By Frances Lee, The Smart Show Staff Writer
Here is the entire transcript for last night’s speech. It was pretty monumental and intriguing to listen to. My favorite parts are when he cracks those silly ‘spilled milk’ jokes, reminds me the leader of the free world is also just a dorky dad.
Here you go!
Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
“An America Built to Last”
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 nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq.
For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to
this country. Most of al Qaeda’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
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, everyone does
their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. What’s
at stake are not Democratic values or Republican values, but American
values. 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 hardworking
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
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 six
months before I took office, we lost nearly four million jobs. And we
lost another four 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 three 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 that 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
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.
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 160,000 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 back
every job that’s left our shores. 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 fifteen 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
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.
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 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
My message is simple. It’s 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’ll sign them
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 five years. With the bipartisan trade agreements I
signed into law, we are on track to meet that goal – ahead of
schedule. 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
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 trade 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 finance 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.
That’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 two 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, 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 local 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 website,
and one place to go for all the information and help they need. It’s
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 one 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
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. 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
We also know that when students aren’t allowed to walk away from their
education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma. So
tonight, I call on every State to require that all students stay in
high school until they graduate or turn eighteen.
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 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 five 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’ve done just that. Some schools
re-design 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’s an economic imperative that every
family in America should be able to afford.
Let’s also remember that hundreds of thousands of talented,
hardworking 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, and 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 start-ups 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.
Nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made
energy. Over the last three 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, American oil production is the
highest that it’s been in eight years. That’s right – eight years.
Not only that – last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any
of the past sixteen 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 one
hundred 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. 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 thirty 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.
What’s true for natural gas is true for clean energy. In three 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 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
have subsidized oil companies for a century. That’s long enough.
It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s rarely
been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry
that’s never been more promising. Pass clean energy tax credits and
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 three million homes. And
I’m proud to announce that the Department of Defense, 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 another proposal: Help manufacturers eliminate energy waste in
their factories and give businesses incentives to upgrade their
buildings. Their energy bills will be $100 billion lower over the
next decade, and America will have less pollution, more manufacturing,
and 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 red tape 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
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.
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 interest rates. No more
red tape. 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 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, don’t destroy the free market. They make the
free market work better.
There is no question that some regulations are outdated, unnecessary,
or too costly. In fact, I’ve approved fewer regulations in the first
three 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 five 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.
I’m confident a farmer can contain a milk spill without a federal
agency looking over his shoulder. But I will not back down from
making sure an oil company can contain the kind of oil spill we saw in
the Gulf two years ago. I will not back down from protecting our kids
from mercury pollution, 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 you
coverage, or charge women differently from 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, start a business, or send a kid to
So if you’re a big bank or financial institution, you are 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 aren’t 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 are over.
Today, American consumers finally have a watchdog in Richard Cordray
with one job: To look out for them.
We will 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 anti-fraud 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 am asking my Attorney General to create a special unit
of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys 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
A return to the American values of fair play and shared responsibility
will help us 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 160
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
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 $1
million 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
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 tax breaks 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 it’s not right. They know that this
generation’s success is only possible because past generations felt a
responsibility to each other, and to their country’s future, 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.
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 now:
Nothing will get done 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 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.
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, and 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 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 these reforms 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 common sense 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
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 is nothing the United States of America can’t achieve.
That is the lesson we’ve learned from our actions abroad over the last
Ending the Iraq war has allowed us to strike decisive blows against
our enemies. From Pakistan to Yemen, the al Qaeda 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
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 Assad regime will soon
discover that the forces of change can’t be reversed, and that human
dignity can’t be denied.
How this incredible transformation will end remains uncertain. But we
have a huge stake in the outcome. And while it is 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 iron-clad commitment 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
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, all of whom 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 have 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 have already sent this
Congress legislation that will secure our country from the growing
danger 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
served us. That includes giving them the care and 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 are 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
Job 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 from the service of our troops. When you put
on that uniform, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white; Asian or
Latino; conservative or liberal; rich or poor; gay or 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.
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
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 someone behind you, watching your
So it is with America. Each time I look at that flag, I’m reminded
that our destiny is stitched together like those fifty stars and those
thirteen 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’re joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common
resolve, our journey moves forward, our future is hopeful, and the
state of our Union will always be strong.
Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.