Remarks of President Barack Obama in the 2011 State of the Union address
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:
I want to begin by congratulating the men and women of the 112th
Congress, as well as your new Speaker, John Boehner. And as we mark
this occasion, we are also mindful of the empty chair in this Chamber,
and pray for the health of our colleague — and our friend — Gabby
It’s 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 that’s a good
thing. That’s what a robust democracy demands. That’s what helps set us
apart as a nation.
But there’s a reason the tragedy in Tucson
gave us pause. Amid all the noise and passions and rancor of our public
debate, Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come
from, each of us is a part of something greater — something more
consequential than party or political preference.
We are part of
the American family. We believe that in a country where every race and
faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as
one people; that we share common hopes and a common creed; that the
dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different than those of
our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be fulfilled.
That, too, is what sets us apart as a nation.
itself, this simple recognition won’t usher in a new era of
cooperation. What comes of this moment is up to us. What comes of this
moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight,
but whether we can work together tomorrow.
I believe we can. I
believe we must. That’s what the people who sent us here expect of us.
With their votes, they’ve determined that governing will now be a
shared responsibility between parties. New laws will only pass with
support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together,
or not at all — for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and
bigger than politics.
At stake right now is not who wins the
next election — after all, we just had an election. At stake is whether
new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else.
It’s whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded. It’s
whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a
place on a map, but a light to the world.
We are poised for
progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever
known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are
up. The economy is growing again.
But we have never measured
progress by these yardsticks alone. We measure progress by the success
of our people. By the jobs they can find and the quality of life those
jobs offer. By the prospects of a small business owner who dreams of
turning a good idea into a thriving enterprise. By the opportunities
for a better life that we pass on to our children.
That’s the project the American people want us to work on. Together.
did that in December. Thanks to the tax cuts we passed, Americans’
paychecks are a little bigger today. Every business can write off the
full cost of the new investments they make this year. 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.
we have more work to do. The steps we’ve taken over the last two years
may have broken the back of this recession — but to win the future,
we’ll need to take on challenges that have been decades in the making.
people watching tonight can probably remember a time when finding a
good job meant showing up at a nearby factory or a business downtown.
You didn’t always need a degree, and your competition was pretty much
limited to your neighbors. If you worked hard, chances are you’d have a
job for life, with a decent paycheck, good benefits, and the occasional
promotion. Maybe you’d even have the pride of seeing your kids work at
the same company.
That world has changed. And for many, the
change has been painful. I’ve seen it in the shuttered windows of once
booming factories, and the vacant storefronts of once busy Main
Streets. I’ve heard it in the frustrations of Americans who’ve seen
their paychecks dwindle or their jobs disappear — proud men and women
who feel like the rules have been changed in the middle of the game.
right. The rules have changed. In a single generation, revolutions in
technology have transformed the way we live, work and do business.
Steel mills that once needed 1,000 workers can now do the same work
with 100. Today, just about any company can set up shop, hire workers,
and sell their products wherever there’s an Internet connection.
nations like China and India realized that with some changes of their
own, they could compete in this new world. And so they started
educating their children earlier and longer, with greater emphasis on
math and science. They’re investing in research and new technologies.
Just recently, China became home to the world’s largest private solar
research facility, and the world’s fastest computer.
So yes, the
world has changed. The competition for jobs is real. But this shouldn’t
discourage us. It should challenge us. Remember — for all the hits
we’ve taken these last few years, for all the naysayers predicting our
decline, America still has the largest, most prosperous economy in the
world. No workers are more productive than ours. No country has more
successful companies, or grants more patents to inventors and
entrepreneurs. We are home to the world’s best colleges and
universities, where more students come to study than any other place on
What’s more, we are the first nation to be founded for
the sake of an idea — the idea that each of us deserves the chance to
shape our own destiny. That is why centuries of pioneers and immigrants
have risked everything to come here. It’s why our students don’t just
memorize equations, but answer questions like “What do you think of
that idea? What would you change about the world? What do you want to
be when you grow up?”
The future is ours to win. But to get
there, we can’t just stand still. As Robert Kennedy told us, “The
future is not a gift. It is an achievement.” Sustaining the American
Dream has never been about standing pat. It has required each
generation to sacrifice, and struggle, and meet the demands of a new
Now it’s 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. We have to make America the best
place on Earth to do business. We need to take responsibility for our
deficit, and reform our government. That’s how our people will prosper.
That’s how we’ll win the future. And tonight, I’d like to talk about
how we get there.
The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation.
of us can predict with certainty what the next big industry will be, or
where the new jobs will come from. Thirty years ago, we couldn’t know
that something called the Internet would lead to an economic
revolution. What we can do — what America does better than anyone — is
spark the creativity and imagination of our people. We are the nation
that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of
Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook. In America,
innovation doesn’t just change our lives. It’s how we make a living.
free enterprise system is what drives innovation. But because it’s not
always profitable for companies to invest in basic research, throughout
history our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and
inventors with the support that they need. That’s what planted the
seeds for the Internet. That’s what helped make possible things like
computer chips and GPS.
Just think of all the good jobs — from manufacturing to retail — that have come from those breakthroughs.
a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a
satellite called Sputnik, we had no idea how we’d beat them to the
moon. The science wasn’t there yet. NASA didn’t even exist. But after
investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the
Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries
and millions of new jobs.
This is our generation’s Sputnik
moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of
research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space
Race. In a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps
us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information
technology, and especially clean energy technology — an investment that
will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless
new jobs for our people.
Already, we are 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 Robert’s words, “We reinvented ourselves.”
Americans have done for over two hundred years: reinvented ourselves.
And to spur on more success stories like the Allen Brothers, we’ve
begun to reinvent our energy policy. We’re not just handing out money.
We’re issuing a challenge. We’re telling America’s scientists and
engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their
fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund
the Apollo Projects of our time.
At the California Institute of
Technology, they’re developing a way to turn sunlight and water into
fuel for our cars. At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they’re using
supercomputers to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities.
With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil
with biofuels, and become the first country to have 1 million electric
vehicles on the road by 2015.
We need to get behind this
innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate
the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I
don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own.
So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in
Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate
into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for
what they’re selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting
a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean
energy sources. Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear,
clean coal, and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all —
and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen.
our leadership in research and technology is crucial to America’s
success. But if we want to win the future — if we want innovation to
produce jobs in America and not overseas — then we also have to win the
race to educate our kids.
Think about it. Over the next ten
years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes
beyond a high school degree. And yet, as many as a quarter of our
students aren’t even finishing high school. The quality of our math and
science education lags behind many other nations. America has fallen to
9th in the proportion of young people with a college degree. And so the
question is whether all of us — as citizens, and as parents — are
willing to do what’s necessary to give every child a chance to succeed.
responsibility begins not in our classrooms, but in our homes and
communities. It’s family that first instills the love of learning in a
child. Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework
gets done. We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of
the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the
science fair; that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard
work and discipline.
Our schools share this responsibility. When
a child walks into a classroom, it should be a place of high
expectations and high performance. But too many schools don’t meet this
test. That’s why instead of just pouring money into a system that’s not
working, we launched a competition called Race to the Top. To all fifty
states, we said, “If you show us the most innovative plans to improve
teacher quality and student achievement, we’ll show you the money.”
to the Top is the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a
generation. For less than one percent of what we spend on education
each year, it has led over 40 states to raise their standards for
teaching and learning. These standards were developed, not by
Washington, but by Republican and Democratic governors throughout the
country. And Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year
as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that is more flexible and
focused on what’s best for our kids.
You see, we know what’s
possible for our children when reform isn’t just a top-down mandate,
but the work of local teachers and principals; school boards and
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% of the seniors
received their diploma. Most will be the first in their family to go to
college. And after the first year of the school’s transformation, the
principal who made it possible wiped away tears when a student said
“Thank you, Mrs. Waters, for showing ... that we are smart and we can make
Let’s also remember that after parents, the biggest impact
on a child’s success comes from the man or woman at the front of the
classroom. In South Korea, teachers are known as “nation builders.”
Here in America, it’s time we treated the people who educate our
children with the same level of respect. We want to reward good
teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones. And over the next ten
years, with so many Baby Boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want
to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science, technology,
engineering, and math.
In fact, to every young person listening
tonight who’s contemplating their career choice: If you want to make a
difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference
in the life of a child — become a teacher. Your country needs you.
course, the education race doesn’t end with a high school diploma. To
compete, higher education must be within reach of every American.
That’s why we’ve ended the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that went to
banks, and used the savings to make college affordable for millions of
students. And this year, I ask Congress to go further, and make
permanent our tuition tax credit — worth $10,000 for four years of
Because people need to be able to train for new jobs
and careers in today’s fast-changing economy, we are also revitalizing
America’s community colleges. Last month, I saw the promise of these
schools at Forsyth Tech in North Carolina. Many of the students there
used to work in the surrounding factories that have since left town.
One mother of two, a woman named Kathy Proctor, had worked in the
furniture industry since she was 18 years old. And she told me she’s
earning her degree in biotechnology now, at 55 years old, not just
because the furniture jobs are gone, but because she wants to inspire
her children to pursue their dreams too. As Kathy said, “I hope it
tells them to never give up.”
If we take these steps — if we
raise expectations for every child, and give them the best possible
chance at an education, from the day they’re born until the last job
they take — we will reach the goal 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.
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 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. I am
prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders,
enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who
are now living in the shadows. I know that debate will be difficult and
take time. But tonight, let’s agree to make that effort. And let’s stop
expelling talented, responsible young people who can staff our research
labs, start new businesses, and further enrich this nation.
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
Our infrastructure used to be the best –
but our lead has slipped. South Korean homes now have greater internet
access than we do. Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their
roads and railways than we do. China is building faster trains and
newer airports. Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation’s
infrastructure, they gave us a “D.”
We have to do better.
America is the nation that built the transcontinental railroad, brought
electricity to rural communities, and constructed the interstate
highway system. The jobs created by these projects didn’t just come
from laying down tracks or pavement. They came from businesses that
opened near a town’s new train station or the new off-ramp.
the last two years, we have begun rebuilding for the 21st century, a
project that has meant thousands of good jobs for the hard-hit
construction industry. Tonight, I’m proposing that we redouble these
We will put more Americans to work repairing crumbling
roads and bridges. We will make sure this is fully paid for, attract
private investment, and pick projects based on what’s best for the
economy, not politicians.
Within 25 years, our goal is to give
80% of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you go
places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it
will be faster than flying — without the pat-down. As we speak, routes
in California and the Midwest are already underway.
next five years, we will make it possible for business to deploy the
next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98% of all
Americans. This isn’t just about a faster Internet and fewer dropped
calls. It’s about connecting every part of America to the digital age.
It’s about a rural community in Iowa or Alabama where farmers and small
business owners will be able to sell their products all over the world.
It’s about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning
building onto a handheld device; a student who can take classes with a
digital textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats
with her doctor.
All these investments — in innovation,
education, and infrastructure — will make America a better place to do
business and create jobs. But to help our companies compete, we also
have to knock down barriers that stand in the way of their success.
the years, a parade of lobbyists has rigged the tax code to benefit
particular companies and industries. Those with accountants or lawyers
to work the system can end up paying no taxes at all. But all the rest
are hit with one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. It
makes no sense, and it has to change.
So tonight, I’m asking
Democrats and Republicans to simplify the system. Get rid of the
loopholes. Level the playing field. And use the savings to lower the
corporate tax rate for the first time in 25 years — without adding to
To help businesses sell more products abroad, we
set a goal of doubling our exports by 2014 – because the more we
export, the more jobs we create at home. Already, our exports are up.
Recently, we signed agreements with India and China that will support
more than 250,000 jobs 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.
Before I took office, I made it
clear that we would enforce our trade agreements, and that I would only
sign deals that keep faith with American workers, and promote American
jobs. That’s what we did with Korea, and that’s what I intend to do as
we pursue agreements with Panama and Colombia, and continue our Asia
Pacific and global trade talks.
To reduce barriers to growth and
investment, I’ve ordered a review of government regulations. When we
find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix
them. But I will not hesitate to create or enforce commonsense
safeguards to protect the American people. That’s what we’ve done in
this country for more than a century. It’s why our food is safe to eat,
our water is safe to drink, and our air is safe to breathe. It’s why we
have speed limits and child labor laws. It’s why last year, we put in
place consumer protections against hidden fees and penalties by credit
card companies, and new rules to prevent another financial crisis. And
it’s why we passed reform that finally prevents the health insurance
industry from exploiting patients.
Now, I’ve heard rumors that a
few of you have some concerns about the new health care law. So let me
be the first to say that anything can be improved. If you have ideas
about how to improve this law by making care better or more affordable,
I am eager to work with you. We can start right now by correcting a
flaw in the legislation that has placed an unnecessary bookkeeping
burden on small businesses.
What I’m not willing to do is go
back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage
because of a pre-existing condition. I’m not willing to tell James
Howard, a brain cancer patient from Texas, that his treatment might not
be covered. I’m not willing to tell Jim Houser, a small business owner
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
parents’ coverage. So instead of re-fighting the battles of the last
two years, let’s fix what needs fixing and move forward.
Now, the final step — a critical step — in winning the future is to make sure we aren’t buried under a mountain of debt.
are living with a legacy of deficit-spending that began almost a decade
ago. And in the wake of the financial crisis, some of that was
necessary to keep credit flowing, save jobs, and put money in people’s
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.
tonight, I am proposing that starting this year, we freeze annual
domestic spending for the next five years. This would reduce the
deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, and will bring
discretionary spending to the lowest share of our economy since Dwight
Eisenhower was president.
This freeze will require painful cuts.
Already, we have frozen the salaries of hardworking federal employees
for the next two years. I’ve proposed cuts to things I care deeply
about, like community action programs. The Secretary of Defense has
also agreed to cut tens of billions of dollars in spending that he and
his generals believe our military can do without.
that some in this Chamber have already proposed deeper cuts, and I’m
willing to eliminate whatever we can honestly afford to do without. But
let’s make sure that we’re not doing it on the backs of our most
vulnerable citizens. And let’s make sure what we’re cutting is really
excess weight. Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in
innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by
removing its engine. It may feel like you’re flying high at first, but
it won’t take long before you’ll feel the impact.
Now, most of
the cuts and savings I’ve proposed only address annual domestic
spending, which represents a little more than 12% of our budget. To
make further progress, we have to stop pretending that cutting this
kind of spending alone will be enough. It won’t.
Fiscal Commission I created last year made this crystal clear. I don’t
agree with all their proposals, but they made important progress. And
their conclusion is that the only way to tackle our deficit is to cut
excessive spending wherever we find it — in domestic spending, defense
spending, health care spending, and spending through tax breaks and
This means further reducing health care costs,
including programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which are the single
biggest contributor to our long-term deficit. Health insurance reform
will slow these rising costs, which is part of why nonpartisan
economists have said that repealing the health care law would add a
quarter of a trillion dollars to our deficit. Still, I’m willing to
look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans
suggested last year: medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous
To put us on solid ground, we should also find a
bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future
generations. And we must do it without putting at risk current
retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without
slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting
Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock
And if we truly care about our deficit, we simply cannot
afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of
Americans. Before we take money away from our schools, or scholarships
away from our students, we should ask millionaires to give up their tax
It’s not a matter of punishing their success. It’s about promoting America’s success.
fact, the best thing we could do on taxes for all Americans is to
simplify the individual tax code. This will be a tough job, but members
of both parties have expressed interest in doing this, and I am
prepared to join them.
So now is the time to act. Now is the
time for both sides and both houses of Congress — Democrats and
Republicans — to forge a principled compromise that gets the job done.
If we make the hard choices now to rein in our deficits, we can make
the investments we need to win the future.
Let me take this one
step further. We shouldn’t just give our people a government that’s
more affordable. We should give them a government that’s more competent
and efficient. We cannot win the future with a government of the past.
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 twelve different agencies that deal with exports. There
are at least five different entities that deal with housing policy.
Then there’s my favorite example: the Interior Department is in charge
of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department
handles them in when they’re in saltwater. And I hear it gets even more
complicated once they’re smoked.
Now, we have 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. We’re selling acres of federal office space that hasn’t
been used in years, and we will 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 — and we will push to get it passed.
In the coming year,
we will also work to rebuild people’s faith in the institution of
government. Because you deserve to know exactly how and where your tax
dollars are being spent, you will 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 aren’t larding up legislation with pet projects,
both parties in Congress should know this: if a bill comes to my desk
with earmarks inside, I will veto it.
A 21st century government
that’s open and competent. A government that lives within its means. An
economy that’s driven by new skills and 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
And so we must defeat determined enemies wherever
they are, and build coalitions that cut across lines of region and race
and religion. America’s moral example must always shine for all who
yearn for freedom, justice, and dignity. And because we have begun this
work, tonight we can say that American leadership has been renewed and
America’s standing has been restored.
Look to Iraq, where nearly
100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads held
high; where American combat patrols have ended; violence has come down;
and a new government has been formed. This year, our civilians will
forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people, while we finish the
job of bringing our troops out of Iraq. America’s commitment has been
kept; the Iraq War is coming to an end.
Of course, as we speak,
al Qaeda and their affiliates continue to plan attacks against us.
Thanks to our intelligence and law enforcement professionals, we are
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
We have 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.
Pakistan, al Qaeda’s leadership is under more pressure than at any
point since 2001. Their leaders and operatives are being removed from
the battlefield. Their safe-havens are shrinking. And we have 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
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
Because of a diplomatic effort to insist that
Iran meet its obligations, the Iranian government now faces tougher and
tighter sanctions than ever before. And on the Korean peninsula, we
stand with our ally South Korea, and insist that North Korea keeps its
commitment to abandon nuclear weapons.
This is just a part of
how we are shaping a world that favors peace and prosperity. With our
European allies, we revitalized NATO, and increased our cooperation on
everything from counter-terrorism to missile defense. We have reset our
relationship with Russia, strengthened Asian alliances, and built new
partnerships with nations like India. This March, I will travel to
Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador to forge new alliances for progress in
the Americas. Around the globe, we are standing with those who take
responsibility — helping farmers grow more food; supporting doctors who
care for the sick; and combating the corruption that can rot a society
and rob people of opportunity.
Recent events have shown us that
what sets us apart must not just be our power — it must be the purpose
behind it. In South Sudan — with our assistance — the people were
finally able to vote for independence after years of war. Thousands
lined up before dawn. People danced in the streets. One man who lost
four of his brothers at war summed up the scene around him: “This was a
battlefield for most of my life. Now we want to be free.”
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.
must never forget that the things we’ve struggled for, and fought for,
live in the hearts of people everywhere. And we must always remember
that the Americans who have borne the greatest burden in this struggle
are the men and women who serve our country.
Tonight, let us
speak with one voice in reaffirming that our nation is united in
support of our troops and their families. Let us serve them as well as
they have served us – by giving them the equipment they need; by
providing them with the care and benefits they have earned; and by
enlisting our veterans in the great task of building our own nation.
troops come from every corner of this country — they are black, white,
Latino, Asian and Native American. They are Christian and Hindu, Jewish
and Muslim. And, yes, we know that some of them are gay. Starting this
year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love
because of who they love. And with that change, I call on all of our
college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and the
ROTC. It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. It
is time to move forward as one nation.
We should have no
illusions about the work ahead of us. Reforming our schools; changing
the way we use energy; reducing our deficit — none of this is easy. All
of it will take time. And it will be harder because we will argue about
everything. The cost. The details. The letter of every law.
course, some countries don’t have this problem. If the central
government wants a railroad, they get a railroad — no matter how many
homes are bulldozed. If they don’t want a bad story in the newspaper,
it doesn’t get written.
And yet, as contentious and frustrating
and messy as our democracy can sometimes be, I know there isn’t a
person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth.
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’s
possible. No matter who you are. No matter where you come from.
dream is why I can stand here before you tonight. That dream is why a
working class kid from Scranton can stand behind me. That dream is why
someone who began by sweeping the floors of his father’s Cincinnati bar
can preside as Speaker of the House in the greatest nation on Earth.
dream — that American Dream — is what drove the Allen Brothers to
reinvent their roofing company for a new era. It’s what drove those
students at Forsyth Tech to learn a new skill and work towards the
future. And that dream is the story of a small business owner named
Brandon started a company in Berlin,
Pennsylvania, that specializes in a new kind of drilling technology. 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.
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
Along with others, he began drilling a 2,000 foot
hole into the ground, working three or four days at a time with no
sleep. Thirty-seven days later, Plan B succeeded, and the miners were
rescued. But because he didn’t want all of the attention, Brandon
wasn’t there when the miners emerged. He had already gone home, back to
work on his next project.
Later, one of his employees said of the rescue, “We proved that Center Rock is a little company, but we do big things.”
We do big things.
the earliest days of our founding, America has been the story of
ordinary people who dare to dream. That’s how we win the future.
are a nation that says, “I might not have a lot of money, but I have
this great idea for a new company. I might not come from a family of
college graduates, but I will be the first to get my degree. I might
not know those people in trouble, but I think I can help them, and I
need to try. I’m not sure how we’ll reach that better place beyond the
horizon, but I know we’ll get there. I know we will.”
We do big things.
idea of America endures. Our destiny remains our choice. And tonight,
more than two centuries later, it is because of our people that our
future is hopeful, our journey goes forward, and the state of our union
Thank you, God Bless You, and may God Bless the United States of America.