind of future our kids and our grandkids deserve. And it's
within our grasp.

Now, climate change is just one of many issues where our security is
linked to the rest of the world. And that's why the third big question
that we have to answer together is how to keep America safe and strong
without either isolating ourselves or trying to nation-build everywhere
there's a problem.

Now, I told you earlier all the talk of America's economic decline is
political hot air. Well, so is all the rhetoric you hear about our
enemies getting stronger and America getting weaker. Let me tell you
something: The United States of America is the most powerful nation on
Earth. Period. [Applause] Period. It's not even close. [Applause] It's
not even close. It's not even close. We spend more on our military than
the next eight nations combined. Our troops are the finest fighting
force in the history of the world. [Applause] All right. No nation
attacks us directly, or our allies, because they know that's the path
to ruin. Surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when
I was elected to this office, and when it comes to every important
international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or
Moscow to lead. They call us. So I think it's useful to level set here,
because when we don't, we don't make good decisions.

Now, as someone who begins every day with an intelligence briefing, I
know this is a dangerous time. But that's not primarily because of some
looming superpower out there, and it's certainly not because of
diminished American strength. In today's world, we're threatened less
by evil empires and more by failing states.

The Middle East is going through a transformation that will play out
for a generation, rooted in conflicts that date back millennia.
Economic headwinds are blowing in from a Chinese economy that is in
significant transition. Even as their economy severely contracts,
Russia is pouring resources in to prop up Ukraine and Syria, client
states that they saw slipping away from their orbit. And the
international system we built after World War II is now struggling to
keep pace with this new reality. It's up to us, the United States of
America, to help remake that system. And to do that well, it means that
we've got to set priorities. Priority number one is protecting the
American people and going after terrorist networks. Both Al Qaida and
now ISIL pose a direct threat to our people, because in today's world,
even a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life,
including their own, can do a lot of damage. They use the Internet to
poison the minds of individuals inside our country. Their actions
undermine and destabilize our allies. We have to take them out.

But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is
world war III just play into their hands. Masses of fighters on the
back of pickup trucks, twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages,
they pose an enormous danger to civilians; they have to be stopped. But
they do not threaten our national existence. That is the story ISIL
wants to tell. That's the kind of propaganda they use to recruit. We
don't need to build them up to show that we're serious, and we sure
don't need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie
that ISIL is somehow representative of one of the world's largest
religions. We just need to call them what they are: killers and
fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed.

And that's exactly what we're doing. For more than a year, America has
led a coalition of more than 60 countries to cut off ISIL's financing,
disrupt their plots, stop the flow of terrorist fighters, and stamp out
their vicious ideology. With nearly 10,000 airstrikes, we're taking out
their leadership, their oil, their training camps, their weapons. We're
training, arming, and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming
territory in Iraq and Syria.

If this Congress is serious about winning this war and wants to send a
message to our troops and the world, authorize the use of military
force against ISIL. Take a vote. [Applause] Take a vote. But the
American people should know that with or without congressional action,
ISIL will learn the same lessons as terrorists before them. If you
doubt America's commitment--or mine--to see that justice is done, just
ask Usama bin Laden. Ask the leader of Al Qaida in Yemen, who was taken
out last year, or the perpetrator of the Benghazi attacks, who sits in
a prison cell. When you come after Americans, we go after you. And it
may take time, but we have long memories, and our reach has no limits.

Our foreign policy has to be focused on the threat from ISIL and Al
Qaida, but it can't stop there. For even without ISIL, even without Al
Qaida, instability will continue for decades in many parts of the world:
in the Middle East, in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan, in parts of
Central America, in Africa and Asia. Some of these places may become
safe havens for new terrorist networks. Others will just fall victim to
ethnic conflict or famine, feeding the next wave of refugees. The world
will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to
be more than tough talk or calls to carpet-bomb civilians. That may
work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn't pass muster on the world stage.

We also can't try to take over and rebuild every country that falls
into crisis, even if it's done with the best of intentions. That's not
leadership; that's a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and
treasure that ultimately will weaken us. It's the lesson of Vietnam;
it's the lesson of Iraq. And we should have learned it by now.

Now, fortunately there is a smarter approach: a patient and disciplined
strategy that uses every element of our national power. It says America
will always act, alone if necessary, to protect our people and our
allies, but on issues of global concern, we will mobilize the world to
work with us and make sure other countries pull their own weight.
That's our approach to conflicts like Syria, where we're partnering
with local forces and leading international efforts to help that broken
society pursue a lasting peace. That's why we built a global coalition,
with sanctions and principled diplomacy, to prevent a nuclear-armed
Iran. And as we speak, Iran has rolled back its nuclear program,
shipped out its uranium stockpile, and the world has avoided another
war.


That's how we stopped the spread of Ebola in West Africa. Our military,
our doctors, our development workers--they were heroic; they set up the
platform that then allowed other countries to join in behind us and
stamp out that epidemic. Hundreds of thousands, maybe a couple million,
lives were saved.

That's how we forged a Trans-Pacific Partnership to open markets and
protect workers and the environment and advance American leadership in
Asia. It cuts 18,000 taxes on products made in America, which will then
support more good jobs here in America. With TPP, China does not set
the rules in that region, we do. You want to show our strength in this
new century? Approve this agreement. Give us the tools to enforce it.
It's the right thing to do.

Let me give you another example. Fifty years of isolating Cuba had
failed to promote democracy. It set us back in Latin America. That's
why we restored diplomatic relations, opened the door to travel and
commerce, positioned ourselves to improve the lives of the Cuban people.
So if you want to consolidate our leadership and credibility in the
hemisphere, recognize that the cold war is over. Lift the embargo.

The point is, American leadership in the 21st century is not a choice
between ignoring the rest of the world--except when we kill terrorists--
or occupying and rebuilding whatever society is unraveling. Leadership
means a wise application of military power and rallying the world
behind causes that are right. It means seeing our foreign assistance as
a part of our national security, not something separate, not charity.

When we lead nearly 200 nations to the most ambitious agreement in
history to fight climate change, yes, that helps vulnerable countries,
but it also protects our kids. When we help Ukraine defend its
democracy or Colombia resolve a decades-long war, that strengthens the
international order we depend on. When we help African countries feed
their people and care for the sick, it's the right thing to do, and it
prevents the next pandemic from reaching our shores. Right now we're on
track to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS. That's within our grasp. And we
have the chance to accomplish the same thing with malaria, something
I'll be pushing this Congress to fund this year.

That's American strength. That's American leadership. And that kind of
leadership depends on the power of our example. That's why I will keep
working to shut down the prison at Guantanamo. It is expensive, it is
unnecessary, and it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our
enemies. There's a better way.

And that's why we need to reject any politics--any politics--that targets
people because of race or religion. Let me just say this. This is not a
matter of political correctness, this is a matter of understanding just
what it is that makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our
arsenal, it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way
we respect every faith.

His Holiness Pope Francis told this body from the very spot that I'm
standing on tonight that "to imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants
and murderers is the best way to take their place." When politicians
insult Muslims, whether abroad or our fellow citizens, when a mosque is
vandalized or a kid is called names, that doesn't make us safer. That's
not telling it what--telling it like it is. It's just wrong. It
diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve
our goals. It betrays who we are as a country. "We the People." Our
Constitution begins with those three simple words, words we've come to
recognize mean all the people, not just some; words that insist we rise
and fall together, that that's how we might perfect our Union. And that
brings me to the fourth and maybe most important thing that I want to
say tonight.

The future we want--all of us want--opportunity and security for our
families, a rising standard of living, a sustainable, peaceful planet
for our kids--all that is within our reach. But it will only happen if
we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational,
constructive debates. It will only happen if we fix our politics.

A better politics doesn't mean we have to agree on everything. This is
a big country: different regions, different attitudes, different
interests. That's one of our strengths too. Our Founders distributed
power between States and branches of government and expected us to
argue, just as they did, fiercely, over the size and shape of
government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of
liberty and the imperatives of security.

But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens.
It doesn't work if we think the people who disagree with us are all
motivated by malice. It doesn't work if we think that our political
opponents are unpatriotic or trying to weaken America. Democracy grinds
to a halt without a willingness to compromise or when even basic facts
are contested or when we listen only to those who agree with us. Our
public life withers when only the most extreme voices get all the
attention. And most of all, democracy breaks down when the average
person feels their voice doesn't matter, that the system is rigged in
favor of the rich or the powerful or some special interest.

Too many Americans feel that way right now. It's one of the few regrets
of my Presidency: that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has
gotten worse instead of better. I have no doubt, a President with the
gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and
I guarantee, I'll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this
office.

But, my fellow Americans, this cannot be my task--or any President's--
alone. There are a whole lot of folks in this Chamber, good people, who
would like to see more cooperation, would like to see a more elevated
debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the imperatives of getting
elected, by the noise coming out of your base. I know; you've told me.
It's the worst kept secret in Washington. And a lot of you aren't
enjoying being trapped in that kind of rancor.

But that means if we want a better politics--and I'm addressing the
American people now--if we want a better politics, it's not enough just
to change a Congressman or change a Senator or even change a President.
We have to change the system to reflect our better selves.

I think we've got to end the practice of drawing our congressional
districts so that politicians can pick their voters and not the other
way around. Let a bipartisan group do it.

I believe we've got to reduce the influence of money in our politics so
that a handful of families or hidden interests can't bankroll our
elections. And if our existing approach to campaign finance reform
can't pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a
real solution. Because it's a problem. And most of you don't like
raising money. [Laughter] I know. I've done it.

We've got to make it easier to vote, not harder. We need to modernize
it for the way we live now. This is America: We want to make it easier
for people to participate. And over the course of this year, I intend
to travel the country to push for reforms that do just that. But I
can't do these things on my own. Changes in our political process--in
not just who gets elected, but how they get elected--that will only
happen when the American people demand it. It depends on you. That's
what's meant by a government of, by, and for the people.

What I'm suggesting is hard. It's a lot easier to be cynical; to accept
that change is not possible and politics is hopeless and the problem is,
all the folks who are elected don't care; and to believe that our
voices and our actions don't matter. But if we give up now, then we
forsake a better future. Those with money and power will gain greater
control over the decisions that could send a young soldier to war or
allow another economic disaster or roll back the equal rights and
voting rights that generations of Americans have fought, even died, to
secure. And then, as frustration grows, there will be voices urging us
to fall back into our respective tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens
who don't look like us or pray like us or vote like we do or share the
same background.

We can't afford to go down that path. It won't deliver the economy we
want. It will not produce the security we want. But most of all, it
contradicts everything that makes us the envy of the world.

So, my fellow Americans, whatever you may believe, whether you prefer
one party or no party, whether you supported my agenda or fought as
hard as you could against it, our collective futures depends on your
willingness to uphold your duties as a citizen. To vote. To speak out.
To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable,
knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood
up for us. We need every American to stay active in our public life--and
not just during election time--so that our public life reflects the
goodness and the decency that I see in the American people every single
day.

It is not easy. Our brand of democracy is hard. But I can promise that
a little over a year from now, when I no longer hold this office, I
will be right there with you as a citizen, inspired by those voices of
fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness, that have
helped America travel so far. Voices that help us see ourselves not,
first and foremost, as Black or White or Asian or Latino, not as gay or
straight, immigrant or native born, not Democrat or Republican, but as
Americans first, bound by a common creed. Voices Dr. King believed
would have the final word: voices of "unarmed truth and unconditional
love."

And they're out there, those voices. They don't get a lot of attention;
they don't seek a lot of fanfare; but they're busy doing the work this
country needs doing. I see them everywhere I travel in this incredible
country of ours. I see you, the American people. And in your daily acts
of citizenship, I see our future unfolding.

I see it in the worker on the assembly line who clocked extra shifts to
keep his company open and the boss who pays him higher wages instead of
laying him off. I see it in the dreamer who stays up late at night to
finish her science project and the teacher who comes in early, maybe
with some extra supplies that she bought because she knows that that
young girl might someday cure a disease.

I see it in the American who served his time, made bad mistakes as a
child, but now is dreaming of starting over. And I see it in the
business owner who gives him that second chance. The protester
determined to prove that justice matters and the young cop walking the
beat, treating everybody with respect, doing the brave, quiet work of
keeping us safe.

I see it in the soldier who gives almost everything to save his
brothers, the nurse who tends to him till he can run a marathon, the
community that lines up to cheer him on. It's the son who finds the
courage to come out as who he is and the father whose love for that son
overrides everything he's been taught.

I see it in the elderly woman who will wait in line to cast her vote as
long as she has to, the new citizen who casts his vote for the first
time, the volunteers at the polls who believe every vote should count.
Because each of them, in different ways, know how much that precious
right is worth.

That's the America I know. That's the country we love: clear eyed, big
hearted, undaunted by challenge. Optimistic that unarmed truth and
unconditional love will have the final word. That's what makes me so
hopeful about our future. I believe in change because I believe in you,
the American people. And that's why I stand here as confident as I have
ever been that the state of our Union is strong.

Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. Thank
you.





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