Full Text: President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address

Delivered in the House chamber on Tuesday.

President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on January 28, 2014 in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Jan. 28, 2014, 4:13 p.m.

A tran­script of Pres­id­ent Obama’s 2014 State of the Uni­on ad­dress:

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4691) }}

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.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4687) }}

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.

What We're Following See More »
Trump Won’t Debate Sanders After All
2 days ago

Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”

UAW: Time to Unite Behind Hillary
3 days ago

"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.

Trump Clinches Enough Delegates for the Nomination
4 days ago

"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."

Trump/Sanders Debate Before California Primary?
4 days ago
California: It’s Not Over Yet
4 days ago

"Clinton and Bernie Sanders "are now devoting additional money to television advertising. A day after Sanders announced a new ad buy of less than $2 million in the state, Clinton announced her own television campaign. Ads featuring actor Morgan Freeman as well as labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta will air beginning on Fridayin Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles media markets. Some ads will also target Latino voters and Asian American voters. The total value of the buy is about six figures according to the Clinton campaign." Meanwhile, a new poll shows Sanders within the margin of error, trailing Clinton 44%-46%.