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2014 State of the Union Address

 

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 level 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 eight million new
jobs our businesses have created over the past four 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
five-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 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 twelve
long years, is finally coming to an end.

2014 State of the Union address by President Obama

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.

Here are the results of your efforts: The lowest
unemployment rate in over five 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 twenty 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 five 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.

As President, I’m committed to making Washington work
better, and rebuilding the trust of the people who sent us
here. I believe most of you are, too. Last month, thanks
to the work of Democrats and Republicans, this 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.

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.

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 four 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 get ahead. And too
many still aren’t working at all.

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’m 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. Michelle’s
Let’s Move partnership with schools, businesses, and local
leaders has helped bring down childhood obesity rates for
the first time in thirty years – 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, and nonprofits have made
concrete commitments to reduce inequality in access to
higher education – and help every hardworking kid go to
college and succeed when they get to campus. 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
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. It’s how the daughter of a factory worker
is CEO of America’s largest automaker; how the son of a
barkeeper 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 is 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 here at home.

Moreover, we can take the money we save with 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 three million jobs by
finishing transportation and waterways bills this summer.
But I will 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 and
Youngstown, 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 and 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
five years, my administration has made more loans to small
business owners than any other. And when ninety-eight
percent of our exporters are small businesses, new trade
partnerships with Europe and 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 USA.” China and Europe
aren’t standing on the sidelines. 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. 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 – whether it’s
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, 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’ve 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 red tape to
help states get those factories built, 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. My administration will keep
working with the industry to sustain production and job
growth while strengthening protection of our air, our
water, and our communities. And while we’re at it, I’ll
use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal
lands for future generations.

It’s not just oil and natural gas production that’s
booming; we’re becoming a global leader in solar, too.
Every four minutes, another American home or business goes
solar; every panel pounded into place by a worker whose
job can’t 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 that 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.

Taken together, our energy policy is creating jobs and
leading to a cleaner, safer planet. Over the past eight
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 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 are serious about economic growth, it is
time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders,
faith leaders, and law enforcement – and fix our broken
immigration system. Republicans and Democrats in the
Senate have acted. 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, and contribute to our
culture – they make our country a more attractive place
for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone. So
let’s get immigration reform done this year.

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 them. 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 better job. She was flooded
with new workers. And today, Detroit Manufacturing Systems
has more than 700 employees.

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. She put
herself through college. She’d never collected
unemployment benefits. 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 am not
dependent on the government…Our country depends on people
like us who build careers, contribute to society…care
about our neighbors…I am 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 hardworking, responsible Americans
that chance. They need our help, 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 that new job and new chance to support their
families; 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 nine. 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, D.C. are making big strides in
preparing students with skills for the new economy –
problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology,
engineering, and math. 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’s worth it –
and it’s working.

The problem is we’re still not reaching enough kids, and
we’re not reaching them in time. 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 four year-old. As a
parent as well as a President, I repeat that request
tonight. But in the meantime, thirty 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
they need.

Last year, I also pledged to connect 99 percent of our
students to high-speed broadband over the next four 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 twenty million students over the next
two 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 incentives 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 ten 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 tough odds 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 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. A woman
deserves 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 sick parent without
running into hardship – and you know what, a father does,
too. It’s time to do away with workplace policies that
belong in a “Mad Men” episode. This year, let’s all come
together – Congress, the White House, and businesses from
Wall Street to Main Street – to give every woman the
opportunity she deserves. Because I firmly 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 than
others, and we don’t resent those who, by virtue of their
efforts, achieve incredible success. 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 tonight with his boss, John Soranno. John’s
an owner of Punch Pizza in Minneapolis, and Nick helps
make the dough. Only now he makes more of it: John just
gave his employees a raise, to ten bucks an hour – a
decision that eased their financial stress and boosted
their morale.

Tonight, I ask more of America’s business leaders to
follow John’s lead and do what you can to raise your
employees’ wages. To every mayor, governor, and 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
$10.10 an hour – because if you cook our troops’ meals or
wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty.

Of course, to reach millions more, Congress needs to get
on board. Today, the federal minimum wage is worth about
twenty percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan first
stood here. Tom Harkin and George Miller have a bill to
fix that by lifting the minimum wage to $10.10. This will
help families. It will give businesses customers with more
money to spend. It doesn’t involve any new bureaucratic
program. So join the rest of the country. Say yes. Give
America 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. 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, and
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 five years,
that doesn’t help folks who don’t have 401ks. That’s why,
tomorrow, I will direct the Treasury to create a new way
for working Americans to start their own retirement
savings: 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 to nothing for middle-class
Americans. Offer every American access to an automatic IRA
on the job, so they can save at work just like everyone 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 of Americans.

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.

A pre-existing condition used to mean that someone like
Amanda Shelley, a physician assistant and single mom from
Arizona, couldn’t get health insurance. But on January
1st, she got covered. On January 3rd, she felt a sharp
pain. On January 6th, she had emergency surgery. Just one
week earlier, Amanda said, that surgery would’ve 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
three million Americans under age 26 have gained coverage
under their parents’ plans.

More than nine million Americans have signed up for
private health insurance or Medicaid coverage.

And here’s another number: zero. Because of this law, no
American can ever again be dropped or denied coverage for
a preexisting condition like asthma, 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 don’t expect to convince my Republican friends on
the merits of this law. But I know that the American
people aren’t interested in refighting old battles. So
again, if you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more
people, and increase choice – tell America what you’d do
differently. Let’s see if the numbers add up. But let’s
not have another forty-something votes to repeal a law
that’s already helping millions of Americans like Amanda.
The first forty were plenty. We got it. 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. Kentucky’s not the most liberal part
of the country, but he’s like a man possessed when it
comes to covering his commonwealth’s families. “They are
our friends and neighbors,” he said. “They are people we
shop and go to church with…farmers out on the
tractors…grocery clerks…they are 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 31st. 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 – plus,
she’ll appreciate hearing from you.

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 last year has 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 account, that
drives our democracy.

Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun
violence steals from us each day. I have seen the courage
of parents, students, pastors, and 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, shopping malls, or schools like Sandy
Hook.

Citizenship demands a sense of common cause; participation
in the hard work of self-government; an obligation to
serve to 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.

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
Qaeda. 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 have put al
Qaeda’s core leadership on a path to defeat, the threat
has evolved, as al Qaeda affiliates and other extremists
take root in different parts of the world. In Yemen,
Somalia, Iraq, and Mali, we have to keep working with
partners to disrupt and disable these 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 cyberattacks.
And as we reform our defense budget, we 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 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’s 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 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 the 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 action, 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 and
leadership depends on all elements of our power –
including strong and principled diplomacy. American
diplomacy has rallied more than fifty 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 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
parts of that program back – 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 is 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 Hezbollah, which threaten our
allies; and the mistrust between our nations cannot be
wished away. But these negotiations do not 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, 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.

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 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 are 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 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 USA marches the
red, white, and blue into the Olympic Stadium – and brings
home the gold.

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 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 – a
strong, impressive young man, with an easy manner, sharp
as a tack. We joked around, and took pictures, and I told
him to stay in touch.

A few months later, on his tenth 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. The next time I met him, in
the hospital, he couldn’t speak; he could barely move.
Over the years, he’s endured dozens of surgeries and
procedures, and hours of grueling rehab every day.

Even now, Cory is still blind in one eye. He 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. 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.

Watch live video of the president’s2014 State of the Union
address

As Prepared for Delivery –

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 level 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 eight million new
jobs our businesses have created over the past four 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
five-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 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 twelve
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.

Here are the results of your efforts: The lowest
unemployment rate in over five 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 twenty 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 five 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.

As President, I’m committed to making Washington work
better, and rebuilding the trust of the people who sent us
here. I believe most of you are, too. Last month, thanks
to the work of Democrats and Republicans, this 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.

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.

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 four 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 get ahead. And too
many still aren’t working at all.

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’m 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. Michelle’s
Let’s Move partnership with schools, businesses, and local
leaders has helped bring down childhood obesity rates for
the first time in thirty years – 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, and nonprofits have made
concrete commitments to reduce inequality in access to
higher education – and help every hardworking kid go to
college and succeed when they get to campus. 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
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. It’s how the daughter of a factory worker
is CEO of America’s largest automaker; how the son of a
barkeeper 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 is 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 here at home.

Moreover, we can take the money we save with 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 three million jobs by
finishing transportation and waterways bills this summer.
But I will 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 and
Youngstown, 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 and 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
five years, my administration has made more loans to small
business owners than any other. And when ninety-eight
percent of our exporters are small businesses, new trade
partnerships with Europe and 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 USA.” China and Europe
aren’t standing on the sidelines. 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. 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 – whether it’s
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, 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’ve 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 red tape to
help states get those factories built, 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. My administration will keep
working with the industry to sustain production and job
growth while strengthening protection of our air, our
water, and our communities. And while we’re at it, I’ll
use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal
lands for future generations.

It’s not just oil and natural gas production that’s
booming; we’re becoming a global leader in solar, too.
Every four minutes, another American home or business goes
solar; every panel pounded into place by a worker whose
job can’t 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 that 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.

Taken together, our energy policy is creating jobs and
leading to a cleaner, safer planet. Over the past eight
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 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 are serious about economic growth, it is
time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders,
faith leaders, and law enforcement – and fix our broken
immigration system. Republicans and Democrats in the
Senate have acted. 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, and contribute to our
culture – they make our country a more attractive place
for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone. So
let’s get immigration reform done this year.

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 them. 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 better job. She was flooded
with new workers. And today, Detroit Manufacturing Systems
has more than 700 employees.

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. She put
herself through college. She’d never collected
unemployment benefits. 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 am not
dependent on the government…Our country depends on people
like us who build careers, contribute to society…care
about our neighbors…I am 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 hardworking, responsible Americans
that chance. They need our help, 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 that new job and new chance to support their
families; 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 nine. 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, D.C. are making big strides in
preparing students with skills for the new economy –
problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology,
engineering, and math. 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’s worth it –
and it’s working.

The problem is we’re still not reaching enough kids, and
we’re not reaching them in time. 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 four year-old. As a
parent as well as a President, I repeat that request
tonight. But in the meantime, thirty 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
they need.

Last year, I also pledged to connect 99 percent of our
students to high-speed broadband over the next four 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 twenty million students over the next
two 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 incentives 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 ten 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 tough odds 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 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. A woman
deserves 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 sick parent without
running into hardship – and you know what, a father does,
too. It’s time to do away with workplace policies that
belong in a “Mad Men” episode. This year, let’s all come
together – Congress, the White House, and businesses from
Wall Street to Main Street – to give every woman the
opportunity she deserves. Because I firmly 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 than
others, and we don’t resent those who, by virtue of their
efforts, achieve incredible success. 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 tonight with his boss, John Soranno. John’s
an owner of Punch Pizza in Minneapolis, and Nick helps
make the dough. Only now he makes more of it: John just
gave his employees a raise, to ten bucks an hour – a
decision that eased their financial stress and boosted
their morale.

Tonight, I ask more of America’s business leaders to
follow John’s lead and do what you can to raise your
employees’ wages. To every mayor, governor, and 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
$10.10 an hour – because if you cook our troops’ meals or
wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty.

Of course, to reach millions more, Congress needs to get
on board. Today, the federal minimum wage is worth about
twenty percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan first
stood here. Tom Harkin and George Miller have a bill to
fix that by lifting the minimum wage to $10.10. This will
help families. It will give businesses customers with more
money to spend. It doesn’t involve any new bureaucratic
program. So join the rest of the country. Say yes. Give
America 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. 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, and
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 five years,
that doesn’t help folks who don’t have 401ks. That’s why,
tomorrow, I will direct the Treasury to create a new way
for working Americans to start their own retirement
savings: 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 to nothing for middle-class
Americans. Offer every American access to an automatic IRA
on the job, so they can save at work just like everyone 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 of Americans.

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.

A pre-existing condition used to mean that someone like
Amanda Shelley, a physician assistant and single mom from
Arizona, couldn’t get health insurance. But on January
1st, she got covered. On January 3rd, she felt a sharp
pain. On January 6th, she had emergency surgery. Just one
week earlier, Amanda said, that surgery would’ve 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
three million Americans under age 26 have gained coverage
under their parents’ plans.

More than nine million Americans have signed up for
private health insurance or Medicaid coverage.

And here’s another number: zero. Because of this law, no
American can ever again be dropped or denied coverage for
a preexisting condition like asthma, 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 don’t expect to convince my Republican friends on
the merits of this law. But I know that the American
people aren’t interested in refighting old battles. So
again, if you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more
people, and increase choice – tell America what you’d do
differently. Let’s see if the numbers add up. But let’s
not have another forty-something votes to repeal a law
that’s already helping millions of Americans like Amanda.
The first forty were plenty. We got it. 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. Kentucky’s not the most liberal part
of the country, but he’s like a man possessed when it
comes to covering his commonwealth’s families. “They are
our friends and neighbors,” he said. “They are people we
shop and go to church with…farmers out on the
tractors…grocery clerks…they are 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 31st. 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 – plus,
she’ll appreciate hearing from you.

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 last year has 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 account, that
drives our democracy.

Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun
violence steals from us each day. I have seen the courage
of parents, students, pastors, and 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, shopping malls, or schools like Sandy
Hook.

Citizenship demands a sense of common cause; participation
in the hard work of self-government; an obligation to
serve to 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.

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
Qaeda. 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 have put al
Qaeda’s core leadership on a path to defeat, the threat
has evolved, as al Qaeda affiliates and other extremists
take root in different parts of the world. In Yemen,
Somalia, Iraq, and Mali, we have to keep working with
partners to disrupt and disable these 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 cyberattacks.
And as we reform our defense budget, we 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 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’s 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 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 the 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 action, 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 and
leadership depends on all elements of our power –
including strong and principled diplomacy. American
diplomacy has rallied more than fifty 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 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
parts of that program back – 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 is 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 Hezbollah, which threaten our
allies; and the mistrust between our nations cannot be
wished away. But these negotiations do not 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, 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.

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 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 are 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 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 USA marches the
red, white, and blue into the Olympic Stadium – and brings
home the gold.

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 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 – a
strong, impressive young man, with an easy manner, sharp
as a tack. We joked around, and took pictures, and I told
him to stay in touch.

A few months later, on his tenth 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. The next time I met him, in
the hospital, he couldn’t speak; he could barely move.
Over the years, he’s endured dozens of surgeries and
procedures, and hours of grueling rehab every day.

Even now, Cory is still blind in one eye. He 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. 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.

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 two hundred 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, with our feet planted firmly in
today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow – I know it’s
within our reach.

Believe it.

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

 


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