President Barack Obama addressed the nation with words of hope, strength, and encouragement as he delivered the State of the Union on Tuesday, Jan. 25. A speech that was once known as “The Annual Message” was heard by millions of people across the nation.

“It’s no secret that those of us here tonight have had our differences over the last two years,” he said. “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.”

Obama reminded the American family that “we are still bound as one people; that we share common hopes and a common creed.” He reminded us that what’s at stake isn’t who will win the next election, but whether new jobs and industries will take root in the United States or somewhere else.

“But we have more work to do,” he said. “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.”

We were reminded of a time when finding a good job wasn’t nearly as difficult as it is now. The world has changed, the rules have changed.

“The competition for jobs is real,” he said. “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 Earth.”

Technology and cutting edge science have changed the name of the game. Obama promised the he will be sending a budget to Congress to that will call for investments in biomedical research, information technology and clean energy technology. He claims this investment will create new jobs and provide a safer, cleaner environment.

Obama also plans to ask Congress to eliminate the billions of taxpayer dollars given to the oil companies.

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own,” he said. “So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.”

On education, he called for more responsibility and accountability in the home, the classroom and the community.

“Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done,” he said. “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.”

His third step in ‘winning the future’ is the rebuilding of America. To bring in new businesses; find better, more efficient ways of people, goods and information; and improving the construction industry.

On healthcare, he explained that he knows that many, many people have concerns about the new health care law. He explained that anything can be improved and he is eager to work with those who might have a better idea.  However, there is one thing he’s not willing to waiver on:

“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,” he said. “Instead of re-fighting the battles of the last two years, let’s fix what needs fixing and move forward.”

On the deficit, he spoke on how families that sacrifice to live within their means deserve a government that does the same.

“I’m willing to eliminate whatever we can honestly afford to do without,” he said. “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.”

Most of the cuts only represent 12 percent of the budget, “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 loopholes,” he said. “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 break.
It’s not a matter of punishing their success. It’s about promoting America’s success.”

He said he plans on working with Congress to re-organize, simplify and consolidate the federal government that “best serves the goal of a more competitive America.” He believes that the tax payers deserve to know how our tax dollars are being spent, when elected officials are meeting with lobbyist and that “special interests aren’t larding up legislations with pet projects.” Obama firmly told both parties in Congress that if any bill should come to his desk with earmarks inside, he will veto it.

On our military, he spoke on how the war in Iraq is coming to a close and in July, troops in Afghanistan will begin to come home. He reminded us that our troops are the reason why America still remains free. He reminded us that “Our 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.”

He made quite clear that the change he envisions will require a great a deal of work and that not every one will agree with each other.  But, he reminded us of the luxuries we have and that some take for granted.

“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.”

About Nicole Gibbs

Editor of The Record Newspapers