OBAMA: 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.
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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 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, 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 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 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 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.
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
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
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 new workers.
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 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 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 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 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
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 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. 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 college.
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 delay.
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 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 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
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
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
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
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
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 few years.
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 against
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
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 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, 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
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
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
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 someone 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
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.