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← Watch President Obama Deliver the 2013 State of the Union Address

President Barack Obama delivered the 2013 State of the Union address, his first since being elected to a second term, where he focused on 'smarter government' over larger government, education reform, immigration reform, equal pay and equality for women, gun control and other goals for the country.

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Showing Revision 6 created 02/14/2013 by Claude Almansi.

  1. JOHN BOEHNER: Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and distinct honor of presenting to you,
  2. the President of the United States. (Applause.)
  3. Thank you. (Continued applause.)
  4. Thank you so much. Thank you.
  5. Thank you very much.
  6. Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President,
    members of Congress, fellow Americans:
  7. Fifty-one years ago, John F. Kennedy declared
    to this chamber that “the Constitution makes
  8. us not rivals for power but partners for progress.”
    (Applause.)
  9. “It is my task,” he said,“to report the State of the Union -- to improve it is the task of us all.”
  10. Tonight, thanks to the grit and determination
    of the American people,
  11. there is much progress to report.
  12. After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home. (Applause.)
  13. After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created over six million new jobs.
  14. We buy more American cars than we have in five years,
  15. and less foreign oil than we have in 20. (Applause.)
  16. Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding,
  17. and consumers, patients, and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever before. (Applause.)
  18. So, together, we have cleared away the rubble
    of crisis,
  19. and we can say with renewed confidence that the State of our Union is stronger. (Applause.)
  20. But we gather here knowing that there are
    millions of Americans
  21. whose hard work and dedication have not yet been rewarded.
  22. Our economy is adding jobs -- but too many people still can’t find full-time employment.
  23. Corporate profits have skyrocketed to all-time highs
  24. -- but for more than a decade, wages and incomes
    have barely budged.
  25. It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite
    the true engine of America’s economic growth
  26. -- a rising, thriving middle class. (Applause.)
  27. It is -- (Applause)
  28. It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country --
  29. the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead,
  30. no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like, or who you love.
  31. It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many,
  32. and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative,
  33. and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation. (Applause.)
  34. The American people don’t expect government to solve every problem.
  35. They don’t expect those of us in this chamber to agree on every issue.
  36. But they do expect us to put the nation’s interests before party. (Applause.)
  37. They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can.
  38. For they know that America moves forward only when we do so together,
  39. and that the responsibility of improving this union remains the task of us all.
  40. Our work must begin by making some basic decisions
    about our budget --
  41. decisions that will have a huge impact on the strength of our recovery.
  42. Over the last few years, both parties have
    worked together to reduce the deficit
  43. by more than $2.5 trillion -- mostly through spending
    cuts,
  44. but also by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.
  45. As a result, we are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction
  46. that economists say we need to stabilize our finances.
  47. Now we need to finish the job. And the question is, how?
  48. In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree
  49. on a plan to reach our deficit goal,
  50. about a trillion dollars’ worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year.
  51. These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness.
  52. They’d devastate priorities like education, and energy, and medical research.
  53. They would certainly slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs.
  54. That’s why Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists
  55. have already said that these cuts, known here in Washington as the sequester, are a really bad idea.
  56. Now, some in Congress have proposed preventing
    only the defense cuts
  57. by making even bigger cuts to things like education and job training,
  58. Medicare and Social Security benefits.
  59. That idea is even worse. (Applause.)
  60. Yes, the biggest driver of our long-term debt
  61. is the rising cost of health care for an aging population.
  62. And those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms
  63. -- otherwise, our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children,
  64. and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement for future generations.
  65. But we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction
  66. while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and the most powerful. (Applause.)
  67. We won’t grow the middle class simply by shifting the cost of health care or college
  68. onto families that are already struggling,
  69. or by forcing communities to lay off more teachers and more cops and more firefighters.
  70. Most Americans -- Democrats, Republicans, and independents --
  71. understand that we can’t just cut our way to prosperity.
  72. They know that broad-based economic growth requires a balanced approach to deficit reduction,
  73. with spending cuts and revenue, and with everybody
    doing their fair share.
  74. And that’s the approach I offer tonight.
  75. On Medicare, I’m prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health care savings
  76. by the beginning of the next decade
  77. as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission. (Applause.)
  78. Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs. (Applause.)
  79. And the reforms I’m proposing go even further.
  80. We’ll reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies
  81. and ask more from the wealthiest seniors. (Applause.)
  82. We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare,
  83. because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital;
  84. they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive. (Applause.)
  85. And I am open to additional reforms from both parties,
  86. so long as they don’t violate the guarantee of a secure retirement.
  87. Our government shouldn’t make promises we cannot keep --
  88. but we must keepthe promises we’ve already made. (Applause.)
  89. To hit the rest of our deficit reduction target,
  90. we should do what leaders in both parties have already suggested,
  91. and save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions
  92. for the well-off and the well-connected.
  93. After all, why would we choose to make deeper cuts to education and Medicare,
  94. just to protect special interest tax breaks?
  95. How is that fair?
  96. Why is it that deficit reduction is a big emergency justifying making cuts in Social Security benefits
  97. but not closing some loopholes?
  98. How does that promote growth? (Applause.)
  99. Now is our best chance for bipartisan, comprehensive tax reform
  100. that encourages job creation and helps bring down the deficit. (Applause.)
  101. We can get this done. (Applause.)
  102. The American people deserve a tax code that helps small businesses spend less time
  103. filling out complicated forms, and more time expanding and hiring --
  104. a tax code that ensures billionaires with high-powered accountants can’t work the system
  105. and pay a lower rate than their hardworking secretaries;
  106. a tax code that lowers incentives to move jobs overseas,
  107. and lowers tax rates for businesses and manufacturers
  108. that are creating jobs right here in the United States of America.
  109. That’s what tax reform can deliver. That’s what we can do together. (Applause.)
  110. I realize that tax reform and entitlement reform will not be easy.
  111. The politics will be hard for both sides.
  112. None of us will get 100 percent of what we want.
  113. But the alternative will cost us jobs, hurt our economy,
  114. visit hardship on millions of hardworking Americans.
  115. So let’s set party interests aside and work
    to pass a budget that replaces reckless cuts
  116. with smart savings and wise investments in
    our future.
  117. And let’s do it without the brinksmanship that stresses consumers and scares off investors. (Applause.)
  118. The greatest nation on Earth (Applause.)
  119. The greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business
  120. by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next. (Applause.)
  121. We can't do it. (Applause.)
  122. Let’s agree. Let's agree right here, right now to keep the people’s government open,
  123. and pay our bills on time,
  124. and always uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America. (Applause.)
  125. The American people have worked too hard, for too long, rebuilding from one crisis
  126. to see their elected officials cause another. (Applause.)
  127. Now, most of us agree that a plan to reducethe deficit must be part of our agenda.
  128. But let’s be clear, deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan. (Applause.)
  129. A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs --
  130. that must be the North Star that guides our efforts (Applause.)
  131. Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation:
  132. How do we attract more jobs to our shores?
  133. How do we equip our people with the skills they need to get those jobs?
  134. And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?
  135. A year and a half ago, I put forward an American Jobs Act
  136. that independent economists said would create more than 1 million new jobs.
  137. And I thank the last Congress for passing some of that agenda.
  138. I urge this Congress to pass the rest. (Applause.)
  139. But tonight, I’ll lay out additional proposals that are fully paid for
  140. and fully consistent with the budget framework both parties agreed to just 18 months ago.
  141. Let me repeat -- nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime.
  142. It is not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government
  143. that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth. (Applause.)
  144. That's what we should be looking for. (Applause.)
  145. Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing.
  146. After shedding jobs for more than 10 years,
  147. our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three.
  148. Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan. Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico.
  149. And this year, Apple will start making Macs in America again. (Applause.)
  150. There are things we can do, right now, to accelerate this trend.
  151. Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio.
  152. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3D printing
  153. that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything.
  154. There’s no reason this can’t happen in other towns.
  155. So tonight, I’m announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs,
  156. where businesses will partner with the Department of Defense and Energy
  157. to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs.
  158. And I ask this Congress to help create a network of 15 of these hubs
  159. and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is made right here in America.
  160. We can get that done. (Applause.)
  161. Now, if we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas.
  162. Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy -- every dollar.
  163. Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s.
  164. They’re developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs;
  165. devising new material to make batteries 10 times more powerful.
  166. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation.
  167. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development
  168. not seen since the height of the Space Race.
  169. We need to make those investments. (Applause.)
  170. Today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy.
  171. After years of talking about it, we’re finally poised to control our own energy future.
  172. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years (Applause.)
  173. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas,
  174. and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar --
  175. with tens of thousands of good American jobs to show for it.
  176. We produce more natural gas than ever before -- and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it.
  177. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution
  178. that threatens our planet have actually fallen.
  179. But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. (Applause.)
  180. Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend.
  181. But the fact is the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15.
  182. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods -- all are now more frequent and more intense.
  183. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades,
  184. and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence.
  185. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science --
  186. and act before it’s too late. (Applause.)
  187. Now, the good news is we can make meaningful progress on this issue
  188. while driving strong economic growth.
  189. I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change,
  190. like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago.
  191. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.
  192. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future,
  193. to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change,
  194. and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.
  195. Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market
  196. and the jobs that came with it.
  197. And we’ve begun to change that.
  198. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America.
  199. So let’s generate even more.
  200. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year -- let’s drive down costs even further.
  201. As long as countries like China keep going all in on clean energy, so must we.
  202. Now, in the meantime, the natural gas boom
    has led to cleaner power
  203. and greater energy independence. We need to encourage that.
  204. And that’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape
  205. and speeding up new oil and gas permits.
    (Applause.)
  206. That’s got to be part of an all-of-the-above plan.
  207. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology
  208. that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and our water.
  209. In fact, much of our new-found energy is drawn
    from lands and waters that we,
  210. the public, own together.
  211. So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust
  212. that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.
  213. If a nonpartisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea,
  214. then so can we.
  215. Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses
  216. from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long.
  217. I’m also issuing a new goal for America:
  218. Let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20 years. (Applause.)
  219. We'll work with the states to do it.
  220. Those states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills
  221. by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make that happen.
  222. America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair.
  223. Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire --
  224. a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and Internet;
  225. high-tech schools, self-healing power grids.
  226. The CEO of Siemens America -- a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina --
  227. said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they’ll bring even more jobs.
  228. And that’s the attitude of a lot of companies all around the world.
  229. And I know you want these job-creating projects in your district.
  230. I’ve seen all those ribbon-cuttings. (Laughter.)
  231. So tonight, I propose a “Fix-It-First” program
  232. to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs,
  233. like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. (Applause.)
  234. And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden,
  235. I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital
  236. to upgrade what our businesses need most:
  237. modern ports to move our goods, modern pipelines to withstand a storm,
  238. modern schools worthy of our children. (Applause.)
  239. Let’s prove that there’s no better place to do business than here in the United States of America,
  240. and let’s start right away. We can get this done.
  241. And part of our rebuilding effort must also involve our housing sector.
  242. The good news is our housing market is finally healing from the collapse of 2007.
  243. Home prices are rising at the fastest pace in six years.
  244. Home purchases are up nearly 50 percent, and construction is expanding again.
  245. But even with mortgage rates near a 50-year low,
  246. too many families with solid credit who want to buy a home are being rejected.
  247. Too many families who never missed a payment and want to refinance are being told no.
  248. That’s holding our entire economy back. We need to fix it.
  249. Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress
  250. that would give every responsible homeowner in America
  251. the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates.
  252. Democrats and Republicans have supported it before, so what are we waiting for?
  253. Take a vote, and send me that bill. (Applause.)
  254. Why would we be against that? (Applause.)
  255. Why would that be a partisan issue, helping folks refinance?
  256. Right now, overlapping regulations keep responsible young families from buying their first home.
  257. What’s holding us back? Let’s streamline the process, and help our economy grow.
  258. These initiatives in manufacturing, energy, infrastructure, housing --
  259. all these things will help entrepreneurs and small business owners expand and create new jobs.
  260. But none of it will matter unless we also equip our citizens with the skills and training
  261. to fill those jobs. (Applause.)
  262. And that has to start at the earliest possible
    age. Study after study shows that the sooner
  263. a child begins learning, the better he or
    she does down the road. But today, fewer than
  264. 3 in 10 four year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality
    preschool program. Most middle-class parents
  265. can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week
    for a private preschool. And for poor kids
  266. who need help the most, this lack of access
    to preschool education can shadow them for
  267. the rest of their lives. So tonight, I propose
    working with states to make high-quality preschool
  268. available to every single child in America.
    (Applause.) That's something we should be
  269. able to do.
  270. Every dollar we invest in high-quality early
    childhood education can save more than seven
  271. dollars later on -- by boosting graduation
    rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing
  272. violent crime. In states that make it a priority
    to educate our youngest children, like Georgia
  273. or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up
    more likely to read and do math at grade level,
  274. graduate high school, hold a job, form more
    stable families of their own. We know this
  275. works. So let’s do what works and make sure
    none of our children start the race of life
  276. already behind. Let’s give our kids that
    chance. (Applause.)
  277. Let’s also make sure that a high school
    diploma puts our kids on a path to a good
  278. job. Right now, countries like Germany focus
    on graduating their high school students with
  279. the equivalent of a technical degree from
    one of our community colleges. So those German
  280. kids, they're ready for a job when they graduate
    high school. They've been trained for the
  281. jobs that are there. Now at schools like P-Tech
    in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York
  282. Public Schools and City University of New
    York and IBM, students will graduate with
  283. a high school diploma and an associate's degree
    in computers or engineering.
  284. We need to give every American student opportunities
    like this. (Applause.)
  285. And four years ago, we started Race to the
    Top -- a competition that convinced almost
  286. every state to develop smarter curricula and
    higher standards, all for about 1 percent
  287. of what we spend on education each year. Tonight,
    I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign
  288. America’s high schools so they better equip
    graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy.
  289. And we’ll reward schools that develop new
    partnerships with colleges and employers,
  290. and create classes that focus on science,
    technology, engineering and math -- the skills
  291. today’s employers are looking for to fill
    the jobs that are there right now and will
  292. be there in the future.
  293. Now, even with better high schools, most young
    people will need some higher education. It’s
  294. a simple fact the more education you’ve
    got, the more likely you are to have a good
  295. job and work your way into the middle class.
    But today, skyrocketing costs price too many
  296. young people out of a higher education, or
    saddle them with unsustainable debt.
  297. Through tax credits, grants and better loans,
    we’ve made college more affordable for millions
  298. of students and families over the last few
    years. But taxpayers can’t keep on subsidizing
  299. higher and higher and higher costs for higher
    education. Colleges must do their part to
  300. keep costs down, and it’s our job to make
    sure that they do. (Applause.)
  301. So tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher
    Education Act so that affordability and value
  302. are included in determining which colleges
    receive certain types of federal aid. (Applause.)
  303. And tomorrow, my administration will release
    a new “College Scorecard” that parents
  304. and students can use to compare schools based
    on a simple criteria -- where you can get
  305. the most bang for your educational buck.
  306. Now, to grow our middle class, our citizens
    have to have access to the education and training
  307. that today’s jobs require. But we also have
    to make sure that America remains a place
  308. where everyone who’s willing to work -- everybody
    who’s willing to work hard has the chance
  309. to get ahead.
  310. Our economy is stronger when we harness the
    talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful
  311. immigrants. (Applause.) And right now, leaders
    from the business, labor, law enforcement,
  312. faith communities -- they all agree that the
    time has come to pass comprehensive immigration
  313. reform. (Applause.) Now is the time to do
    it. Now is the time to get it done. Now is
  314. the time to get it done. (Applause.)
  315. Real reform means strong border security,
    and we can build on the progress my administration
  316. has already made -- putting more boots on
    the Southern border than at any time in our
  317. history and reducing illegal crossings to
    their lowest levels in 40 years.
  318. Real reform means establishing a responsible
    pathway to earned citizenship -- a path that
  319. includes passing a background check, paying
    taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English,
  320. and going to the back of the line behind the
    folks trying to come here legally. (Applause.)
  321. And real reform means fixing the legal immigration
    system to cut waiting periods and attract
  322. the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers
    that will help create jobs and grow our economy.
  323. (Applause.)
  324. In other words, we know what needs to be done.
    And as we speak, bipartisan groups in both
  325. chambers are working diligently to draft a
    bill, and I applaud their efforts. So let’s
  326. get this done. Send me a comprehensive immigration
    reform bill in the next few months, and I
  327. will sign it right away. And America will
    be better for it. (Applause.) Let’s get
  328. it done. Let’s get it done.
  329. But we can’t stop there. We know our economy
    is stronger when our wives, our mothers, our
  330. daughters can live their lives free from discrimination
    in the workplace, and free from the fear of
  331. domestic violence. Today, the Senate passed
    the Violence Against Women Act that Joe Biden
  332. originally wrote almost 20 years ago. And
    I now urge the House to do the same. (Applause.)
  333. Good job, Joe. And I ask this Congress to
    declare that women should earn a living equal
  334. to their efforts, and finally pass the Paycheck
    Fairness Act this year. (Applause.)
  335. We know our economy is stronger when we reward
    an honest day’s work with honest wages.
  336. But today, a full-time worker making the minimum
    wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax
  337. relief we put in place, a family with two
    kids that earns the minimum wage still lives
  338. below the poverty line. That’s wrong. That’s
    why, since the last time this Congress raised
  339. the minimum wage, 19 states have chosen to
    bump theirs even higher.
  340. Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest
    nation on Earth, no one who works full-time
  341. should have to live in poverty, and raise
    the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour.
  342. (Applause.) We should be able to get that
    done. (Applause.)
  343. This single step would raise the incomes of
    millions of working families. It could mean
  344. the difference between groceries or the food
    bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally
  345. getting ahead. For businesses across the country,
    it would mean customers with more money in
  346. their pockets. And a whole lot of folks out
    there would probably need less help from government.
  347. In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to
    wait year after year for the minimum wage
  348. to go up while CEO pay has never been higher.
    So here’s an idea that Governor Romney and
  349. I actually agreed on last year -- let’s
    tie the minimum wage to the cost of living,
  350. so that it finally becomes a wage you can
    live on. (Applause.)
  351. Tonight, let’s also recognize that there
    are communities in this country where no matter
  352. how hard you work, it is virtually impossible
    to get ahead. Factory towns decimated from
  353. years of plants packing up. Inescapable pockets
    of poverty, urban and rural, where young adults
  354. are still fighting for their first job. America
    is not a place where the chance of birth or
  355. circumstance should decide our destiny. And
    that’s why we need to build new ladders
  356. of opportunity into the middle class for all
    who are willing to climb them.
  357. Let’s offer incentives to companies that
    hire Americans who’ve got what it takes
  358. to fill that job opening, but have been out
    of work so long that no one will give them
  359. a chance anymore. Let’s put people back
    to work rebuilding vacant homes in run-down
  360. neighborhoods. And this year, my administration
    will begin to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit
  361. towns in America to get these communities
    back on their feet. We’ll work with local
  362. leaders to target resources at public safety,
    and education, and housing.
  363. We’ll give new tax credits to businesses
    that hire and invest. And we’ll work to
  364. strengthen families by removing the financial
    deterrents to marriage for low-income couples,
  365. and do more to encourage fatherhood -- because
    what makes you a man isn’t the ability to
  366. conceive a child; it’s having the courage
    to raise one. And we want to encourage that.
  367. We want to help that. (Applause.)
  368. Stronger families. Stronger communities. A
    stronger America. It is this kind of prosperity
  369. -- broad, shared, built on a thriving middle
    class -- that has always been the source of
  370. our progress at home. It’s also the foundation
    of our power and influence throughout the
  371. world.
  372. Tonight, we stand united in saluting the troops
    and civilians who sacrifice every day to protect
  373. us. Because of them, we can say with confidence
    that America will complete its mission in
  374. Afghanistan and achieve our objective of defeating
    the core of al Qaeda. (Applause.)
  375. Already, we have brought home 33,000 of our
    brave servicemen and women. This spring, our
  376. forces will move into a support role, while
    Afghan security forces take the lead. Tonight,
  377. I can announce that over the next year, another
    34,000 American troops will come home from
  378. Afghanistan. This drawdown will continue and
    by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan
  379. will be over. (Applause.)
  380. Beyond 2014, America’s commitment to a unified
    and sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but
  381. the nature of our commitment will change.
    We're negotiating an agreement with the Afghan
  382. government that focuses on two missions -- training
    and equipping Afghan forces so that the country
  383. does not again slip into chaos, and counterterrorism
    efforts that allow us to pursue the remnants
  384. of al Qaeda and their affiliates.
  385. Today, the organization that attacked us on
    9/11 is a shadow of its former self. (Applause.)
  386. It's true, different al Qaeda affiliates and
    extremist groups have emerged -- from the
  387. Arabian Peninsula to Africa. The threat these
    groups pose is evolving. But to meet this
  388. threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands
    of our sons and daughters abroad or occupy
  389. other nations. Instead, we'll need to help
    countries like Yemen, and Libya, and Somalia
  390. provide for their own security, and help allies
    who take the fight to terrorists, as we have
  391. in Mali. And where necessary, through a range
    of capabilities, we will continue to take
  392. direct action against those terrorists who
    pose the gravest threat to Americans. (Applause.)
  393. Now, as we do, we must enlist our values in
    the fight. That's why my administration has
  394. worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal
    and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism
  395. efforts. Throughout, we have kept Congress
    fully informed of our efforts. I recognize
  396. that in our democracy, no one should just
    take my word for it that we’re doing things
  397. the right way. So in the months ahead, I will
    continue to engage Congress to ensure not
  398. only that our targeting, detention and prosecution
    of terrorists remains consistent with our
  399. laws and system of checks and balances, but
    that our efforts are even more transparent
  400. to the American people and to the world. (Applause.)
  401. Of course, our challenges don’t end with
    al Qaeda. America will continue to lead the
  402. effort to prevent the spread of the world’s
    most dangerous weapons. The regime in North
  403. Korea must know they will only achieve security
    and prosperity by meeting their international
  404. obligations. Provocations of the sort we saw
    last night will only further isolate them,
  405. as we stand by our allies, strengthen our
    own missile defense and lead the world in
  406. taking firm action in response to these threats.
  407. Likewise, the leaders of Iran must recognize
    that now is the time for a diplomatic solution,
  408. because a coalition stands united in demanding
    that they meet their obligations, and we will
  409. do what is necessary to prevent them from
    getting a nuclear weapon. (Applause.)
  410. At the same time, we’ll engage Russia to
    seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals,
  411. and continue leading the global effort to
    secure nuclear materials that could fall into
  412. the wrong hands -- because our ability to
    influence others depends on our willingness
  413. to lead and meet our obligations.
  414. America must also face the rapidly growing
    threat from cyber-attacks. (Applause.) Now,
  415. we know hackers steal people’s identities
    and infiltrate private emails. We know foreign
  416. countries and companies swipe our corporate
    secrets. Now our enemies are also seeking
  417. the ability to sabotage our power grid, our
    financial institutions, our air traffic control
  418. systems. We cannot look back years from now
    and wonder why we did nothing in the face
  419. of real threats to our security and our economy.
  420. And that’s why, earlier today, I signed
    a new executive order that will strengthen
  421. our cyber defenses by increasing information
    sharing, and developing standards to protect
  422. our national security, our jobs, and our privacy.
    (Applause.)
  423. But now Congress must act as well, by passing
    legislation to give our government a greater
  424. capacity to secure our networks and deter
    attacks. This is something we should be able
  425. to get done on a bipartisan basis. (Applause.)
  426. Now, even as we protect our people, we should
    remember that today’s world presents not
  427. just dangers, not just threats, it presents
    opportunities. To boost American exports,
  428. support American jobs and level the playing
    field in the growing markets of Asia, we intend
  429. to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific
    Partnership. And tonight, I’m announcing
  430. that we will launch talks on a comprehensive
    Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership
  431. with the European Union -- because trade that
    is fair and free across the Atlantic supports
  432. millions of good-paying American jobs. (Applause.)
  433. We also know that progress in the most impoverished
    parts of our world enriches us all -- not
  434. only because it creates new markets, more
    stable order in certain regions of the world,
  435. but also because it’s the right thing to
    do. In many places, people live on little
  436. more than a dollar a day. So the United States
    will join with our allies to eradicate such
  437. extreme poverty in the next two decades by
    connecting more people to the global economy;
  438. by empowering women; by giving our young and
    brightest minds new opportunities to serve,
  439. and helping communities to feed, and power,
    and educate themselves; by saving the world’s
  440. children from preventable deaths; and by realizing
    the promise of an AIDS-free generation, which
  441. is within our reach. (Applause.)
  442. You see, America must remain a beacon to all
    who seek freedom during this period of historic
  443. change. I saw the power of hope last year
    in Rangoon, in Burma, when Aung San Suu Kyi
  444. welcomed an American President into the home
    where she had been imprisoned for years; when
  445. thousands of Burmese lined the streets, waving
    American flags, including a man who said,
  446. “There is justice and law in the United
    States. I want our country to be like that.”
  447. In defense of freedom, we’ll remain the
    anchor of strong alliances from the Americas
  448. to Africa; from Europe to Asia. In the Middle
    East, we will stand with citizens as they
  449. demand their universal rights, and support
    stable transitions to democracy. (Applause.)
  450. We know the process will be messy, and we
    cannot presume to dictate the course of change
  451. in countries like Egypt, but we can -- and
    will -- insist on respect for the fundamental
  452. rights of all people. We’ll keep the pressure
    on a Syrian regime that has murdered its own
  453. people, and support opposition leaders that
    respect the rights of every Syrian. And we
  454. will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit
    of security and a lasting peace. (Applause.)
  455. These are the messages I'll deliver when I
    travel to the Middle East next month. And
  456. all this work depends on the courage and sacrifice
    of those who serve in dangerous places at
  457. great personal risk –- our diplomats, our
    intelligence officers, and the men and women
  458. of the United States Armed Forces. As long
    as I’m Commander-in-Chief, we will do whatever
  459. we must to protect those who serve their country
    abroad, and we will maintain the best military
  460. the world has ever known. (Applause.)
  461. We'll invest in new capabilities, even as
    we reduce waste and wartime spending. We will
  462. ensure equal treatment for all servicemembers,
    and equal benefits for their families -- gay
  463. and straight. (Applause.) We will draw upon
    the courage and skills of our sisters and
  464. daughters and moms, because women have proven
    under fire that they are ready for combat.
  465. We will keep faith with our veterans, investing
    in world-class care, including mental health
  466. care, for our wounded warriors -- (applause)
    -- supporting our military families; giving
  467. our veterans the benefits and education and
    job opportunities that they have earned. And
  468. I want to thank my wife, Michelle, and Dr.
    Jill Biden for their continued dedication
  469. to serving our military families as well as
    they have served us. Thank you, honey. Thank
  470. you, Jill. (Applause.)
  471. Defending our freedom, though, is not just
    the job of our military alone. We must all
  472. do our part to make sure our God-given rights
    are protected here at home. That includes
  473. one of the most fundamental right of a democracy:
    the right to vote. (Applause.) When any American,
  474. no matter where they live or what their party,
    are denied that right because they can’t
  475. afford to wait for five or six or seven hours
    just to cast their ballot, we are betraying
  476. our ideals. (Applause.)
  477. So tonight, I’m announcing a nonpartisan
    commission to improve the voting experience
  478. in America. And it definitely needs improvement.
    I’m asking two long-time experts in the
  479. field -- who, by the way, recently served
    as the top attorneys for my campaign and for
  480. Governor Romney’s campaign -- to lead it.
    We can fix this, and we will. The American
  481. people demand it, and so does our democracy.
    (Applause.)
  482. Of course, what I’ve said tonight matters
    little if we don’t come together to protect
  483. our most precious resource: our children.
    It has been two months since Newtown. I know
  484. this is not the first time this country has
    debated how to reduce gun violence. But this
  485. time is different. Overwhelming majorities
    of Americans -- Americans who believe in the
  486. Second Amendment -- have come together around
    common-sense reform, like background checks
  487. that will make it harder for criminals to
    get their hands on a gun. (Applause.) Senators
  488. of both parties are working together on tough
    new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns
  489. for resale to criminals. Police chiefs are
    asking our help to get weapons of war and
  490. massive ammunition magazines off our streets,
    because these police chiefs, they’re tired
  491. of seeing their guys and gals being outgunned.
  492. Each of these proposals deserves a vote in
    Congress. (Applause.) Now, if you want to
  493. vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals
    deserve a vote. Because in the two months
  494. since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays,
    graduations, anniversaries have been stolen
  495. from our lives by a bullet from a gun -- more
    than a thousand.
  496. One of those we lost was a young girl named
    Hadiya Pendleton. She was 15 years old. She
  497. loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a
    majorette. She was so good to her friends
  498. they all thought they were her best friend.
    Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington,
  499. with her classmates, performing for her country
    at my inauguration. And a week later, she
  500. was shot and killed in a Chicago park after
    school, just a mile away from my house.
  501. Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in
    this chamber tonight, along with more than
  502. two dozen Americans whose lives have been
    torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a
  503. vote. They deserve a vote. (Applause.) Gabby
    Giffords deserves a vote. (Applause.) The
  504. families of Newtown deserve a vote. (Applause.)
    The families of Aurora deserve a vote. (Applause.)
  505. The families of Oak Creek and Tucson and Blacksburg,
    and the countless other communities ripped
  506. open by gun violence –- they deserve a simple
    vote. (Applause.) They deserve a simple vote.
  507. Our actions will not prevent every senseless
    act of violence in this country. In fact,
  508. no laws, no initiatives, no administrative
    acts will perfectly solve all the challenges
  509. I’ve outlined tonight. But we were never
    sent here to be perfect. We were sent here
  510. to make what difference we can, to secure
    this nation, expand opportunity, uphold our
  511. ideals through the hard, often frustrating,
    but absolutely necessary work of self-government.
  512. We were sent here to look out for our fellow
    Americans the same way they look out for one
  513. another, every single day, usually without
    fanfare, all across this country. We should
  514. follow their example.
  515. We should follow the example of a New York
    City nurse named Menchu Sanchez. When Hurricane
  516. Sandy plunged her hospital into darkness,
    she wasn’t thinking about how her own home
  517. was faring. Her mind was on the 20 precious
    newborns in her care and the rescue plan she
  518. devised that kept them all safe.
  519. We should follow the example of a North Miami
    woman named Desiline Victor. When Desiline
  520. arrived at her polling place, she was told
    the wait to vote might be six hours. And as
  521. time ticked by, her concern was not with her
    tired body or aching feet, but whether folks
  522. like her would get to have their say. And
    hour after hour, a throng of people stayed
  523. in line to support her -- because Desiline
    is 102 years old. (Applause.) And they erupted
  524. in cheers when she finally put on a sticker
    that read, “I voted.” (Applause.)
  525. We should follow the example of a police officer
    named Brian Murphy. When a gunman opened fire
  526. on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and Brian was
    the first to arrive, he did not consider his
  527. own safety. He fought back until help arrived
    and ordered his fellow officers to protect
  528. the safety of the Americans worshiping inside,
    even as he lay bleeding from 12 bullet wounds.
  529. And when asked how he did that, Brian said,
    “That’s just the way we’re made.”
  530. That’s just the way we’re made. We may
    do different jobs and wear different uniforms,
  531. and hold different views than the person beside
    us. But as Americans, we all share the same
  532. proud title -- we are citizens. It’s a word
    that doesn’t just describe our nationality
  533. or legal status. It describes the way we’re
    made. It describes what we believe. It captures
  534. the enduring idea that this country only works
    when we accept certain obligations to one
  535. another and to future generations, that our
    rights are wrapped up in the rights of others;
  536. and that well into our third century as a
    nation, it remains the task of us all, as
  537. citizens of these United States, to be the
    authors of the next great chapter of our American
  538. story.
  539. Thank you. God bless you, and God bless these
  540. United
  541. States
  542. of America. (Applause.)