State of the Union Address: Education, Innovation, Investment, Deficits - Enhanced Version (2011)

Uploaded by thefilmarchived on 08.07.2012

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, distinguished guests,
and fellow Americans:
Tonight I want to begin by congratulating the men and women of the 112th Congress, as
well as your new Speaker, John Boehner. (Applause.) And as we mark this occasion, weíre also
mindful of the empty chair in this chamber, and we pray for the health of our colleague
-- and our friend -ñ Gabby Giffords. (Applause.)
Itís no secret that those of us here tonight have had our differences over the last two
years. The debates have been contentious; we have fought fiercely for our beliefs. And
thatís a good thing. Thatís what a robust democracy demands. Thatís what helps set
us apart as a nation.
But thereís a reason the tragedy in Tucson gave us pause. Amid all the noise and passion
and rancor of our public debate, Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come
from, each of us is a part of something greater -ñ something more consequential than party
or political preference.
We are part of the American family. We believe that in a country where every race and faith
and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; that we share
common hopes and a common creed; that the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not
so different than those of our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be
That, too, is what sets us apart as a nation. (Applause.)
Now, by itself, this simple recognition wonít usher in a new era of cooperation. What comes
of this moment is up to us. What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether
we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow. (Applause.)
I believe we can. And I believe we must. Thatís what the people who sent us here expect of
us. With their votes, theyíve determined that governing will now be a shared responsibility
between parties. New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We
will move forward together, or not at all -ñ for the challenges we face are bigger
than party, and bigger than politics.
At stake right now is not who wins the next election -ñ after all, we just had an election.
At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else.
Itís whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded. Itís whether we sustain
the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but the light to the world.
We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known,
the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.
But we have never measured progress by these yardsticks alone. We measure progress by the
success of our people. By the jobs they can find and the quality of life those jobs offer.
By the prospects of a small business owner who dreams of turning a good idea into a thriving
enterprise. By the opportunities for a better life that we pass on to our children.
Thatís the project the American people want us to work on. Together. (Applause.)
We did that in December. Thanks to the tax cuts we passed, Americansí paychecks are
a little bigger today. Every business can write off the full cost of new investments
that they make this year. And these steps, taken by Democrats and Republicans, will grow
the economy and add to the more than one million private sector jobs created last year.
But we have to do more. These steps weíve taken over the last two years may have broken
the back of this recession, but to win the future, weíll need to take on challenges
that have been decades in the making.
Many people watching tonight can probably remember a time when finding a good job meant
showing up at a nearby factory or a business downtown. You didnít always need a degree,
and your competition was pretty much limited to your neighbors. If you worked hard, chances
are youíd have a job for life, with a decent paycheck and good benefits and the occasional
promotion. Maybe youíd even have the pride of seeing your kids work at the same company.
That world has changed. And for many, the change has been painful. Iíve seen it in
the shuttered windows of once booming factories, and the vacant storefronts on once busy Main
Streets. Iíve heard it in the frustrations of Americans whoíve seen their paychecks
dwindle or their jobs disappear -ñ proud men and women who feel like the rules have
been changed in the middle of the game.
Theyíre right. The rules have changed. In a single generation, revolutions in technology
have transformed the way we live, work and do business. Steel mills that once needed
1,000 workers can now do the same work with 100. Today, just about any company can set
up shop, hire workers, and sell their products wherever thereís an Internet connection.
Meanwhile, nations like China and India realized that with some changes of their own, they
could compete in this new world. And so they started educating their children earlier and
longer, with greater emphasis on math and science. Theyíre investing in research and
new technologies. Just recently, China became the home to the worldís largest private solar
research facility, and the worldís fastest computer.
So, yes, the world has changed. The competition for jobs is real. But this shouldnít discourage
us. It should challenge us. Remember -ñ for all the hits weíve taken these last few years,
for all the naysayers predicting our decline, America still has the largest, most prosperous
economy in the world. (Applause.) No workers -- no workers are more productive than ours.
No country has more successful companies, or grants more patents to inventors and entrepreneurs.
Weíre the home to the worldís best colleges and universities, where more students come
to study than any place on Earth.
Whatís more, we are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea -ñ the idea
that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny. Thatís why centuries of
pioneers and immigrants have risked everything to come here. Itís why our students donít
just memorize equations, but answer questions like ìWhat do you think of that idea? What
would you change about the world? What do you want to be when you grow up?î
The future is ours to win. But to get there, we canít just stand still. As Robert Kennedy
told us, ìThe future is not a gift. It is an achievement.î Sustaining the American
Dream has never been about standing pat. It has required each generation to sacrifice,
and struggle, and meet the demands of a new age.
And now itís our turn. We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of
our time. We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. (Applause.)
We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business. We need to take responsibility
for our deficit and reform our government. Thatís how our people will prosper. Thatís
how weíll win the future. (Applause.) And tonight, Iíd like to talk about how we get
The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation. None of us can predict
with certainty what the next big industry will be or where the new jobs will come from.
Thirty years ago, we couldnít know that something called the Internet would lead to an economic
revolution. What we can do -- what America does better than anyone else -- is spark the
creativity and imagination of our people. Weíre the nation that put cars in driveways
and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook.
In America, innovation doesnít just change our lives. It is how we make our living. (Applause.)
Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation. But because itís not always profitable
for companies to invest in basic research, throughout our history, our government has
provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need. Thatís what
planted the seeds for the Internet. Thatís what helped make possible things like computer
chips and GPS. Just think of all the good jobs -- from manufacturing to retail -- that
have come from these breakthroughs.
Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite
called Sputnik, we had no idea how we would beat them to the moon. The science wasnít
even there yet. NASA didnít exist. But after investing in better research and education,
we didnít just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries
and millions of new jobs.
This is our generationís Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach
a level of research and development we havenít seen since the height of the Space Race. And
in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal.
Weíll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology
-ñ (applause) -- an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet,
and create countless new jobs for our people.
Already, weíre seeing the promise of renewable energy. Robert and Gary Allen are brothers
who run a small Michigan roofing company. After September 11th, they volunteered their
best roofers to help repair the Pentagon. But half of their factory went unused, and
the recession hit them hard. Today, with the help of a government loan, that empty space
is being used to manufacture solar shingles that are being sold all across the country.
In Robertís words, ìWe reinvented ourselves.î
Thatís what Americans have done for over 200 years: reinvented ourselves. And to spur
on more success stories like the Allen Brothers, weíve begun to reinvent our energy policy.
Weíre not just handing out money. Weíre issuing a challenge. Weíre telling Americaís
scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and
focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, weíll fund the Apollo projects of our time.
At the California Institute of Technology, theyíre developing a way to turn sunlight
and water into fuel for our cars. At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, theyíre using supercomputers
to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities. With more research and incentives,
we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million
electric vehicles on the road by 2015. (Applause.)
We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, Iím asking Congress to
eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. (Applause.)
I donít know if -- I donít know if youíve noticed, but theyíre doing just fine on their
own. (Laughter.) So instead of subsidizing yesterdayís energy, letís invest in tomorrowís.
Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses
know there will be a market for what theyíre selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join
me in setting a new goal: By 2035, 80 percent of Americaís electricity will come from clean
energy sources. (Applause.)
Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas. To meet
this goal, we will need them all -- and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together
to make it happen. (Applause.)
Maintaining our leadership in research and technology is crucial to Americaís success.
But if we want to win the future -ñ if we want innovation to produce jobs in America
and not overseas -ñ then we also have to win the race to educate our kids.
Think about it. Over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education
that goes beyond a high school education. And yet, as many as a quarter of our students
arenít even finishing high school. The quality of our math and science education lags behind
many other nations. America has fallen to ninth in the proportion of young people with
a college degree. And so the question is whether all of us ñ- as citizens, and as parents
ñ- are willing to do whatís necessary to give every child a chance to succeed.
That responsibility begins not in our classrooms, but in our homes and communities. Itís family
that first instills the love of learning in a child. Only parents can make sure the TV
is turned off and homework gets done. We need to teach our kids that itís not just the
winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science
fair. (Applause.) We need to teach them that success is not a function of fame or PR, but
of hard work and discipline.
Our schools share this responsibility. When a child walks into a classroom, it should
be a place of high expectations and high performance. But too many schools donít meet this test.
Thatís why instead of just pouring money into a system thatís not working, we launched
a competition called Race to the Top. To all 50 states, we said, ìIf you show us the most
innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, weíll show you the
Race to the Top is the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation. For
less than 1 percent of what we spend on education each year, it has led over 40 states to raise
their standards for teaching and learning. And these standards were developed, by the
way, not by Washington, but by Republican and Democratic governors throughout the country.
And Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child
Left Behind with a law thatís more flexible and focused on whatís best for our kids.
You see, we know whatís possible from our children when reform isnít just a top-down
mandate, but the work of local teachers and principals, school boards and communities.
Take a school like Bruce Randolph in Denver. Three years ago, it was rated one of the worst
schools in Colorado -- located on turf between two rival gangs. But last May, 97 percent
of the seniors received their diploma. Most will be the first in their families to go
to college. And after the first year of the schoolís transformation, the principal who
made it possible wiped away tears when a student said, ìThank you, Ms. Waters, for showing
that we are smart and we can make it.î (Applause.) Thatís what good schools can do, and we want
good schools all across the country.
Letís also remember that after parents, the biggest impact on a childís success comes
from the man or woman at the front of the classroom. In South Korea, teachers are known
as ìnation builders.î Here in America, itís time we treated the people who educate our
children with the same level of respect. (Applause.) We want to reward good teachers and stop making
excuses for bad ones. (Applause.) And over the next 10 years, with so many baby boomers
retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science
and technology and engineering and math. (Applause.)
In fact, to every young person listening tonight whoís contemplating their career choice:
If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference
in the life of a child -- become a teacher. Your country needs you. (Applause.)
Of course, the education race doesnít end with a high school diploma. To compete, higher
education must be within the reach of every American. (Applause.) Thatís why weíve ended
the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that went to banks, and used the savings to make college
affordable for millions of students. (Applause.) And this year, I ask Congress to go further,
and make permanent our tuition tax credit ñ- worth $10,000 for four years of college.
Itís the right thing to do. (Applause.)
Because people need to be able to train for new jobs and careers in todayís fast-changing
economy, weíre also revitalizing Americaís community colleges. Last month, I saw the
promise of these schools at Forsyth Tech in North Carolina. Many of the students there
used to work in the surrounding factories that have since left town. One mother of two,
a woman named Kathy Proctor, had worked in the furniture industry since she was 18 years
old. And she told me sheís earning her degree in biotechnology now, at 55 years old, not
just because the furniture jobs are gone, but because she wants to inspire her children
to pursue their dreams, too. As Kathy said, ìI hope it tells them to never give up.î
If we take these steps -ñ if we raise expectations for every child, and give them the best possible
chance at an education, from the day they are born until the last job they take ñ-
we will reach the goal that I set two years ago: By the end of the decade, America will
once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. (Applause.)
One last point about education. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of students excelling
in our schools who are not American citizens. Some are the children of undocumented workers,
who had nothing to do with the actions of their parents. They grew up as Americans and
pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet they live every day with the threat of deportation.
Others come here from abroad to study in our colleges and universities. But as soon as
they obtain advanced degrees, we send them back home to compete against us. It makes
no sense.
Now, I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal
immigration. And I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders,
enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living
in the shadows. (Applause.) I know that debate will be difficult. I know it will take time.
But tonight, letís agree to make that effort. And letís stop expelling talented, responsible
young people who could be staffing our research labs or starting a new business, who could
be further enriching this nation. (Applause.)
The third step in winning the future is rebuilding America. To attract new businesses to our
shores, we need the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods, and information
-- from high-speed rail to high-speed Internet. (Applause.)
Our infrastructure used to be the best, but our lead has slipped. South Korean homes now
have greater Internet access than we do. Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their
roads and railways than we do. China is building faster trains and newer airports. Meanwhile,
when our own engineers graded our nationís infrastructure, they gave us a ìD.î
We have to do better. America is the nation that built the transcontinental railroad,
brought electricity to rural communities, constructed the Interstate Highway System.
The jobs created by these projects didnít just come from laying down track or pavement.
They came from businesses that opened near a townís new train station or the new off-ramp.
So over the last two years, weíve begun rebuilding for the 21st century, a project that has meant
thousands of good jobs for the hard-hit construction industry. And tonight, Iím proposing that
we redouble those efforts. (Applause.)
Weíll put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges. Weíll make sure
this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and pick projects based [on] whatís best
for the economy, not politicians.
Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail. (Applause.)
This could allow you to go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some
trips, it will be faster than flying ñ- without the pat-down. (Laughter and applause.) As
we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already underway.
Within the next five years, weíll make it possible for businesses to deploy the next
generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98 percent of all Americans. This isnít
just about -- (applause) -- this isnít about faster Internet or fewer dropped calls. Itís
about connecting every part of America to the digital age. Itís about a rural community
in Iowa or Alabama where farmers and small business owners will be able to sell their
products all over the world. Itís about a firefighter who can download the design of
a burning building onto a handheld device; a student who can take classes with a digital
textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor.
All these investments -ñ in innovation, education, and infrastructure ñ- will make America a
better place to do business and create jobs. But to help our companies compete, we also
have to knock down barriers that stand in the way of their success.
For example, over the years, a parade of lobbyists has rigged the tax code to benefit particular
companies and industries. Those with accountants or lawyers to work the system can end up paying
no taxes at all. But all the rest are hit with one of the highest corporate tax rates
in the world. It makes no sense, and it has to change. (Applause.)
So tonight, Iím asking Democrats and Republicans to simplify the system. Get rid of the loopholes.
Level the playing field. And use the savings to lower the corporate tax rate for the first
time in 25 years ñ- without adding to our deficit. It can be done. (Applause.)
To help businesses sell more products abroad, we set a goal of doubling our exports by 2014
-ñ because the more we export, the more jobs we create here at home. Already, our exports
are up. Recently, we signed agreements with India and China that will support more than
250,000 jobs here in the United States. And last month, we finalized a trade agreement
with South Korea that will support at least 70,000 American jobs. This agreement has unprecedented
support from business and labor, Democrats and Republicans -- and I ask this Congress
to pass it as soon as possible. (Applause.)
Now, before I took office, I made it clear that we would enforce our trade agreements,
and that I would only sign deals that keep faith with American workers and promote American
jobs. Thatís what we did with Korea, and thatís what I intend to do as we pursue agreements
with Panama and Colombia and continue our Asia Pacific and global trade talks. (Applause.)
To reduce barriers to growth and investment, Iíve ordered a review of government regulations.
When we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them. (Applause.)
But I will not hesitate to create or enforce common-sense safeguards to protect the American
people. (Applause.) Thatís what weíve done in this country for more than a century. Itís
why our food is safe to eat, our water is safe to drink, and our air is safe to breathe.
Itís why we have speed limits and child labor laws. Itís why last year, we put in place
consumer protections against hidden fees and penalties by credit card companies and new
rules to prevent another financial crisis. (Applause.) And itís why we passed reform
that finally prevents the health insurance industry from exploiting patients. (Applause.)
Now, I have heard rumors that a few of you still have concerns about our new health care
law. (Laughter.) So let me be the first to say that anything can be improved. If you
have ideas about how to improve this law by making care better or more affordable, I am
eager to work with you. We can start right now by correcting a flaw in the legislation
that has placed an unnecessary bookkeeping burden on small businesses. (Applause.)
What Iím not willing to do -- what Iím not willing to do is go back to the days when
insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a preexisting condition. (Applause.)
Iím not willing to tell James Howard, a brain cancer patient from Texas, that his treatment
might not be covered. Iím not willing to tell Jim Houser, a small business man from
Oregon, that he has to go back to paying $5,000 more to cover his employees. As we speak,
this law is making prescription drugs cheaper for seniors and giving uninsured students
a chance to stay on their patientsí -- parentsí coverage. (Applause.)
So I say to this chamber tonight, instead of re-fighting the battles of the last two
years, letís fix what needs fixing and letís move forward. (Applause.)
Now, the final critical step in winning the future is to make sure we arenít buried under
a mountain of debt.
We are living with a legacy of deficit spending that began almost a decade ago. And in the
wake of the financial crisis, some of that was necessary to keep credit flowing, save
jobs, and put money in peopleís pockets.
But now that the worst of the recession is over, we have to confront the fact that our
government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable. Every day, families sacrifice
to live within their means. They deserve a government that does the same.
So tonight, I am proposing that starting this year, we freeze annual domestic spending for
the next five years. (Applause.) Now, this would reduce the deficit by more than $400
billion over the next decade, and will bring discretionary spending to the lowest share
of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was President.
This freeze will require painful cuts. Already, weíve frozen the salaries of hardworking
federal employees for the next two years. Iíve proposed cuts to things I care deeply
about, like community action programs. The Secretary of Defense has also agreed to cut
tens of billions of dollars in spending that he and his generals believe our military can
do without. (Applause.)
I recognize that some in this chamber have already proposed deeper cuts, and Iím willing
to eliminate whatever we can honestly afford to do without. But letís make sure that weíre
not doing it on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens. (Applause.) And letís make sure
that what weíre cutting is really excess weight. Cutting the deficit by gutting our
investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by
removing its engine. It may make you feel like youíre flying high at first, but it
wonít take long before you feel the impact. (Laughter.)
Now, most of the cuts and savings Iíve proposed only address annual domestic spending, which
represents a little more than 12 percent of our budget. To make further progress, we have
to stop pretending that cutting this kind of spending alone will be enough. It wonít.
The bipartisan fiscal commission I created last year made this crystal clear. I donít
agree with all their proposals, but they made important progress. And their conclusion is
that the only way to tackle our deficit is to cut excessive spending wherever we find
it ñ- in domestic spending, defense spending, health care spending, and spending through
tax breaks and loopholes. (Applause.)
This means further reducing health care costs, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid,
which are the single biggest contributor to our long-term deficit. The health insurance
law we passed last year will slow these rising costs, which is part of the reason that nonpartisan
economists have said that repealing the health care law would add a quarter of a trillion
dollars to our deficit. Still, Iím willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs,
including one that Republicans suggested last year -- medical malpractice reform to rein
in frivolous lawsuits. (Applause.)
To put us on solid ground, we should also find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social
Security for future generations. (Applause.) We must do it without putting at risk current
retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for
future generations; and without subjecting Americansí guaranteed retirement income to
the whims of the stock market. (Applause.)
And if we truly care about our deficit, we simply canít afford a permanent extension
of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. (Applause.) Before we take money
away from our schools or scholarships away from our students, we should ask millionaires
to give up their tax break. Itís not a matter of punishing their success. Itís about promoting
Americaís success. (Applause.)
In fact, the best thing we could do on taxes for all Americans is to simplify the individual
tax code. (Applause.) This will be a tough job, but members of both parties have expressed
an interest in doing this, and I am prepared to join them. (Applause.)
So now is the time to act. Now is the time for both sides and both houses of Congress
ñ- Democrats and Republicans -ñ to forge a principled compromise that gets the job
done. If we make the hard choices now to rein in our deficits, we can make the investments
we need to win the future.
Let me take this one step further. We shouldnít just give our people a government thatís
more affordable. We should give them a government thatís more competent and more efficient.
We canít win the future with a government of the past. (Applause.)
We live and do business in the Information Age, but the last major reorganization of
the government happened in the age of black-and-white TV. There are 12 different agencies that deal
with exports. There are at least five different agencies that deal with housing policy. Then
thereís my favorite example: The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while theyíre
in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when theyíre in saltwater. (Laughter.)
I hear it gets even more complicated once theyíre smoked. (Laughter and applause.)
Now, weíve made great strides over the last two years in using technology and getting
rid of waste. Veterans can now download their electronic medical records with a click of
the mouse. Weíre selling acres of federal office space that hasnít been used in years,
and weíll cut through red tape to get rid of more. But we need to think bigger. In the
coming months, my administration will develop a proposal to merge, consolidate, and reorganize
the federal government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America.
I will submit that proposal to Congress for a vote ñ- and we will push to get it passed.
In the coming year, weíll also work to rebuild peopleís faith in the institution of government.
Because you deserve to know exactly how and where your tax dollars are being spent, youíll
be able to go to a website and get that information for the very first time in history. Because
you deserve to know when your elected officials are meeting with lobbyists, I ask Congress
to do what the White House has already done -- put that information online. And because
the American people deserve to know that special interests arenít larding up legislation with
pet projects, both parties in Congress should know this: If a bill comes to my desk with
earmarks inside, I will veto it. I will veto it. (Applause.)
The 21st century government thatís open and competent. A government that lives within
its means. An economy thatís driven by new skills and new ideas. Our success in this
new and changing world will require reform, responsibility, and innovation. It will also
require us to approach that world with a new level of engagement in our foreign affairs.
Just as jobs and businesses can now race across borders, so can new threats and new challenges.
No single wall separates East and West. No one rival superpower is aligned against us.
And so we must defeat determined enemies, wherever they are, and build coalitions that
cut across lines of region and race and religion. And Americaís moral example must always shine
for all who yearn for freedom and justice and dignity. And because weíve begun this
work, tonight we can say that American leadership has been renewed and Americaís standing has
been restored.
Look to Iraq, where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads
held high. (Applause.) American combat patrols have ended, violence is down, and a new government
has been formed. This year, our civilians will forge a lasting partnership with the
Iraqi people, while we finish the job of bringing our troops out of Iraq. Americaís commitment
has been kept. The Iraq war is coming to an end. (Applause.)
Of course, as we speak, al Qaeda and their affiliates continue to plan attacks against
us. Thanks to our intelligence and law enforcement professionals, weíre disrupting plots and
securing our cities and skies. And as extremists try to inspire acts of violence within our
borders, we are responding with the strength of our communities, with respect for the rule
of law, and with the conviction that American Muslims are a part of our American family.
Weíve also taken the fight to al Qaeda and their allies abroad. In Afghanistan, our troops
have taken Taliban strongholds and trained Afghan security forces. Our purpose is clear:
By preventing the Taliban from reestablishing a stranglehold over the Afghan people, we
will deny al Qaeda the safe haven that served as a launching pad for 9/11.
Thanks to our heroic troops and civilians, fewer Afghans are under the control of the
insurgency. There will be tough fighting ahead, and the Afghan government will need to deliver
better governance. But we are strengthening the capacity of the Afghan people and building
an enduring partnership with them. This year, we will work with nearly 50 countries to begin
a transition to an Afghan lead. And this July, we will begin to bring our troops home. (Applause.)
In Pakistan, al Qaedaís leadership is under more pressure than at any point since 2001.
Their leaders and operatives are being removed from the battlefield. Their safe havens are
shrinking. And weíve sent a message from the Afghan border to the Arabian Peninsula
to all parts of the globe: We will not relent, we will not waver, and we will defeat you.
American leadership can also be seen in the effort to secure the worst weapons of war.
Because Republicans and Democrats approved the New START treaty, far fewer nuclear weapons
and launchers will be deployed. Because we rallied the world, nuclear materials are being
locked down on every continent so they never fall into the hands of terrorists. (Applause.)
Because of a diplomatic effort to insist that Iran meet its obligations, the Iranian government
now faces tougher sanctions, tighter sanctions than ever before. And on the Korean Peninsula,
we stand with our ally South Korea, and insist that North Korea keeps its commitment to abandon
nuclear weapons. (Applause.)
This is just a part of how weíre shaping a world that favors peace and prosperity.
With our European allies, we revitalized NATO and increased our cooperation on everything
from counterterrorism to missile defense. Weíve reset our relationship with Russia,
strengthened Asian alliances, built new partnerships with nations like India.
This March, I will travel to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador to forge new alliances across
the Americas. Around the globe, weíre standing with those who take responsibility -ñ helping
farmers grow more food, supporting doctors who care for the sick, and combating the corruption
that can rot a society and rob people of opportunity.
Recent events have shown us that what sets us apart must not just be our power -ñ it
must also be the purpose behind it. In south Sudan -ñ with our assistance -ñ the people
were finally able to vote for independence after years of war. (Applause.) Thousands
lined up before dawn. People danced in the streets. One man who lost four of his brothers
at war summed up the scene around him: ìThis was a battlefield for most of my life,î he
said. ìNow we want to be free.î (Applause.)
And we saw that same desire to be free in Tunisia, where the will of the people proved
more powerful than the writ of a dictator. And tonight, let us be clear: The United States
of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of
all people. (Applause.)
We must never forget that the things weíve struggled for, and fought for, live in the
hearts of people everywhere. And we must always remember that the Americans who have borne
the greatest burden in this struggle are the men and women who serve our country. (Applause.)
Tonight, let us speak with one voice in reaffirming that our nation is united in support of our
troops and their families. Let us serve them as well as theyíve served us -- by giving
them the equipment they need, by providing them with the care and benefits that they
have earned, and by enlisting our veterans in the great task of building our own nation.
Our troops come from every corner of this country -ñ theyíre black, white, Latino,
Asian, Native American. They are Christian and Hindu, Jewish and Muslim. And, yes, we
know that some of them are gay. Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving
the country they love because of who they love. (Applause.) And with that change, I
call on all our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and ROTC.
It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. It is time to move forward as
one nation. (Applause.)
We should have no illusions about the work ahead of us. Reforming our schools, changing
the way we use energy, reducing our deficit ñ- none of this will be easy. All of it will
take time. And it will be harder because we will argue about everything. The costs. The
details. The letter of every law.
Of course, some countries donít have this problem. If the central government wants a
railroad, they build a railroad, no matter how many homes get bulldozed. If they donít
want a bad story in the newspaper, it doesnít get written.
And yet, as contentious and frustrating and messy as our democracy can sometimes be, I
know there isnít a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth.
We may have differences in policy, but we all believe in the rights enshrined in our
Constitution. We may have different opinions, but we believe in the same promise that says
this is a place where you can make it if you try. We may have different backgrounds, but
we believe in the same dream that says this is a country where anything is possible. No
matter who you are. No matter where you come from.
That dream is why I can stand here before you tonight. That dream is why a working-class
kid from Scranton can sit behind me. (Laughter and applause.) That dream is why someone who
began by sweeping the floors of his fatherís Cincinnati bar can preside as Speaker of the
House in the greatest nation on Earth. (Applause.)
That dream -ñ that American Dream -ñ is what drove the Allen Brothers to reinvent
their roofing company for a new era. Itís what drove those students at Forsyth Tech
to learn a new skill and work towards the future. And that dream is the story of a small
business owner named Brandon Fisher.
Brandon started a company in Berlin, Pennsylvania, that specializes in a new kind of drilling
technology. And one day last summer, he saw the news that halfway across the world, 33
men were trapped in a Chilean mine, and no one knew how to save them.
But Brandon thought his company could help. And so he designed a rescue that would come
to be known as Plan B. His employees worked around the clock to manufacture the necessary
drilling equipment. And Brandon left for Chile.
Along with others, he began drilling a 2,000-foot hole into the ground, working three- or four-hour
-- three or four days at a time without any sleep. Thirty-seven days later, Plan B succeeded,
and the miners were rescued. (Applause.) But because he didnít want all of the attention,
Brandon wasnít there when the miners emerged. Heíd already gone back home, back to work
on his next project.
And later, one of his employees said of the rescue, ìWe proved that Center Rock is a
little company, but we do big things.î (Applause.)
We do big things.
From the earliest days of our founding, America has been the story of ordinary people who
dare to dream. Thatís how we win the future.
Weíre a nation that says, ìI might not have a lot of money, but I have this great idea
for a new company.î ìI might not come from a family of college graduates, but I will
be the first to get my degree.î ìI might not know those people in trouble, but I think
I can help them, and I need to try.î ìIím not sure how weíll reach that better place
beyond the horizon, but I know weíll get there. I know we will.î
We do big things. (Applause.)
The idea of America endures. Our destiny remains our choice. And tonight, more than two centuries
later, itís because of our people that our future is hopeful, our journey goes forward,
and the state of our union is strong.
Thank you. God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)