President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Address

(applause) (applause) (applause) House Speaker John Boehner:
Members of Congress, I have the high privilege
and distinct honor of presenting
to you the President of the
United States. (applause) (applause) The President:
Thank you. Thank you so much. Please. The President:
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President,
Members of Congress, my fellow Americans: We are 15 years into
this new century. Fifteen years that dawned
with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with
a new generation fighting two long and costly
wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across
our nation and the world. It has been, and still
is, a hard time for many. But tonight, we
turn the page. Tonight, after a
breakthrough year for America, our economy
is growing and creating jobs at the fastest
pace since 1999. (applause) Our unemployment
rate is now lower than it was before
the financial crisis. More of our kids
are graduating than ever before. More of our people are
insured than ever before. (applause) And we are as free
from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve
been in almost 30 years. (applause) Tonight, for the first
time since 9/11, our combat mission in
Afghanistan is over. (applause) Six years ago,
nearly 180,000 American troops served in
Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, fewer than
15,000 remain. And we salute the courage
and sacrifice of every man and woman in this 9/11
Generation who has served to
keep us safe. (applause) We are humbled and
grateful for your service. (applause) America, for all that
we have endured; for all the grit and hard
work required to come back; for all the tasks that
lie ahead, know this: The shadow of crisis
has passed, and the State of the
Union is strong. (applause) At this moment — with
a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling
industry, booming energy production — we have
risen from recession freer to write our own
future than any other nation on Earth. It’s now up to us to
choose who we want to be over the next 15 years
and for decades to come. Will we accept an
economy where only a few of us do
spectacularly well? Or will we commit
ourselves to an economy that generates rising
incomes and chances for everyone who
makes the effort? (applause) Will we approach the world
fearful and reactive, dragged into costly
conflicts that strain our military and set
back our standing? Or will we lead wisely,
using all elements of our power to defeat
new threats and protect our planet? Will we allow ourselves to
be sorted into factions and turned against
one another? Or will we recapture the
sense of common purpose that has always propelled
America forward? In two weeks, I will send
this Congress a budget filled with ideas that are
practical, not partisan. And in the months ahead,
I’ll crisscross the country making a
case for those ideas. So tonight, I want to
focus less on a checklist of proposals, and focus
more on the values at stake in the
choices before us. It begins with
our economy. Seven years ago,
Rebekah and Ben Erler of Minneapolis
were newlyweds. (laughter) She waited
tables. He worked
construction. Their first child,
Jack, was on the way. They were young and
in love in America. And it doesn’t get
much better than that. “If only we had known,”
Rebekah wrote to me last spring, “what was about
to happen to the housing and construction
market.” As the crisis worsened,
Ben’s business dried up, so he took what jobs he
could find, even if they kept him on the road for
long stretches of time. Rebekah took out student
loans and enrolled in community college, and
retrained for a new career. They sacrificed
for each other. And slowly, it
paid off. They bought
their first home. They had a second
son, Henry. Rebekah got a better
job and then a raise. Ben is back in
construction — and home for dinner
every night. “It is amazing,” Rebekah
wrote, “what you can bounce back from when you
have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who
has made it through some very, very
hard times.” “We are a strong,
tight-knit family who has made it through some
very, very hard times.” America, Rebekah and
Ben’s story is our story. They represent the
millions who have worked hard and scrimped, and
sacrificed and retooled. You are the reason that
I ran for this office. You are the people I was
thinking of six years ago today, in the darkest
months of the crisis, when I stood on the steps of
this Capitol and promised we would rebuild our economy
on a new foundation. And it has been your
resilience, your effort that has made it
possible for our country to emerge stronger. We believed we could
reverse the tide of outsourcing and draw
new jobs to our shores. And over the past five
years, our businesses have created more than
11 million new jobs. (applause) We believed we could
reduce our dependence on foreign oil and
protect our planet. And today, America is
number one in oil and gas. America is number
one in wind power. Every three weeks, we
bring online as much solar power as we
did in all of 2008. (applause) And thanks to
lower gas prices and higher fuel standards,
the typical family this year should save
about $750 at the pump. (applause) We believed we could
prepare our kids for a more competitive
world. And today, our younger
students have earned the highest math and reading
scores on record. Our high school
graduation rate has hit an
all-time high. More Americans finish
college than ever before. (applause) We believed that sensible
regulations could prevent another crisis,
shield families from ruin, and encourage
fair competition. Today, we have new tools
to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, and a new
consumer watchdog to protect us from predatory
lending and abusive credit card
practices. And in the past year
alone, about 10 million uninsured Americans
finally gained the security of
health coverage. (applause) At every step, we were
told our goals were misguided or too
ambitious; that we would crush jobs
and explode deficits. Instead, we’ve seen the
fastest economic growth in over a decade,
our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock
market that has doubled, and health care inflation
at its lowest rate in 50 years. (applause) This is good
news, people. (laughter) (applause) So the verdict
is clear. Middle-class
economics works. Expanding
opportunity works. And these policies will
continue to work as long as politics don’t
get in the way. We can’t slow down
businesses or put our economy at risk with
government shutdowns or fiscal showdowns. We can’t put the security
of families at risk by taking away their health
insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall
Street, or refighting past battles on
immigration when we’ve got to fix a
broken system. And if a bill comes
to my desk that tries to do any of these
things, I will veto it. It will have
earned my veto. (applause) Today, thanks to a growing
economy, the recovery is touching more
and more lives. Wages are finally
starting to rise again. We know that more
small business owners plan to raise their
employees’ pay than at any time
since 2007. But here’s the thing:
Those of us here tonight, we need to set our sights
higher than just making sure government doesn’t
screw things up; that government doesn’t halt
the progress we’re making. We need to do more
than just do no harm. Tonight, together, let’s
do more to restore the link between hard work
and growing opportunity for every American. (applause) Because families
like Rebekah’s still need our help. She and Ben are working
as hard as ever, but they’ve had to forego
vacations and a new car so that they can pay off student
loans and save for retirement. Friday night pizza,
that’s a big splurge. Basic childcare for Jack
and Henry costs more than their mortgage, and almost
as much as a year at the University of
Minnesota. Like millions of
hardworking Americans, Rebekah isn’t asking
for a handout, but she is asking that we look
for more ways to help families get ahead. And in fact, at every
moment of economic change throughout our
history, this country has taken bold action to
adapt to new circumstances and to make sure everyone
gets a fair shot. We set up worker
protections, Social Security, Medicare,
Medicaid to protect ourselves from the
harshest adversity. We gave our citizens
schools and colleges, infrastructure and the
Internet — tools they needed to go as far as
their effort and their dreams will
take them. That’s what middle-class
economics is — the idea that this country
does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone
does their fair share, everyone plays by the
same set of rules. (applause) We don’t just want
everyone to share in America’s success,
we want everyone to contribute to
our success. (applause) So what does middle-class
economics require in our time? First, middle-class
economics means helping working families feel
more secure in a world of constant change. That means helping folks
afford childcare, college, health care, a
home, retirement. And my budget will address
each of these issues, lowering the taxes
of working families and putting thousands
of dollars back into their pockets
each year. (applause) Here’s one
example. During World War
II, when men like my grandfather went off to war,
having women like my grandmother in the workforce was a
national security priority — so this country provided
universal childcare. In today’s economy, when
having both parents in the workforce is an economic
necessity for many families, we need affordable,
high-quality childcare more
than ever. (applause) It’s not a nice-to-have
— it’s a must-have. So it’s time we stop
treating childcare as a side issue, or as a
women’s issue, and treat it like the national
economic priority that it is for all of us. (applause) And that’s why my plan
will make quality childcare more available
and more affordable for every middle-class and
low-income family with young children in America
— by creating more slots and a new tax cut of up
to $3,000 per child, per year. (applause) Here’s another
example. Today, we are the
only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t
guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity
leave to our workers. Forty-three million
workers have no paid sick leave —
43 million. Think about that. And that forces too many
parents to make the gut-wrenching choice
between a paycheck and a sick kid
at home. So I’ll be taking new
action to help states adopt paid leave
laws of their own. And since paid sick
leave won where it was on the ballot last November,
let’s put it to a vote right here in
Washington. (applause) Send me a bill that
gives every worker in America the opportunity
to earn seven days of paid sick leave. It’s the right
thing to do. (applause) It’s the right
thing to do. (applause) Of course, nothing helps
families make ends meet like
higher wages. That’s why this Congress
still needs to pass a law that makes sure a
woman is paid the same as a man for doing
the same work. (applause) It’s 2015. (laughter) It’s time. We still need to make
sure employees get the overtime
they’ve earned. (applause) And to everyone in this
Congress who still refuses to raise the
minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you
could work full-time and support a
family on less than $15,000 a
year, try it. If not, vote to give
millions of the hardest-working people
in America a raise. (applause) Now, these ideas won’t
make everybody rich, won’t relieve
every hardship. That’s not the
job of government. To give working families
a fair shot, we still need more employers to
see beyond next quarter’s earnings and recognize
that investing in their workforce is
in their company’s long-term interest. We still need laws that
strengthen rather than weaken unions, and give
American workers a voice. (applause) But you know, things like
childcare and sick leave and equal pay; things like
lower mortgage premiums and a higher minimum wage
— these ideas will make a meaningful difference
in the lives of millions of families. That’s a fact. And that’s what all
of us, Republicans and Democrats alike,
were sent here to do. Now second, to make sure folks
keep earning higher wages down the road, we have to
do more to help Americans upgrade their skills. (applause) America thrived
in the 20th century because we made high
school free, sent a generation of GIs to
college, trained the best workforce
in the world. We were ahead
of the curve. But other countries
caught on. And in a 21st century
economy that rewards knowledge like never before,
we need to up our game. We need to
do more. By the end of this decade,
two in three job openings will require some higher
education — two in three. And yet, we still live in
a country where too many bright, striving
Americans are priced out of the education
they need. It’s not fair to
them, and it’s sure not smart for
our future. That’s why I’m sending
this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost
of community college — to zero. (applause) Keep in mind 40 percent
of our college students choose community
college. Some are young
and starting out. Some are older and
looking for a better job. Some are veterans and
single parents trying to transition back
into the job market. Whoever you are, this plan
is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy
without a load of debt. Understand, you’ve
got to earn it. You’ve got to keep
your grades up and graduate on time. Tennessee, a state with
Republican leadership, and Chicago, a city with
Democratic leadership, are showing that free
community college is possible. I want to spread that
idea all across America, so that two years of
college becomes as free and universal in America
as high school is today. (applause) Let’s stay ahead
of the curve. (applause) And I want to work
with this Congress to make sure those already
burdened with student loans can reduce their
monthly payments so that student debt doesn’t
derail anyone’s dreams. (applause) Thanks to Vice President
Biden’s great work to update our job training
system, we’re connecting community colleges with
local employers to train workers to fill
high-paying jobs like coding, and
nursing, and robotics. Tonight, I’m also
asking more businesses to follow the lead of companies
like CVS and UPS, and offer more educational benefits
and paid apprenticeships — opportunities that give
workers the chance to earn higher-paying jobs even
if they don’t have a higher
education. And as a new generation
of veterans comes home, we owe them every opportunity
to live the American Dream they helped defend. Already, we’ve made
strides towards ensuring that every veteran
has access to the highest
quality care. We’re slashing the backlog
that had too many veterans waiting years to get
the benefits they need. And we’re making it easier
for vets to translate their training and
experience into civilian jobs. And Joining Forces, the
national campaign launched by Michelle and
Jill Biden — (applause) — thank you, Michelle; thank
you, Jill — has helped nearly 700,000 veterans and
military spouses get a new job. (applause) So to every CEO in
America, let me repeat: If you want somebody who’s
going to get the job done and done right,
hire a veteran. (applause) Finally, as we better
train our workers, we need the new economy
to keep churning out high-wage jobs for
our workers to fill. Since 2010, America has
put more people back to work than Europe,
Japan, and all advanced economies
combined. (applause) Our manufacturers have
added almost 800,000 new jobs. Some of our bedrock
sectors, like our auto industry,
are booming. But there are also
millions of Americans who work in jobs that didn’t
even exist 10 or 20 years ago — jobs at companies
like Google, and eBay, and Tesla. So no one knows for
certain which industries will generate the
jobs of the future. But we do know we want
them here in America. We know that. (applause) And that’s why the
third part of middle-class economics is
all about building the most competitive economy
anywhere, the place where businesses want to
locate and hire. Twenty-first century
businesses need 21st century infrastructure —
modern ports, and stronger bridges, faster trains,
and the fastest Internet. Democrats and Republicans
used to agree on this. So let’s set our
sights higher than a single oil
pipeline. Let’s pass a bipartisan
infrastructure plan that could create more than
30 times as many jobs per year, and make this
country stronger for decades
to come. (applause) Let’s do it. Let’s get
it done. (applause) Let’s get
it done. (applause) Twenty-first century
businesses, including small businesses,
need to sell more American products
overseas. Today, our businesses
export more than ever, and exporters tend to
pay their workers higher wages. But as we speak, China
wants to write the rules for the world’s
fastest-growing region. That would put our workers
and our businesses at a disadvantage. Why would we
let that happen? We should write
those rules. We should level
the playing field. That’s why I’m asking both
parties to give me trade promotion authority to
protect American workers, with strong new trade
deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free,
but are also fair. It’s the right
thing to do. (applause) Look, I’m the first one
to admit that past trade deals haven’t always lived
up to the hype, and that’s why we’ve gone after
countries that break the rules at
our expense. But 95 percent of the
world’s customers live outside
our borders. We can’t close
ourselves off from those
opportunities. More than half of
manufacturing executives have said they’re
actively looking to bring jobs
back from China. So let’s give them
one more reason to get it done. Twenty-first century
businesses will rely on American science and
technology, research and development. I want the country
that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome
to lead a new era of medicine — one that delivers
the right treatment at the right time. (applause) In some patients with
cystic fibrosis, this approach has reversed
a disease once thought unstoppable. So tonight, I’m
launching a new Precision Medicine Initiative
to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer
and diabetes, and to give all of us access to the
personalized information we need to keep ourselves
and our families healthier. We can do this. (applause) I intend to protect a free
and open Internet, extend its reach to every classroom,
and every community — (applause) — and help folks build
the fastest networks so that the
next generation of digital innovators and
entrepreneurs have the platform to keep
reshaping our world. I want Americans to win
the race for the kinds of discoveries that unleash
new jobs — converting sunlight into liquid fuel;
creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a
veteran who gave his arms for his country can play
catch with his kids again. (applause) Pushing out into
the solar system not just to visit,
but to stay. Last month, we launched
a new spacecraft as part of a reenergized space
program that will send American
astronauts to Mars. And in two months, to
prepare us for those missions, Scott Kelly will
begin a year-long stay in space. So good luck,
Captain. Make sure to
Instagram it. We’re proud
of you. (applause) Now, the truth is, when
it comes to issues like infrastructure and basic
research, I know there’s bipartisan support
in this chamber. Members of both parties
have told me so. Where we too often run
onto the rocks is how to pay for these
investments. As Americans, we don’t
mind paying our fair share of taxes as long as
everybody else does, too. But for far too long,
lobbyists have rigged the tax code with loopholes
that let some corporations pay nothing while others
pay full freight. They’ve riddled it with
giveaways that the super-rich don’t need,
while denying a break to middle-class
families who do. This year, we have an
opportunity to change that. Let’s close loopholes
so we stop rewarding companies that keep
profits abroad, and reward those that invest
here in America. (applause) Let’s use those
savings to rebuild our infrastructure and to
make it more attractive for companies to
bring jobs home. Let’s simplify the system
and let a small business owner file based on her
actual bank statement, instead of the number
of accountants she can afford. (applause) And let’s close
the loopholes that lead to inequality by allowing
the top one percent to avoid paying taxes on their
accumulated wealth. We can use that money to
help more families pay for childcare and send
their kids to college. We need a tax code that
truly helps working Americans trying to get a
leg up in the new economy, and we can achieve
that together. (applause) We can achieve
it together. Helping hardworking
families make ends meet. Giving them the tools
they need for good-paying jobs in this
new economy. Maintaining the
conditions of growth and competitiveness. This is where
America needs to go. I believe it’s where the
American people want to go. It will make our economy
stronger a year from now, 15 years from now, and deep
into the century ahead. Of course, if there’s one
thing this new century has taught us, it’s that we
cannot separate our work here at home from challenges
beyond our shores. My first duty as
Commander-in-Chief is to defend the United
States of America. In doing so, the question
is not whether America leads in the
world, but how. When we make rash
decisions, reacting to the headlines instead of
using our heads; when the first response to a challenge
is to send in our military — then we risk getting
drawn into unnecessary conflicts, and neglect the
broader strategy we need for a safer, more
prosperous world. That’s what our
enemies want us to do. I believe in a smarter kind
of American leadership. We lead best when we
combine military power with strong diplomacy;
when we leverage our power with coalition building;
when we don’t let our fears blind us to the
opportunities that this new century
presents. That’s exactly what
we’re doing right now. And around the globe, it
is making a difference. First, we stand united
with people around the world who have been
targeted by terrorists — from a school in Pakistan
to the streets of Paris. (applause) We will continue
to hunt down terrorists and dismantle
their networks, and we reserve the right to act
unilaterally, as we have done relentlessly since I
took office to take out terrorists who pose
a direct threat to us and
our allies. (applause) At the same time, we’ve
learned some costly lessons over the
last 13 years. Instead of Americans
patrolling the valleys of Afghanistan, we’ve trained
their security forces, who have now taken the lead,
and we’ve honored our troops’ sacrifice by
supporting that country’s first democratic
transition. Instead of sending large
ground forces overseas, we’re partnering with
nations from South Asia to North Africa to deny
safe haven to terrorists who threaten America. In Iraq and Syria,
American leadership — including our military
power — is stopping ISIL’s advance. Instead of getting dragged
into another ground war in the Middle East, we are
leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations,
to degrade and ultimately destroy this
terrorist group. (applause) We’re also supporting
a moderate opposition in Syria that
can help us in this effort, and assisting
people everywhere who stand up to the
bankrupt ideology of violent
extremism. Now, this effort
will take time. It will
require focus. But we will
succeed. And tonight, I call on
this Congress to show the world that we are
united in this mission by passing a resolution
to authorize the use of force
against ISIL. We need that
authority. (applause) Second, we’re
demonstrating the power of American strength
and diplomacy. We’re upholding the
principle that bigger nations can’t bully the
small — by opposing Russian aggression, and
supporting Ukraine’s democracy, and reassuring
our NATO allies. (applause) Last year, as we were
doing the hard work of imposing sanctions
along with our allies, as we were reinforcing our
presence with the frontline states, Mr. Putin’s
aggression it was suggested was a masterful
display of strategy and strength. That’s what I heard
from some folks. Well, today, it is America
that stands strong and united with our allies,
while Russia is isolated with its economy
in tatters. That’s how America leads
— not with bluster, but with persistent,
steady resolve. (applause) In Cuba, we are ending
a policy that was long past its
expiration date. (applause) When what you’re
doing doesn’t work for 50 years, it’s time
to try something new. (applause) And our shift in
Cuba policy has the potential to end a
legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere. It removes a phony excuse
for restrictions in Cuba. It stands up for
democratic values, and extends the
hand of friendship to the Cuban
people. And this year, Congress
should begin the work of ending
the embargo. (applause) As His Holiness, Pope
Francis, has said, diplomacy is the work
of “small steps.” These small steps have
added up to new hope for the future
in Cuba. And after years in prison,
we are overjoyed that Alan Gross is back
where he belongs. Welcome
home, Alan. We’re glad
you’re here. (applause) Our diplomacy is at work
with respect to Iran, where, for the first time
in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of its
nuclear program and reduced its stockpile
of nuclear material. Between now and this
spring, we have a chance to negotiate a
comprehensive agreement that prevents a
nuclear-armed Iran, secures America and our
allies — including Israel, while
avoiding yet another Middle East
conflict. There are no guarantees
that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all
options on the table to prevent a
nuclear Iran. But new sanctions passed
by this Congress, at this moment in time, will
all but guarantee that diplomacy fails
— alienating America from its allies; making
it harder to maintain sanctions; and ensuring
that Iran starts up its nuclear
program again. It doesn’t
make sense. And that’s why I will veto
any new sanctions bill that threatens to
undo this progress. (applause) The American people
expect us only to go to war as a last
resort, and I intend to stay true to
that wisdom. Third, we’re looking
beyond the issues that have consumed us in
the past to shape the coming
century. No foreign nation, no
hacker, should be able to shut down our networks,
steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy
of American families, especially our kids. (applause) So we’re making
sure our government integrates intelligence
to combat cyber threats, just as we have done
to combat terrorism. And tonight, I urge this
Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to
better meet the evolving threat of cyber attacks,
combat identity theft, and protect our
children’s information. That should be a
bipartisan effort. (applause) If we don’t act, we’ll
leave our nation and our economy
vulnerable. If we do, we can
continue to protect the technologies that
have unleashed untold opportunities for people
around the globe. In West Africa, our
troops, our scientists, our doctors, our nurses,
our health care workers are rolling back Ebola —
saving countless lives and stopping the
spread of disease. (applause) I could not be
prouder of them, and I thank this Congress
for your bipartisan support of their efforts. But the job is not yet
done, and the world needs to use this lesson
to build a more effective global effort to prevent
the spread of future pandemics, invest in
smart development, and eradicate
extreme poverty. In the Asia Pacific, we
are modernizing alliances while making sure that
other nations play by the rules — in how they
trade, how they resolve maritime disputes,
how they participate in meeting common
international challenges like nonproliferation
and disaster relief. And no challenge
— no challenge — poses a greater threat
to future generations than climate change. (applause) 2014 was the planet’s
warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make
a trend, but this does: 14 of the 15 warmest years
on record have all fallen in the first 15 years
of this century. I’ve heard some folks try
to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not
scientists; that we don’t have enough
information to act. Well, I’m not a
scientist, either. But you know what, I know
a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and
at NOAA, and at our major universities. And the best scientists in
the world are all telling us that our activities
are changing the climate, and if we don’t act
forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans,
longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and
floods, and massive disruptions that can
trigger greater migration and conflict and hunger
around the globe. The Pentagon says that
climate change poses immediate risks to our
national security. We should act
like it. (applause) And that’s why, over the
past six years, we’ve done more than ever to
combat climate change, from the way we produce
energy to the way we use it. That’s why we’ve set
aside more public lands and waters than any
administration in history. And that’s why I will not
let this Congress endanger the health of our
children by turning back the clock
on our efforts. I am determined
to make sure that American leadership drives
international action. (applause) In Beijing, we made a
historic announcement: The United States will
double the pace at which we cut carbon
pollution. And China committed,
for the first time, to limiting
their emissions. And because the world’s
two largest economies came together, other nations
are now stepping up, and offering hope that
this year the world will finally reach an
agreement to protect the one planet
we’ve got. And there’s one last
pillar of our leadership, and that’s the example
of our values. As Americans, we respect
human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which
is why I have prohibited torture, and worked to
make sure our use of new technology like drones
is properly constrained. (applause) It’s why we speak
out against the deplorable anti-Semitism
that has resurfaced in certain parts
of the world. (applause) It’s why we
continue to reject offensive stereotypes of
Muslims, the vast majority of whom share our
commitment to peace. That’s why we defend free
speech, and advocate for political prisoners,
and condemn the persecution of women, or religious
minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay,
bisexual or transgender. We do these things not
only because they are the right thing to do, but
because ultimately they will make us safer. (applause) As Americans, we
have a profound commitment to
justice. So it makes no sense
to spend $3 million per prisoner to keep open
a prison that the world condemns and terrorists
use to recruit. (applause) Since I’ve been
President, we’ve worked responsibly to cut
the population of Gitmo in half. Now it is time to
finish the job. And I will not relent
in my determination to shut it down. It is not
who we are. It’s time to
close Gitmo. (applause) As Americans, we cherish
our civil liberties, and we need to uphold
that commitment if we want maximum
cooperation from other countries and industry
in our fight against terrorist networks. So while some have moved
on from the debates over our surveillance
programs, I have not. As promised, our
intelligence agencies have worked hard, with the
recommendations of privacy advocates, to increase
transparency and build more safeguards against
potential abuse. And next month, we’ll
issue a report on how we’re keeping our promise
to keep our country safe while strengthening
privacy. Looking to the future
instead of the past. Making sure we match our
power with diplomacy, and use force
wisely. Building coalitions to
meet new challenges and opportunities. Leading — always — with
the example of our values. That’s what makes
us exceptional. That’s what
keeps us strong. That’s why we have to keep
striving to hold ourselves to the highest of
standards — our own. You know, just over
a decade ago, I gave a speech in Boston where
I said there wasn’t a liberal America or a
conservative America; a black America or a
white America — but a United States
of America. I said this because I had
seen it in my own life, in a nation that gave someone
like me a chance; because I grew up in Hawaii, a
melting pot of races and customs; because I made
Illinois my home — a state of small towns,
rich farmland, one of the world’s great cities; a
microcosm of the country where Democrats
and Republicans and Independents, good
people of every ethnicity and every faith, share
certain bedrock values. Over the past six years,
the pundits have pointed out more than once that
my presidency hasn’t delivered on
this vision. How ironic, they say,
that our politics seems more divided than ever. It’s held up as proof not
just of my own flaws — of which there are many
— but also as proof that the vision itself is
misguided, naïve, that there are too many
people in this town who actually benefit from
partisanship and gridlock for us to ever do
anything about it. I know how tempting
such cynicism may be. But I still think the
cynics are wrong. I still believe that
we are one people. I still believe that
together, we can do great things, even when
the odds are long. (applause) I believe this
because over and over in my six years in office, I
have seen America at its best. I’ve seen the hopeful
faces of young graduates from New York to
California, and our newest officers at West
Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs,
New London. I’ve mourned with grieving
families in Tucson and Newtown, in Boston,
in West Texas, and West Virginia. I’ve watched Americans
beat back adversity from the Gulf Coast to the
Great Plains, from Midwest assembly lines to the
Mid-Atlantic seaboard. I’ve seen something like
gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to
drive us apart to a story of freedom across our
country, a civil right now legal in states that seven
in 10 Americans call home. (applause) So I know the good,
and optimistic, and big-hearted generosity of
the American people who every day live the
idea that we are our brother’s keeper and
our sister’s keeper. And I know they expect
those of us who serve here to set a
better example. So the question for those
of us here tonight is how we, all of us, can better
reflect America’s hopes. I’ve served in Congress
with many of you. I know many
of you well. There are a lot of good
people here, on both sides of the aisle. And many of you have
told me that this isn’t what you signed up for —
arguing past each other on cable shows, the
constant fundraising, always looking over your
shoulder at how the base will react to
every decision. Imagine if we broke out of
these tired old patterns. Imagine if we did
something different. Understand, a better
politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their
agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine. A better politics is one
where we appeal to each other’s basic
decency instead of our basest
fears. A better politics is one
where we debate without demonizing each other;
where we talk issues and values, and principles
and facts, rather than “gotcha” moments, or
trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have
nothing to do with people’s
daily lives. (applause) A politics — a better
politics is one where we spend less time drowning
in dark money for ads that pull us into the gutter,
and spend more time lifting young people up
with a sense of purpose and possibility, asking
them to join in the great mission of
building America. If we’re going to have
arguments, let’s have arguments, but let’s
make them debates worthy of this body and worthy
of this country. We still may not agree on
a woman’s right to choose, but surely we can agree
it’s a good thing that teen pregnancies and
abortions are nearing all-time lows, and that
every woman should have access to the health
care that she needs. (applause) Yes, passions still fly on
immigration, but surely we can all see something of
ourselves in the striving young student, and agree
that no one benefits when a hardworking mom is
snatched from her child, and that it’s possible to
shape a law that upholds our tradition as a nation
of laws and a nation of immigrants. I’ve talked to Republicans
and Democrats about that. That’s something
that we can share. We may go at it in
campaign season, but surely we can agree
that the right to vote is sacred; that it’s being
denied to too many — (applause) — and that on this
50th anniversary of the great march from
Selma to Montgomery and the passage of the Voting
Rights Act, we can come together, Democrats and
Republicans, to make voting easier for
every single American. (applause) We may have different
takes on the events of Ferguson
and New York. But surely we can
understand a father who fears his son can’t
walk home without being harassed. And surely we can
understand the wife who won’t rest until
the police officer she married walks through
the front door at the end of his shift. (applause) And surely we can
agree that it’s a good thing that for the
first time in 40 years, the crime rate and the
incarceration rate have come down together,
and use that as a starting point for Democrats and
Republicans, community leaders and law
enforcement, to reform America’s criminal
justice system so that it protects and
serves all of us. (applause) That’s a better
politics. That’s how we start
rebuilding trust. That’s how we move
this country forward. That’s what the
American people want. And that’s what
they deserve. I have no more
campaigns to run. (applause) My only agenda — (laughter) — I know because I
won both of them. (applause) Yeah. (laughter) My only agenda for
the next two years is the same as the one I’ve
had since the day I swore an oath on the steps of
this Capitol — to do what I believe is
best for America. If you share the broad
vision I outlined tonight, I ask you to join me
in the work at hand. If you disagree with parts
of it, I hope you’ll at least work with me
where you do agree. And I commit to every
Republican here tonight that I will not only
seek out your ideas, I will seek to work
with you to make this country
stronger. (applause) Because I want this
chamber, I want this city to reflect the truth —
that for all our blind spots and shortcomings,
we are a people with the strength and generosity of
spirit to bridge divides, to unite in common effort,
to help our neighbors, whether down the street
or on the other side of the world. I want our actions to
tell every child in every neighborhood, your life
matters, and we are committed to improving
your life chances as committed as we are
to working on behalf of our own kids. (applause) I want future
generations to know that we are a people who see
our differences as a great gift, that we’re a people
who value the dignity and worth of every citizen —
man and woman, young and old, black and white,
Latino, Asian, immigrant, Native American, gay,
straight, Americans with mental illness or
physical disability. Everybody matters. I want them to grow up
in a country that shows the world what we
still know to be true: that we are still more than
a collection of red states and blue states;
that we are the United States
of America. (applause) I want them to grow up in
a country where a young mom can sit down and write
a letter to her President with a story that sums
up these past six years: “It’s amazing what you can
bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong,
tight-knit family who’s made it through some
very, very hard times.” My fellow Americans,
we, too, are a strong, tight-knit
family. We, too, have made it
through some hard times. Fifteen years into this
new century, we have picked ourselves up,
dusted ourselves off, and begun again the work
of remaking America. We have laid a
new foundation. A brighter future
is ours to write. Let’s begin this new
chapter together — and let’s start the
work right now. Thank you. God bless you. God bless this
country we love. Thank you. (applause)

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