Sunday, June 9, 2013

United States Addresses $250 million Egytian Funding in Press Conference

U.S. Assistance to Egypt

Taken Question
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
June 8, 2013

QUESTION: How much is the U.S. obligated to provide to Egypt under the Camp David Accords? Does the FY2013 Foreign Military Financing amount include the $250 million the Secretary pledged in Cairo?
ANSWER: The United States is not obligated to provide assistance to Egypt. We provide assistance because it serves U.S. national interests in a crucial and volatile region.
The $250 million that Secretary Kerry announced in Cairo included $190 million in budget support and $60 million for the Egyptian-American Enterprise Fund, which is an independent, private nonprofit entity. Both are funded out of Economic Support Funds. The $250 million did not include any Foreign Military Financing. We will continue to work closely with Congress to determine how best to assist the Egyptian people and promote Egypt’s democratization and its economic stabilization and development, as well as our regional security interests.

Monday, December 17, 2012

President Obama's Remarks at Sandy Hook Interfaith Prayer Vigil

Remarks by the President at Sandy Hook Interfaith Prayer Vigil

Newtown High School

Newtown, Connecticut

8:37 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, Governor. To all the families, first responders, to the community of Newtown, clergy, guests -- Scripture tells us: “…do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away…inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”

We gather here in memory of twenty beautiful children and six remarkable adults. They lost their lives in a school that could have been any school; in a quiet town full of good and decent people that could be any town in America.

Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation. I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts. I can only hope it helps for you to know that you’re not alone in your grief; that our world too has been torn apart; that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you, we’ve pulled our children tight. And you must know that whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide; whatever portion of sadness that we can share with you to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear it. Newtown -- you are not alone.

As these difficult days have unfolded, you’ve also inspired us with stories of strength and resolve and sacrifice. We know that when danger arrived in the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary, the school’s staff did not flinch, they did not hesitate. Dawn Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach, Vicki Soto, Lauren Rousseau, Rachel Davino and Anne Marie Murphy -- they responded as we all hope we might respond in such terrifying circumstances -- with courage and with love, giving their lives to protect the children in their care.

We know that there were other teachers who barricaded themselves inside classrooms, and kept steady through it all, and reassured their students by saying “wait for the good guys, they’re coming”; “show me your smile.”

And we know that good guys came. The first responders who raced to the scene, helping to guide those in harm’s way to safety, and comfort those in need, holding at bay their own shock and trauma because they had a job to do, and others needed them more.

And then there were the scenes of the schoolchildren, helping one another, holding each other, dutifully following instructions in the way that young children sometimes do; one child even trying to encourage a grown-up by saying, “I know karate. So it’s okay. I’ll lead the way out.” (Laughter.)

As a community, you’ve inspired us, Newtown. In the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil, you’ve looked out for each other, and you’ve cared for one another, and you’ve loved one another. This is how Newtown will be remembered. And with time, and God’s grace, that love will see you through.

But we, as a nation, we are left with some hard questions. Someone once described the joy and anxiety of parenthood as the equivalent of having your heart outside of your body all the time, walking around. With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves -- our child -- is suddenly exposed to the world, to possible mishap or malice. And every parent knows there is nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm. And yet, we also know that with that child’s very first step, and each step after that, they are separating from us; that we won’t -- that we can’t always be there for them. They’ll suffer sickness and setbacks and broken hearts and disappointments. And we learn that our most important job is to give them what they need to become self-reliant and capable and resilient, ready to face the world without fear.

And we know we can’t do this by ourselves. It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realize, no matter how much you love these kids, you can’t do it by yourself. That this job of keeping our children safe, and teaching them well, is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community, and the help of a nation. And in that way, we come to realize that we bear a responsibility for every child because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours; that we’re all parents; that they’re all our children.

This is our first task -- caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.

And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we are meeting our obligations? Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children -- all of them -- safe from harm? Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know that they are loved, and teaching them to love in return? Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?

I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change.

Since I’ve been President, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by a mass shooting. The fourth time we’ve hugged survivors. The fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims. And in between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and big cities all across America -- victims whose -- much of the time, their only fault was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law -- no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.

But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this. If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that -- then surely we have an obligation to try.

In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens -- from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators -- in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. Because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?

All the world’s religions -- so many of them represented here today -- start with a simple question: Why are we here? What gives our life meaning? What gives our acts purpose? We know our time on this Earth is fleeting. We know that we will each have our share of pleasure and pain; that even after we chase after some earthly goal, whether it’s wealth or power or fame, or just simple comfort, we will, in some fashion, fall short of what we had hoped. We know that no matter how good our intentions, we will all stumble sometimes, in some way. We will make mistakes, we will experience hardships. And even when we’re trying to do the right thing, we know that much of our time will be spent groping through the darkness, so often unable to discern God’s heavenly plans.

There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have -- for our children, for our families, for each other. The warmth of a small child’s embrace -- that is true. The memories we have of them, the joy that they bring, the wonder we see through their eyes, that fierce and boundless love we feel for them, a love that takes us out of ourselves, and binds us to something larger -- we know that’s what matters. We know we’re always doing right when we’re taking care of them, when we’re teaching them well, when we’re showing acts of kindness. We don’t go wrong when we do that.

That’s what we can be sure of. And that’s what you, the people of Newtown, have reminded us. That’s how you’ve inspired us. You remind us what matters. And that’s what should drive us forward in everything we do, for as long as God sees fit to keep us on this Earth.

“Let the little children come to me,” Jesus said, “and do not hinder them -- for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Charlotte. Daniel. Olivia. Josephine. Ana. Dylan. Madeleine. Catherine. Chase. Jesse. James. Grace. Emilie. Jack. Noah. Caroline. Jessica. Benjamin. Avielle. Allison.

God has called them all home. For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on, and make our country worthy of their memory.

May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in His heavenly place. May He grace those we still have with His holy comfort. And may He bless and watch over this community, and the United States of America. (Applause.)

END 8:55 P.M. EST

Friday, November 16, 2012

President Barack Obama's Press Conference (1st Since Re-election)

Remarks by President Barack Obama in a News Conference

(1st Public Appearance Since Winning 2nd Term Election Bid)
East Room
1:34 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Please have a seat.  I hear you have some questions for me.  (Laughter.)  But let me just make a few remarks at the top, and then I'll open it up.
First of all, I want to reiterate what I said on Friday.  Right now, our economy is still recovering from a very deep and damaging crisis, so our top priority has to be jobs and growth.  We’ve got to build on the progress that we’ve made, because this nation succeeds when we’ve got a growing, thriving middle class. 
And that’s the idea at the core of the plan that I talked about on the campaign trail over the last year:  Rewarding manufacturers and small businesses that create jobs here, not overseas; providing more Americans the chance to earn the skills that businesses are looking for right now; keeping this country at the forefront of research, technology, and clean energy; putting people back to work rebuilding our roads, our bridges, and our schools; and reducing our deficit in a balanced and responsible way.
Now, on this last item, we face a very clear deadline that requires us to make some big decisions on jobs, taxes and deficits by the end of the year.  Both parties voted to set this deadline.  And I believe that both parties can work together to make these decisions in a balanced and responsible way.  
Yesterday, I had a chance to meet with labor and civic leaders for their input.  Today, I’m meeting with CEOs of some of America’s largest companies.  And I’ll meet with leaders of both parties of Congress before the week is out.  Because there’s only one way to solve these challenges, and that is to do it together.
As I’ve said before, I’m open to compromise and I’m open to new ideas.  And I’ve been encouraged over the past week to hear Republican after Republican agree on the need for more revenue from the wealthiest Americans as part of our arithmetic if we’re going to be serious about reducing the deficit.   
Because when it comes to taxes, there are two pathways available:  Option one, if Congress fails to act by the end of the year, everybody’s taxes will automatically go up -- including the 98 percent of Americans who make less than $250,000 a year and the 97 percent of small businesses who earn less than $250,000 a year.  That doesn’t make sense.  Our economy can’t afford that right now.  Certainly no middle-class family can afford that right now.  And nobody in either party says that they want it to happen.
The other option is to pass a law right now that would prevent any tax hike whatsoever on the first $250,000 of everybody’s income.  And by the way, that means every American, including the wealthiest Americans, get a tax cut.  It means that 98 percent of all Americans, and 97 percent of all small businesses won’t see their taxes go up a single dime.  The Senate has already passed a law like this.  Democrats in the House are ready to pass a law like this.  And I hope Republicans in the House come on board, too. 
We should not hold the middle class hostage while we debate tax cuts for the wealthy.  We should at least do what we agree on, and that's to keep middle-class taxes low.  And I’ll bring everyone in to sign it right away so we can give folks some certainty before the holiday season.
I won’t pretend that figuring out everything else will be easy, but I'm confident we can do it -- and I know we have to.  I know that that's what the American people want us to do.  That was the very clear message from the election last week.  And that was the message of a letter that I received over the weekend. 
It came from a man in Tennessee who began by writing that he didn’t vote for me -- which is okay.  (Laughter.)  But what he said was even though he didn’t give me his vote, he’s giving me his support to move this country forward.  And he said the same to his Republican representatives in Washington.  He said that he’ll back each of us, regardless of party, as long as we work together to make life better for all of us.  And he made it clear that if we don’t make enough progress, he’ll be back in touch. 
“My hope,” he wrote, “is that we can make progress in light of personal and party principles, special interest groups, and years of business as usual.  We’ve got to work together and put our differences aside.”
I couldn't say it better myself.  That’s precisely what I intend to do. 
And with that, let me open it up for your questions.  And I'm going to start off with Ben Feller of AP.
Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Can you assure the American people that there have been no breaches of national security or classified information in the scandal involving Generals Petraeus and Allen?  And do you think that you as Commander-in-Chief and the American people should have been told that the CIA chief was under investigation before the election?
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I have no evidence at this point from what I've seen that classified information was disclosed that in any way would have had a negative impact on our national security. 
Obviously there’s an ongoing investigation.  I don't want to comment on the specifics of the investigation.  The FBI has its own protocols in terms of how they proceed, and I'm going to let Director Mueller and others examine those protocols and make some statements to the public generally.
I do want to emphasize what I’ve said before:  General Petraeus had an extraordinary career.  He served this country with great distinction in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and as head of the CIA.  By his own assessment, he did not meet the standards that he felt were necessary as the Director of CIA with respect to this personal matter that he is now dealing with, with his family and with his wife.  And it’s on that basis that he tendered his resignation, and it’s on that basis that I accepted it.
But I want to emphasize that from my perspective at least, he has provided this country an extraordinary service.  We are safer because of the work that Dave Petraeus has done.  And my main hope right now is, is that he and his family are able to move on and that this ends up being a single side note on what has otherwise been an extraordinary career.
Q    What about voters?  Did they deserve to know?
THE PRESIDENT:  Again, I think you’re going to have to talk to the FBI in terms of what their general protocols are when it comes to what started off as a potential criminal investigation. One of the challenges here is, is that we’re not supposed to meddle in criminal investigations, and that’s been our practice. And I think that there are certain procedures that both the FBI follow, or DOJ follow, when they’re involved in these investigations.  That’s traditionally been how we view things, in part because people are innocent until proven guilty, and we want to make sure that we don’t pre-judge these kinds of situations.  And so my expectation is, is that they followed protocols that they already established.
Jessica Yellin.  Where’s Jessica?
Q    Mr. President, on the fiscal cliff, two years ago, sir, you said that you wouldn’t extend the Bush-era tax cuts, but at the end of the day, you did.  So, respectfully, sir, why should the American people and the Republicans believe that you won’t cave again this time?
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, two years ago, the economy was in a different situation.  We were still very much in the early parts of recovering from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.  And ultimately, we came together not only to extend the Bush tax cuts, but also a wide range of policies that were going to be good for the economy at that point -- unemployment insurance extensions, payroll tax extension -- all of which made a difference, and is part of the reason why what we've seen now is 32 consecutive months of job growth and over 5.5 million jobs created and the unemployment rate coming down.
But what I said at the time is what I meant, which is this was a one-time proposition.  And what I have told leaders privately as well as publicly is that we cannot afford to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.  What we can do is make sure that middle-class taxes don’t go up. 
And so the most important step we can take right now -- I think the foundation for a deal that helps the economy, creates jobs, gives consumers certainty, which means gives businesses confidence that they're going to have consumers during the holiday season -- is if we right away say 98 percent of Americans are not going to see their taxes go up; 97 percent of small businesses are not going to see their taxes go up. 
If we get that in place, we are actually removing half of the fiscal cliff.  Half of the danger to our economy is removed by that single step. 
And what we can then do is shape a process whereby we look at tax reform -- which I'm very eager to do.  I think we can simplify our tax system.  I think we can make it more efficient. We can eliminate loopholes and deductions that have a distorting effect on our economy.  I believe that we have to continue to take a serious look at how we reform our entitlements, because health care costs continue to be the biggest driver of our deficits.
So there is a package to be shaped, and I'm confident that parties -- folks of goodwill in both parties can make that happen.  But what I'm not going to do is to extend Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent that we can't afford, and according to economists, will have the least positive impact on our economy.
Q    You've said that the wealthiest must pay more.  Would closing loopholes instead of raising rates for them satisfy you?
THE PRESIDENT:  I think that there are loopholes that can be closed, and we should look at how we can make the process of deductions, the filing process easier, simpler.  But when it comes to the top 2 percent, what I’m not going to do is to extend further a tax cut for folks who don’t need it, which would cost close to a trillion dollars. 
And it’s very difficult to see how you make up that trillion dollars -- if we’re serious about deficit reduction -- just by closing loopholes and deductions.  The math tends not to work.  And I think it’s important to establish a basic principle that was debated extensively during the course of this campaign.  I mean, this shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody.  If there was one thing that everybody understood was a big difference between myself and Mr. Romney, it was when it comes to how we reduce our deficit, I argued for a balanced, responsible approach, and part of that included making sure that the wealthiest Americans pay a little bit more. 
I think every voter out there understood that that was an important debate, and the majority of voters agreed with me.  By the way, more voters agreed with me on this issue than voted for me.  So we’ve got a clear majority of the American people who recognize if we’re going to be serious about deficit reduction, we’ve got to do it in a balanced way. 
The only question now is are we going to hold the middle class hostage in order to go ahead and let that happen?  Or can we all step back and say, here’s something we agree on -- we don’t want middle-class taxes to go up.  Let’s go ahead and lock that in.  That will be good for the economy.  It will be good for consumers.  It will be good for businesses.  It takes the edge off the fiscal cliff.  And let’s also then commit ourselves to the broader package of deficit reduction that includes entitlement changes and it includes potentially tax reform, as well as I’m willing to look at additional work that we can do on the discretionary spending side.
So I want a big deal.  I want a comprehensive deal.  I want to see if we can, at least for the foreseeable future, provide certainty to businesses and the American people so that we can focus on job growth, so that we’re also investing in the things that we need.  But right now what I want to make sure of is that taxes on middle-class families don’t go up.  And there’s a very easy way to do that.  We could get that done by next week.
Lori Montenegro, Telemundo.
Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  On immigration reform, the criticism in the past has been that you did not put forth legislation with specific ideas and send it up to the Hill.  This time around you have said again that this will be one of the top priorities for a second term.  Will you then send legislation to the Hill?  And exactly what do you envision is broad immigration reform?  Does that include a legalization program?  And also, what lessons, if any, did Democrats learn from this last election and the Latino vote?
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think what was incredibly encouraging was to see a significant increase in Latino turnout. It is the fastest-growing group in the country.  And historically what you’ve seen is the Latino vote, vote at lower rates than the broader population, and that's beginning to change.  You're starting to see a sense of empowerment and civic participation that I think is going to be powerful and good for the country.
And it is why I’m very confident that we can get immigration reform done.  Before the election I had given a couple interviews where I predicted that the Latino vote was going to be strong, and that that would cause some reflection on the part of Republicans about their position on immigration reform.  I think we’re starting to see that already.  I think that's a positive sign.
This has not historically been a partisan issue -- we’ve had President Bush and John McCain and others who have supported comprehensive immigration reform in the past.  So we need to seize the moment.  And my expectation is, is that we get a bill introduced and we begin the process in Congress very soon after my inauguration.  And in fact, some conversations I think are already beginning to take place among senators and congressmen and my staff about what would this look like.
And when I say comprehensive immigration reform, it is very similar to the outlines of previous efforts at comprehensive immigration reform.  I think it should include a continuation of the strong border security measures that we’ve taken because we have to secure our borders.  I think it should contain serious penalties for companies that are purposely hiring undocumented workers and taking advantage of them.  And I do think that there should be a pathway for legal status for those who are living in this country, are not engaged in criminal activity, are here simply to work.  It’s important for them to pay back-taxes.  It’s important for them to learn English.  It’s important for them to potentially pay a fine.  But to give them the avenue whereby they can resolve their legal status here in this country I think is very important.
Obviously, making sure that we put into law what the first step that we’ve taken administratively dealing with the DREAM Act kids is very important as well.  One thing that I’m very clear about is that young people who are brought here through no fault of their own, who have gone to school here, pledged allegiance to our flag, want to serve in our military, want to go to school and contribute to our society, that they shouldn’t be under the cloud of deportation, that we should give them every opportunity to earn their citizenship.
And so there are other components to it, obviously.  The business community continues to be concerned about getting enough high-skill workers, and I am a believer that if you’ve got a PhD in physics or computer science who wants to stay here and start a business here, we shouldn’t make it harder for him to stay here; we should try to encourage him to contribute to this society. 
I think that the agricultural sector obviously has very specific concerns about making sure that they’ve got a workforce that helps deliver food to our tables. 
So there are going to be a bunch of components to it, but I think whatever process we have needs to make sure our border security is strong, needs to deal with employers effectively, needs to provide a pathway for the undocumented here, needs to deal with the DREAM Act kids.  And I think that’s something that we can get done.
Chuck Todd.  Where’s Chuck?
Q    Mr. President, I just want to follow on both Ben’s question and Jessica’s question.  On having to do with Ben’s question --
THE PRESIDENT:  How about Lori’s question?  Do you want to follow up on that one, too?  (Laughter.)
Q    No, I feel like you answered that one completely. 
Are you withholding judgment on whether you should have known sooner that there was a potential -- that there was an investigation into whether your CIA Director -- potentially there was a national security breach with your CIA Director -- do you believe you should have known sooner?  Are you withholding judgment until the investigation is complete on that front? 
And then the follow-up to Jessica’s question -- tax rates.  Are you -- is there no deal at the end of the year if tax rates for the top 2 percent aren’t the Clinton tax rates, period?  No ifs, ands, or buts -- any room in negotiating on that specific aspect of the fiscal cliff?
THE PRESIDENT:  I am withholding judgment with respect to how the entire process surrounding General Petraeus came up.  We don’t have all the information yet, but I want to say that I have a lot of confidence generally in the FBI, and they’ve got a difficult job.  And so I’m going to wait and see to see if there’s any other --
Q    -- that you should have known?  Do you think in hindsight --
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I mean, Chuck, what I’ll say is, is that if -- it is also possible that had we been told, then you’d be sitting here asking a question about why were you interfering in a criminal investigation.  So I think it’s best right now for us to just see how this whole process unfolded.
With respect to the tax rates, I just want to emphasize I am open to new ideas.  If Republican counterparts or some Democrats have a great idea for us to raise revenue, maintain progressivity, make sure the middle class isn’t getting hit, reduces our deficit, encourages growth, I’m not going to just slam the door in their face.  I want to hear ideas from everybody.
Q    -- red line.
THE PRESIDENT:  Look, I believe this is solvable.  I think that fair-minded people can come to an agreement that does not cause the economy to go back into recession, that protects middle-class families, that focuses on jobs and growth, and reduces our deficit.  I’m confident it can be done.
My budget, frankly, does it.  I understand that -- I don’t expect the Republicans simply to adopt my budget.  That’s not realistic.  So I recognize that we're going to have to compromise.  And as I said on Election Night, compromise is hard, and not everybody gets 100 percent of what they want and not everybody is going to be perfectly happy.
But what I will not do is to have a process that is vague, that says we're going to sort of, kind of, raise revenue through dynamic scoring or closing loopholes that have not been identified.  And the reason I won't do that is because I don’t want to find ourselves in a position six months from now or a year from now where, lo and behold, the only way to close the deficit is to sock it to middle-class families, or to burden families that have disabled kids or have a parent in a nursing home, or suddenly we've got to cut more out of our basic research budget that is the key to growing the economy in the long term.
So that’s my concern.  I'm less concerned about red lines, per se.  What I'm concerned about is not finding ourselves in a situation where the wealthy aren't paying more or aren't paying as much as they should, middle-class families one way or another are making up the difference -- that’s the kind of status quo that has been going on here too long, and that’s exactly what I argued against during this campaign.  And if there’s one thing that I'm pretty confident about is the American people understood what they were getting when they gave me this incredible privilege of being in office for another four years. 
They want compromise.  They want action.  But they also want to make sure that middle-class folks aren't bearing the entire burden and sacrifice when it comes to some of these big challenges.  They expect that folks at the top are doing their fair share as well.  And that’s going to be my guiding principle during these negotiations, but, more importantly, during the next four years of my administration.
Nancy Cordes.
Q    Mr. President, on Election Night, you said that you were looking forward to speaking with Governor Romney, sitting down in the coming weeks to discuss ways that you could work together on this nation's problems.  Have you extended that invitation?  Has he accepted?  And in what ways do you think you can work together?
THE PRESIDENT:  We haven't scheduled something yet.  I think everybody forgets that the election was only a week ago and -- I know I've forgotten.  I forgot on Wednesday.  (Laughter.)  So I think everybody needs to catch their breath.  I'm sure that Governor Romney is spending some time with his family.
And my hope is, before the end of the year, though, that we have a chance to sit down and talk.  There are certain aspects of Governor Romney’s record and his ideas that I think could be very helpful. 
Q    Such as?
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, to give you one example, I do think he did a terrific job running the Olympics.  And that skill set of trying to figure out how do we make something work better applies to the federal government.  There are a lot of ideas that I don’t think are partisan ideas but are just smart ideas about how can we make the federal government more customer friendly; how can we make sure that we’re consolidating programs that are duplicative; how can we eliminate additional waste.  He presented some ideas during the course of the campaign that I actually agree with.  So it would be interesting to talk to him about something like that. There may be ideas that he has with respect to jobs and growth that can help middle-class families that I want to hear.
So I’m not either prejudging what he’s interested in doing, nor am I suggesting I’ve got some specific assignment.  But what I want to do is to get ideas from him and see if there are some ways that we can potentially work together.
Q    But when it comes to your relationships with Congress, one of the most frequent criticisms we’ve heard over the past few years from members on both sides is that you haven’t done enough to reach out and build relationships.  Are there concrete ways that you plan to approach your relationships with Congress in a second term?
THE PRESIDENT:  Look, I think there’s no doubt that I can always do better, and so I will examine ways that I can make sure to communicate my desire to work with everybody, so long as it’s advancing the cause of strengthening our middle class and improving our economy.  I’ve got a lot of good relationships with folks both in the House and the Senate.  I have a lot of relationships on both sides of the aisle.  It hasn’t always manifested itself in the kind of agreements that I’d like to see between Democrats and Republicans.  And so I think all of us have responsibilities to see if there are things that we can improve on.  And I don’t exempt myself from needing to do some self-reflection and see if I can improve our working relationship. 
There are probably going to be still some very sharp differences.  And as I said during the campaign, there are going to be times where there are fights, and I think those are fights that need to be had.  But what I think the American people don’t want to see is a focus on the next election instead of a focus on them. 
And I don’t have another election.  And Michelle and I were talking last night about what an incredible honor and privilege it is to be put in this position.  And there are people all across this country, millions of folks, who worked so hard to help us get elected, but there are also millions of people who may not have voted for us but are also counting on us.  And we take that responsibility very seriously.  I take that responsibility very seriously.  And I hope and intend to be an even better President in the second term than I was in the first.
Jonathan Karl.
Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Senator John McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham both said today that they want to have Watergate-style hearings on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, and said that if you nominate Susan Rice to be Secretary of State, they will do everything in their power to block her nomination.  As Senator Graham said, he simply doesn’t trust Ambassador Rice after what she said about Benghazi.  I’d like your reaction to that.  And would those threats deter you from making a nomination like that?
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, I’m not going to comment at this point on various nominations that I’ll put forward to fill out my Cabinet for the second term.  Those are things that are still being discussed.
But let me say specifically about Susan Rice, she has done exemplary work.  She has represented the United States and our interests in the United Nations with skill and professionalism and toughness and grace. 
As I’ve said before, she made an appearance at the request of the White House in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her.  If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me.  And I’m happy to have that discussion with them.  But for them to go after the U.N. Ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi, and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received, and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous. 
And we’re after an election now.  I think it is important for us to find out exactly what happened in Benghazi, and I’m happy to cooperate in any ways that Congress wants.  We have provided every bit of information that we have, and we will continue to provide information.  And we’ve got a full-blown investigation, and all that information will be disgorged to Congress. 
And I don't think there’s any debate in this country that when you have four Americans killed, that's a problem.  And we’ve got to get to the bottom of it, and there needs to be accountability.  We’ve got to bring those who carried it out to justice.  They won’t get any debate from me on that.
But when they go after the U.N. Ambassador, apparently because they think she’s an easy target, then they’ve got a problem with me.  And should I choose, if I think that she would be the best person to serve America in the capacity of the State Department, then I will nominate her.  That's not a determination that I’ve made yet.
Ed Henry.
Q    I want to take Chuck’s lead and just ask a very small follow-up, which is whether you feel you have a mandate not just on taxes but on a range of issues because of your decisive victory? 
But I want to stay on Benghazi, based on what Jon asked because you said, if they want to come after me, come after me.  I wanted to ask about the families of these four Americans who were killed.  Sean Smith’s father, Ray, said he believes his son basically called 911 for help and they didn't get it.  And I know you’ve said you grieve for these four Americans, that it’s being investigated, but the families have been waiting for more than two months.  So I would like to -- for you to address the families, if you can.  On 9/11, as Commander-in-Chief, did you issue any orders to try to protect their lives?
THE PRESIDENT:  Ed, I’ll address the families not through the press.  I’ll address the families directly, as I already have.  And we will provide all the information that is available about what happened on that day.  That’s what the investigation is for. 
But as I’ve said repeatedly, if people don’t think that we did everything we can to make sure that we saved the lives of folks who I sent there and who were carrying out missions on behalf of the United States, then you don’t know how our Defense Department thinks or our State Department thinks or our CIA thinks.  Their number-one priority is obviously to protect American lives.  That’s what our job is.  Now --
Q    (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT:  Ed, I will put forward every bit of information that we have.  I can tell you that immediately upon finding out that our folks were in danger, that my orders to my national security team were do whatever we need to do to make sure they’re safe.  And that’s the same order that I would give any time that I see Americans are in danger, whether they’re civilian or military, because that’s our number-one priority.
With respect to the issue of mandate, I’ve got one mandate. I’ve got a mandate to help middle-class families and families that are working hard to try to get into the middle class.  That’s my mandate.  That’s what the American people said.  They said:  Work really hard to help us.  Don’t worry about the politics of it; don’t worry about the party interests; don’t worry about the special interests.  Just work really hard to see if you can help us get ahead -- because we’re working really hard out here and we’re still struggling, a lot of us.  That’s my mandate.
I don’t presume that because I won an election that everybody suddenly agrees with me on everything.  I’m more than familiar with all the literature about presidential overreach in second terms.  We are very cautious about that.  On the other hand, I didn’t get reelected just to bask in reelection.  I got elected to do work on behalf of American families and small businesses all across the country who are still recovering from a really bad recession, but are hopeful about the future. 
And I am, too.  The one thing that I said during the campaign that maybe sounds like a bunch of campaign rhetoric, but now that the campaign is over I am going to repeat it and hopefully you guys will really believe me -- when you travel around the country, you are inspired by the grit and resilience and hard work and decency of the American people.  And it just makes you want to work harder.  You meet families who are -- have overcome really tough odds and somehow are making it and sending their kids to college.  And you meet young people who are doing incredible work in disadvantaged communities because they believe in the American ideal and it should available for everybody.  And you meet farmers who are helping each other during times of drought, and you meet businesses that kept their doors open during the recession, even though the owner didn’t have to take a salary. 
And when you talk to these folks, you say to yourself, man, they deserve a better government than they've been getting.  They deserve all of us here in Washington to be thinking every single day, how can I make things a little better for them -- which isn't to say that everything we do is going to be perfect, or that there aren't just going to be some big, tough challenges that we have to grapple with.  But I do know the federal government can make a difference. 
We're seeing it right now on the Jersey coast and in New York.  People are still going through a really tough time; the response hasn't been perfect; but it's been aggressive and strong and fast and robust, and a lot of people have been helped because of it.  And that’s a pretty good metaphor for how I want the federal government to operate generally, and I'm going to do everything I can to make sure it does.
Christi Parson.  Hey. 
Q    Thank you, Mr. President, and congratulations, by the way. 
Q    One quick follow up --
THE PRESIDENT:  Christi was there when I was running for state Senate.
Q    That’s right, I was. 
THE PRESIDENT:  So Christi and I go back a ways.
Q    I've never seen you lose.  I wasn't looking that one time.  (Laughter.)   
THE PRESIDENT:  There you go.   
Q    One quick follow-up, and then I want to ask you about Iran.  I just want to make sure I understood what you said.  Can you envision any scenario in which we do go off the fiscal cliff at the end of the year? 
And on Iran, are you preparing a final diplomatic push here to resolve the nuclear program issue, and are we headed toward one-on-one talks?
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, obviously, we can all imagine a scenario where we go off the fiscal cliff.  If despite the election, if despite the dangers of going over the fiscal cliff and what that means for our economy, that there’s too much stubbornness in Congress that we can't even agree on giving middle-class families a tax cut, then middle-class families are all going to end up having a big tax hike.  And that’s going to be a pretty rude shock for them, and I suspect will have a big impact on the holiday shopping season, which, in turn, will have an impact on business planning and hiring, and we can go back into a recession. 
It would be a bad thing.  It is not necessary.  So I want to repeat:  Step number one that we can take in the next couple of weeks, provide certainty to middle-class families -- 98 percent of families who make less than $250,000 a year, 97 percent of small businesses -- that their taxes will not go up a single dime next year.  Give them that certainty right now.  We can get that done. 
We can then set up a structure whereby we are dealing with tax reform, closing deductions, closing loopholes, simplifying, dealing with entitlements.  And I’m ready and willing to make big commitments to make sure that we’re locking in the kind of deficit reductions that stabilize our deficit, start bringing it down, start bringing down our debt.  I’m confident we can do it.
And, look, I’ve been living with this for a couple of years now.  I know the math pretty well.  And it really is arithmetic; it’s not calculus.  There are some tough things that have to be done, but there is a way of doing this that does not hurt middle-class families, that does not hurt our seniors, doesn’t hurt families with disabled kids, allows us to continue to invest in those things that make us grow, like basic research and education, helping young people afford going to college.  As we’ve already heard from some Republican commentators, a modest tax increase on the wealthy is not going to break their backs; they’ll still be wealthy.  And it will not impinge on business investment. 
So we know how to do this.  This is just a matter of whether or not we come together and go ahead and say, Democrats and Republicans, we’re both going to hold hands and do what’s right for the American people.  And I hope that’s what happens.
With respect to Iran, I very much want to see a diplomatic resolution to the problem.  I was very clear before the campaign, I was clear during the campaign, and I’m now clear after the campaign -- we’re not going to let Iran get a nuclear weapon.  But I think there is still a window of time for us to resolve this diplomatically.  We’ve imposed the toughest sanctions in history.  It is having an impact on Iran’s economy. 
There should be a way in which they can enjoy peaceful nuclear power while still meeting their international obligations and providing clear assurances to the international community that they’re not pursuing a nuclear weapon. 
And so, yes, I will try to make a push in the coming months to see if we can open up a dialogue between Iran and not just us, but the international community, to see if we can get this things resolved.  I can’t promise that Iran will walk through the door that they need to walk through, but that would be very much the preferable option.
Q    And under what circumstances would one-on-one conversations take place?
THE PRESIDENT:  I won’t talk about the details in negotiations.  But I think it’s fair to say we want to get this resolved, and we’re not going to be constrained by diplomatic niceties or protocols.  If Iran is serious about wanting to resolve this, they’ll be in a position to resolve it.
Q    At one point just prior to the election that was talk that talks might be imminent.  
THE PRESIDENT:  That was not true, and it’s not true as of today.
Just going to knock through a couple others.  Mark Landler.  Where’s Mark?  There he is right in front of me.
Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  In his endorsement of you a few weeks ago, Mayor Bloomberg said he was motivated by the belief that you would do more to confront the threat of climate change than your opponent.  Tomorrow you’re going up to New York City where you’re going to, I assume, see people who are still suffering the effects of Hurricane Sandy, which many people say is further evidence of how a warming globe is changing our weather.  What specifically do you plan to do in a second term to tackle the issue of climate change?  And do you think the political will exists in Washington to pass legislation that could include some kind of a tax on carbon? 
THE PRESIDENT:  As you know, Mark, we can’t attribute any particular weather event to climate change.  What we do know is the temperature around the globe is increasing faster than was predicted even 10 years ago.  We do know that the Arctic ice cap is melting faster than was predicted even five years ago.  We do know that there have been extraordinarily -- there have been an extraordinarily large number of severe weather events here in North America, but also around the globe.
And I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions.  And as a consequence, I think we've got an obligation to future generations to do something about it.
Now, in my first term, we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars and trucks.  That will have an impact.  That will take a lot of carbon out of the atmosphere.  We doubled the production of clean energy, which promises to reduce the utilization of fossil fuels for power generation.  And we continue to invest in potential breakthrough technologies that could further remove carbon from our atmosphere.  But we haven't done as much as we need to.
So what I'm going to be doing over the next several weeks, next several months, is having a conversation, a wide-ranging conversation with scientists, engineers, and elected officials to find out what can -- what more can we do to make a short-term progress in reducing carbons, and then working through an education process that I think is necessary -- a discussion, a conversation across the country about what realistically can we do long term to make sure that this is not something we're passing on to future generations that's going to be very expensive and very painful to deal with.
I don't know what either Democrats or Republicans are prepared to do at this point, because this is one of those issues that's not just a partisan issue; I also think there are regional differences.  There’s no doubt that for us to take on climate change in a serious way would involve making some tough political choices.  And understandably, I think the American people right now have been so focused, and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth, that if the message is somehow we're going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don't think anybody is going to go for that.  I won't go for that.
If, on the other hand, we can shape an agenda that says we can create jobs, advance growth, and make a serious dent in climate change and be an international leader, I think that's something that the American people would support.
So you can expect that you’ll hear more from me in the coming months and years about how we can shape an agenda that garners bipartisan support and helps move this agenda forward.
Q    Sounds like you're saying, though, in the current environment, we're probably still short of a consensus on some kind of attack.
THE PRESIDENT:  That I'm pretty certain of.  And, look, we're still trying to debate whether we can just make sure that middle-class families don't get a tax hike.  Let’s see if we can resolve that.  That should be easy.  This one is hard -- but it’s important because one of the things that we don't always factor in are the costs involved in these natural disasters; we just put them off as something that's unconnected to our behavior right now.  And I think what -- based on the evidence we're seeing, is that what we do now is going to have an impact and a cost down the road if we don’t do something about it.
All right, last question.  Mark Felsenthal.  Where’s Mark?
Q    Thank you.  Mr. President, the Assad regime is engaged in a brutal crackdown on its people.  France has recognized the opposition coalition.  What would it take for the United States to do the same?  And is there any point at which the United States would consider arming the rebels?
THE PRESIDENT:  I was one of the first leaders I think around the world to say Assad had to go, in response to the incredible brutality that his government displayed in the face of what were initially peaceful protests.
Obviously, the situation in Syria has deteriorated since then.  We have been extensively engaged with the international community as well as regional powers to help the opposition.  We have committed to hundreds of millions of dollars of humanitarian aid to help folks both inside of Syria and outside of Syria.  We are constantly consulting with the opposition on how they can get organized so that they’re not splintered and divided in the face of the onslaught from the Assad regime. 
We are in very close contact with countries like Turkey and Jordan that immediately border Syria and have an impact -- and obviously Israel, which is having already grave concerns, as we do, about, for example, movements of chemical weapons that might occur in such a chaotic atmosphere and that could have an impact not just within Syria, but on the region as a whole.
I’m encouraged to see that the Syrian opposition created an umbrella group that may have more cohesion than they’ve had in the past.  We’re going to be talking to them.  My envoys are going to be traveling to various meetings that are going to be taking place with the international community and the opposition.
We consider them a legitimate representative of the aspirations of the Syrian people.  We’re not yet prepared to recognize them as some sort of government in exile, but we do think that it is a broad-based representative group.  One of the questions that we’re going to continue to press is making sure that that opposition is committed to a democratic Syria, an inclusive Syria, a moderate Syria.
We have seen extremist elements insinuate themselves into the opposition, and one of the things that we have to be on guard about -- particularly when we start talking about arming opposition figures -- is that we’re not indirectly putting arms in the hands of folks who would do Americans harm, or do Israelis harm, or otherwise engage in actions that are detrimental to our national security.
So we're constantly probing and working on that issue.  The more engaged we are, the more we'll be in a position to make sure that we are encouraging the most moderate, thoughtful elements of the opposition that are committed to inclusion, observance of human rights, and working cooperatively with us over the long term.
Thank you very much.
Q    -- spending side of the fiscal cliff.  On spending, the $1.2 trillion trigger, is that something that you can see having a short-term component -- because I remember you said it's not happening -- 
THE PRESIDENT:  That was a great question, but it would be a horrible precedent for me to answer your question just because you yelled it out.  (Laughter.) 
So thank you very much, guys.
2:26 P.M. EST

Sunday, July 29, 2012

United Nations Arms Treaty Conference - US State Department Press Release

Arms Trade Treaty Conference

Press Statement

Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
July 27, 2012

The United States supports the outcome today at the Arms Trade Treaty Conference. While the Conference ran out of time to reach consensus on a text, it will report its results and the draft text considered back to the UN General Assembly (UNGA). The United States supports a second round of negotiations, conducted on the basis of consensus, on the Treaty next year; we do not support a vote in the UNGA on the current text. The illicit trafficking of conventional arms is an important national security concern for the United States. While we sought to conclude this month’s negotiations with a Treaty, more time is a reasonable request for such a complex and critical issue. The current text reflects considerable positive progress, but it needs further review and refinement.
With that in mind, we will continue to work towards an Arms Trade Treaty that will contribute to international security, protect the sovereign right of states to conduct legitimate arms trade, and meet the objectives and concerns that we have been articulating throughout the negotiation, including not infringing on the constitutional right of our citizens to bear arms. The United States took a principled stand throughout these negotiations that international trade in conventional arms is a legitimate enterprise that is and should remain regulated by the individual nations themselves, and we continue to believe that any Arms Trade Treaty should require states to develop their own national regulations and controls and strengthen the rule of law regarding arms sales.
We support an Arms Trade Treaty because we believe it will make a valuable contribution to global security by helping to stem illicit arms transfers, and we will continue to look for ways for the international community to work together to improve the international arms transfer regime so that weapons aren’t transferred to people who would abuse them.

PRN: 2012/1235

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Obama's Comments at LGBT Pride Month Reception 6-2012

Remarks by President Barack Obama President at the LGBT Pride Month Reception


East Room

5:16 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, hello, hello!  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you so much.  Well, thank you very much. 
Well, welcome to the White House, everybody.  (Applause.)  We are glad all of you could join us today.  I want to thank the members of Congress and the members of my administration who are here, including our friends who are doing outstanding work every day -- John Berry, Nancy Sutley, Fred Hochberg.  (Applause.) 
Now, each June since I took office, we have gathered to pay tribute to the generations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans who devoted their lives to our most basic of ideals –- equality not just for some, but for all.  Together we’ve marked major milestones like the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, when a group of brave citizens held their ground against brutal discrimination.  Together, we’ve honored courageous pioneers who, decades ago, came out and spoke out; who challenged unjust laws and destructive prejudices.  Together, we’ve stood resolute; unwavering in our commitment to advance this movement and to build a more perfect union.
Now, I’ve said before that I would never counsel patience; that it wasn’t right to tell you to be patient any more than it was right for others to tell women to be patient a century ago, or African Americans to be patient a half century ago.  After decades of inaction and indifference, you have every reason and right to push, loudly and forcefully, for equality.  (Applause.)
But three years ago, I also promised you this: I said that even if it took more time than we would like, we would see progress, we would see success, we would see real and lasting change.  And together, that’s what we’re witnessing. 
For every person who lost a loved one at the hand of hate, we ended a decade of delay and finally made the Matthew Shepard Act the land of the law.  (Applause.)  For every person with HIV who was treated like an outcast, we lifted the HIV entry ban.  (Applause.)  And because of that important step, next month, for the first time in more than two decades, the International AIDS conference will be held right here in the United States.  (Applause.)
For every American diagnosed with HIV who couldn’t get access to treatment, we put forward a National HIV/AIDS strategy -- because who you are should never affect whether you get life-extending care.  Marjorie Hill, the head of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, is here.  (Applause.)  GMHC has saved so many lives, and this year they are celebrating their 30th anniversary.  So I want to give them and all these organizations who work to prevent and treat HIV a big round of applause.  Give it up for Marjorie and everybody else.  (Applause.)
For every partner or spouse denied the chance to comfort a loved one in the hospital, to be by their side at their greatest hour of need, we said, enough.  Hospitals that accept Medicare or Medicaid -– and that is most of them -– now have to treat LGBT patients just like any other patient.  For every American denied insurance just for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, we passed health insurance reform, which will ban that kind of discrimination.  (Applause.)
We’ve expanded benefits for same-sex partners of federal employees, prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender identity for workers in the federal government.  (Applause.)  We’ve supported efforts in Congress to end the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.  (Applause.)  And as we wait for that law to be cast aside, we’ve stopped defending its constitutionality in the courts.  (Applause.)
We’ve put forward a strategy to promote and protect the rights of LGBT communities all over the world, because, as Secretary Clinton said back in December, gay rights are human rights.  (Applause.)
And, of course, last year we finally put an end to “don’t ask, don’t tell” -- (applause) -- so that nobody would ever have to ever again hide who they love in order to serve the country they love.  And I know we've got some military members who are here today.  (Applause.)  I'm happy to see you with your partners here.  We thank you for your service.  We thank your families for their service, and we share your joy at being able to come with your spouses or partners here to the White House with your Commander-in-Chief.  (Applause.)
Now, we know we've got more to do.  Americans may feel more comfortable bringing their partners to the office barbecue -- (laughter) -- but we're still waiting for a fully inclusive employment non-discrimination act.  (Applause.)  Congress needs to pass that legislation, so that no American is ever fired simply for being gay or transgender.
Americans may be able serve openly in the military, but many are still growing up alone and afraid; picked on, pushed around for being different.  And that’s why my administration has worked to raise awareness about bullying.  And I know -- I just had a chance to see Lee Hirsch, the director of BULLY, who is here.  And we thank him for his work on this issue.  (Applause.)
I want to acknowledge all the young leaders here today who are making such a big difference in their classrooms and in their communities.  And Americans may be still evolving when it comes to marriage equality -- (laughter and applause) -- but as I've indicated personally, Michelle and I have made up our minds on this issue.  (Applause.)
So we still have a long way to go, but we will get there.  We'll get there because of all of you.  We’ll get there because of all of the ordinary Americans who every day show extraordinary courage.  We’ll get there because of every man and woman and activist and ally who is moving us forward by the force of their moral arguments, but more importantly, by the force of their example.
And as long as I have the privilege of being your President, I promise you, you won't just have a friend in the White House, you will have a fellow advocate -- (applause) -- for an America where no matter what you look like or where you come from or who you love, you can dream big dreams and dream as openly as you want.
Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

State of the Union 2012 (Speech Transcript and Enhanced Video)

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

Remarks by the President in State of the Union Address

United States Capitol
Washington, D.C.
9:10 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT:  Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:
Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq.  Together, we offered a final, proud salute to the colors under which more than a million of our fellow citizens fought -- and several thousand gave their lives.
We gather tonight knowing that this generation of heroes has made the United States safer and more respected around the world.  (Applause.)  For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq.  (Applause.)  For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country.  (Applause.)  Most of al Qaeda’s top lieutenants have been defeated.  The Taliban’s momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home.
These achievements are a testament to the courage, selflessness and teamwork of America’s Armed Forces.  At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations.  They’re not consumed with personal ambition.  They don’t obsess over their differences.  They focus on the mission at hand.  They work together.
Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example.  (Applause.)  Think about the America within our reach:  A country that leads the world in educating its people.  An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs.  A future where we’re in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world.  An economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded.
We can do this.  I know we can, because we’ve done it before.  At the end of World War II, when another generation of heroes returned home from combat, they built the strongest economy and middle class the world has ever known.  (Applause.)  My grandfather, a veteran of Patton’s Army, got the chance to go to college on the GI Bill.  My grandmother, who worked on a bomber assembly line, was part of a workforce that turned out the best products on Earth.

The two of them shared the optimism of a nation that had triumphed over a depression and fascism.  They understood they were part of something larger; that they were contributing to a story of success that every American had a chance to share -- the basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.
The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive.  No challenge is more urgent.  No debate is more important.  We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.  (Applause.)  What’s at stake aren’t Democratic values or Republican values, but American values.  And we have to reclaim them.
Let’s remember how we got here.  Long before the recession, jobs and manufacturing began leaving our shores.  Technology made businesses more efficient, but also made some jobs obsolete.  Folks at the top saw their incomes rise like never before, but most hardworking Americans struggled with costs that were growing, paychecks that weren’t, and personal debt that kept piling up.
In 2008, the house of cards collapsed.  We learned that mortgages had been sold to people who couldn’t afford or understand them.  Banks had made huge bets and bonuses with other people’s money.  Regulators had looked the other way, or didn’t have the authority to stop the bad behavior.
It was wrong.  It was irresponsible.  And it plunged our economy into a crisis that put millions out of work, saddled us with more debt, and left innocent, hardworking Americans holding the bag.  In the six months before I took office, we lost nearly 4 million jobs.  And we lost another 4 million before our policies were in full effect.
Those are the facts.  But so are these:  In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than 3 million jobs.  (Applause.)
Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005.  American manufacturers are hiring again, creating jobs for the first time since the late 1990s.  Together, we’ve agreed to cut the deficit by more than $2 trillion.  And we’ve put in place new rules to hold Wall Street accountable, so a crisis like this never happens again.  (Applause.)
The state of our Union is getting stronger.  And we’ve come too far to turn back now.  As long as I’m President, I will work with anyone in this chamber to build on this momentum.  But I intend to fight obstruction with action, and I will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place.  (Applause.) 
No, we will not go back to an economy weakened by outsourcing, bad debt, and phony financial profits.  Tonight, I want to speak about how we move forward, and lay out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last -– an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.
Now, this blueprint begins with American manufacturing.
On the day I took office, our auto industry was on the verge of collapse.  Some even said we should let it die.  With a million jobs at stake, I refused to let that happen.  In exchange for help, we demanded responsibility.  We got workers and automakers to settle their differences.  We got the industry to retool and restructure.  Today, General Motors is back on top as the world’s number-one automaker.  (Applause.)  Chrysler has grown faster in the U.S. than any major car company.  Ford is investing billions in U.S. plants and factories.  And together, the entire industry added nearly 160,000 jobs.  
We bet on American workers.  We bet on American ingenuity.  And tonight, the American auto industry is back.  (Applause.) 
What’s happening in Detroit can happen in other industries.  It can happen in Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Raleigh.  We can’t bring every job back that’s left our shore.  But right now, it’s getting more expensive to do business in places like China.  Meanwhile, America is more productive.  A few weeks ago, the CEO of Master Lock told me that it now makes business sense for him to bring jobs back home.  (Applause.)  Today, for the first time in 15 years, Master Lock’s unionized plant in Milwaukee is running at full capacity.  (Applause.) 
So we have a huge opportunity, at this moment, to bring manufacturing back.  But we have to seize it.  Tonight, my message to business leaders is simple:  Ask yourselves what you can do to bring jobs back to your country, and your country will do everything we can to help you succeed.  (Applause.) 
We should start with our tax code.  Right now, companies get tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas.  Meanwhile, companies that choose to stay in America get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world.  It makes no sense, and everyone knows it.  So let’s change it.
First, if you’re a business that wants to outsource jobs, you shouldn’t get a tax deduction for doing it.  (Applause.)  That money should be used to cover moving expenses for companies like Master Lock that decide to bring jobs home.  (Applause.) 
Second, no American company should be able to avoid paying its fair share of taxes by moving jobs and profits overseas.  (Applause.)  From now on, every multinational company should have to pay a basic minimum tax.  And every penny should go towards lowering taxes for companies that choose to stay here and hire here in America.  (Applause.)   
Third, if you’re an American manufacturer, you should get a bigger tax cut.  If you’re a high-tech manufacturer, we should double the tax deduction you get for making your products here.  And if you want to relocate in a community that was hit hard when a factory left town, you should get help financing a new plant, equipment, or training for new workers.  (Applause.) 
So my message is simple.  It is time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America.  Send me these tax reforms, and I will sign them right away.  (Applause.)    
We’re also making it easier for American businesses to sell products all over the world.  Two years ago, I set a goal of doubling U.S. exports over five years.  With the bipartisan trade agreements we signed into law, we’re on track to meet that goal ahead of schedule.  (Applause.)  And soon, there will be millions of new customers for American goods in Panama, Colombia, and South Korea.  Soon, there will be new cars on the streets of Seoul imported from Detroit, and Toledo, and Chicago.  (Applause.)    
I will go anywhere in the world to open new markets for American products.  And I will not stand by when our competitors don’t play by the rules.  We’ve brought trade cases against China at nearly twice the rate as the last administration –- and it’s made a difference.  (Applause.)  Over a thousand Americans are working today because we stopped a surge in Chinese tires.  But we need to do more.  It’s not right when another country lets our movies, music, and software be pirated.  It’s not fair when foreign manufacturers have a leg up on ours only because they’re heavily subsidized.
Tonight, I’m announcing the creation of a Trade Enforcement Unit that will be charged with investigating unfair trading practices in countries like China.  (Applause.)  There will be more inspections to prevent counterfeit or unsafe goods from crossing our borders.  And this Congress should make sure that no foreign company has an advantage over American manufacturing when it comes to accessing financing or new markets like Russia.  Our workers are the most productive on Earth, and if the playing field is level, I promise you -– America will always win.  (Applause.)
I also hear from many business leaders who want to hire in the United States but can’t find workers with the right skills.  Growing industries in science and technology have twice as many openings as we have workers who can do the job.  Think about that –- openings at a time when millions of Americans are looking for work.  It’s inexcusable.  And we know how to fix it. 
Jackie Bray is a single mom from North Carolina who was laid off from her job as a mechanic.  Then Siemens opened a gas turbine factory in Charlotte, and formed a partnership with Central Piedmont Community College.  The company helped the college design courses in laser and robotics training.  It paid Jackie’s tuition, then hired her to help operate their plant.
I want every American looking for work to have the same opportunity as Jackie did.  Join me in a national commitment to train 2 million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job.  (Applause.)  My administration has already lined up more companies that want to help.  Model partnerships between businesses like Siemens and community colleges in places like Charlotte, and Orlando, and Louisville are up and running.  Now you need to give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers -– places that teach people skills that businesses are looking for right now, from data management to high-tech manufacturing.
And I want to cut through the maze of confusing training programs, so that from now on, people like Jackie have one program, one website, and one place to go for all the information and help that they need.  It is time to turn our unemployment system into a reemployment system that puts people to work.  (Applause.)
These reforms will help people get jobs that are open today.  But to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow, our commitment to skills and education has to start earlier.
For less than 1 percent of what our nation spends on education each year, we’ve convinced nearly every state in the country to raise their standards for teaching and learning -- the first time that’s happened in a generation.
But challenges remain.  And we know how to solve them.
At a time when other countries are doubling down on education, tight budgets have forced states to lay off thousands of teachers.  We know a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000.  A great teacher can offer an escape from poverty to the child who dreams beyond his circumstance.  Every person in this chamber can point to a teacher who changed the trajectory of their lives.  Most teachers work tirelessly, with modest pay, sometimes digging into their own pocket for school supplies -- just to make a difference.
Teachers matter.  So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let’s offer schools a deal.  Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones.  (Applause.)  And in return, grant schools flexibility:  to teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.  That’s a bargain worth making.  (Applause.)
We also know that when students don’t walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma.  When students are not allowed to drop out, they do better.  So tonight, I am proposing that every state -- every state -- requires that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18.  (Applause.)
When kids do graduate, the most daunting challenge can be the cost of college.  At a time when Americans owe more in tuition debt than credit card debt, this Congress needs to stop the interest rates on student loans from doubling in July.  (Applause.)
Extend the tuition tax credit we started that saves millions of middle-class families thousands of dollars, and give more young people the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of work-study jobs in the next five years.  (Applause.)
Of course, it’s not enough for us to increase student aid.  We can’t just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition; we’ll run out of money.  States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets.  And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down.
Recently, I spoke with a group of college presidents who’ve done just that.  Some schools redesign courses to help students finish more quickly.  Some use better technology.  The point is, it’s possible.  So let me put colleges and universities on notice:  If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.  (Applause.)  Higher education can’t be a luxury -– it is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.
Let’s also remember that hundreds of thousands of talented, hardworking students in this country face another challenge:  the fact that they aren’t yet American citizens.  Many were brought here as small children, are American through and through, yet they live every day with the threat of deportation.  Others came more recently, to study business and science and engineering, but as soon as they get their degree, we send them home to invent new products and create new jobs somewhere else.
That doesn’t make sense.  
I believe as strongly as ever that we should take on illegal immigration.  That’s why my administration has put more boots on the border than ever before.  That’s why there are fewer illegal crossings than when I took office.  The opponents of action are out of excuses.  We should be working on comprehensive immigration reform right now.  (Applause.)
But if election-year politics keeps Congress from acting on a comprehensive plan, let’s at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses, defend this country.  Send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship.  I will sign it right away.  (Applause.)
You see, an economy built to last is one where we encourage the talent and ingenuity of every person in this country.  That means women should earn equal pay for equal work.  (Applause.)  It means we should support everyone who’s willing to work, and every risk-taker and entrepreneur who aspires to become the next Steve Jobs. 
After all, innovation is what America has always been about.  Most new jobs are created in start-ups and small businesses.  So let’s pass an agenda that helps them succeed.  Tear down regulations that prevent aspiring entrepreneurs from getting the financing to grow.  (Applause.)  Expand tax relief to small businesses that are raising wages and creating good jobs.  Both parties agree on these ideas.  So put them in a bill, and get it on my desk this year.  (Applause.)
Innovation also demands basic research.  Today, the discoveries taking place in our federally financed labs and universities could lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones untouched.  New lightweight vests for cops and soldiers that can stop any bullet.  Don’t gut these investments in our budget.  Don’t let other countries win the race for the future.  Support the same kind of research and innovation that led to the computer chip and the Internet; to new American jobs and new American industries.
And nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made energy.  Over the last three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I’m directing my administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources.  (Applause.)  Right now -- right now -- American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years.  That’s right -- eight years.  Not only that -- last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past 16 years.  (Applause.)
But with only 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves, oil isn’t enough.  This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy.  (Applause.)  A strategy that’s cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.
We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years.  (Applause.)  And my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy.  Experts believe this will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade.  And I’m requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use.  (Applause.)  Because America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.
The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don’t have to choose between our environment and our economy.  (Applause.)  And by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of 30 years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock –- reminding us that government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground.  (Applause.)         
Now, what’s true for natural gas is just as true for clean energy.  In three years, our partnership with the private sector has already positioned America to be the world’s leading manufacturer of high-tech batteries.  Because of federal investments, renewable energy use has nearly doubled, and thousands of Americans have jobs because of it.
When Bryan Ritterby was laid off from his job making furniture, he said he worried that at 55, no one would give him a second chance.  But he found work at Energetx, a wind turbine manufacturer in Michigan.  Before the recession, the factory only made luxury yachts.  Today, it’s hiring workers like Bryan, who said, “I’m proud to be working in the industry of the future.”
Our experience with shale gas, our experience with natural gas, shows us that the payoffs on these public investments don’t always come right away.  Some technologies don’t pan out; some companies fail.  But I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy.  I will not walk away from workers like Bryan.  (Applause.)  I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here.
We’ve subsidized oil companies for a century.  That’s long enough.  (Applause.)  It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that rarely has been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that never has been more promising.  Pass clean energy tax credits.  Create these jobs.  (Applause.)
We can also spur energy innovation with new incentives.  The differences in this chamber may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change.  But there’s no reason why Congress shouldn’t at least set a clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation.  So far, you haven’t acted.  Well, tonight, I will.  I’m directing my administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power 3 million homes.  And I’m proud to announce that the Department of Defense, working with us, the world’s largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history -– with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year.  (Applause.)
Of course, the easiest way to save money is to waste less energy.  So here’s a proposal:  Help manufacturers eliminate energy waste in their factories and give businesses incentives to upgrade their buildings.  Their energy bills will be $100 billion lower over the next decade, and America will have less pollution, more manufacturing, more jobs for construction workers who need them.  Send me a bill that creates these jobs.  (Applause.) 
Building this new energy future should be just one part of a broader agenda to repair America’s infrastructure.  So much of America needs to be rebuilt.  We’ve got crumbling roads and bridges; a power grid that wastes too much energy; an incomplete high-speed broadband network that prevents a small business owner in rural America from selling her products all over the world.
During the Great Depression, America built the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge.  After World War II, we connected our states with a system of highways.  Democratic and Republican administrations invested in great projects that benefited everybody, from the workers who built them to the businesses that still use them today.
In the next few weeks, I will sign an executive order clearing away the red tape that slows down too many construction projects.  But you need to fund these projects.  Take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.  (Applause.)
There’s never been a better time to build, especially since the construction industry was one of the hardest hit when the housing bubble burst.  Of course, construction workers weren’t the only ones who were hurt.  So were millions of innocent Americans who’ve seen their home values decline.  And while government can’t fix the problem on its own, responsible homeowners shouldn’t have to sit and wait for the housing market to hit bottom to get some relief. 
And that’s why I’m sending this Congress a plan that gives every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage, by refinancing at historically low rates.  (Applause.)  No more red tape.  No more runaround from the banks.  A small fee on the largest financial institutions will ensure that it won’t add to the deficit and will give those banks that were rescued by taxpayers a chance to repay a deficit of trust.  (Applause.)
Let’s never forget:  Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and a financial system that do the same.  It’s time to apply the same rules from top to bottom.  No bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts.  An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody.
We’ve all paid the price for lenders who sold mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them, and buyers who knew they couldn’t afford them.  That’s why we need smart regulations to prevent irresponsible behavior.  (Applause.)  Rules to prevent financial fraud or toxic dumping or faulty medical devices -- these don’t destroy the free market.  They make the free market work better.
There’s no question that some regulations are outdated, unnecessary, or too costly.  In fact, I’ve approved fewer regulations in the first three years of my presidency than my Republican predecessor did in his.  (Applause.)  I’ve ordered every federal agency to eliminate rules that don’t make sense.  We’ve already announced over 500 reforms, and just a fraction of them will save business and citizens more than $10 billion over the next five years.  We got rid of one rule from 40 years ago that could have forced some dairy farmers to spend $10,000 a year proving that they could contain a spill -- because milk was somehow classified as an oil.  With a rule like that, I guess it was worth crying over spilled milk.  (Laughter and applause.)
Now, I’m confident a farmer can contain a milk spill without a federal agency looking over his shoulder.  (Applause.)  Absolutely.  But I will not back down from making sure an oil company can contain the kind of oil spill we saw in the Gulf two years ago.  (Applause.)  I will not back down from protecting our kids from mercury poisoning, or making sure that our food is safe and our water is clean.  I will not go back to the days when health insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny your coverage, or charge women differently than men.  (Applause.)
And I will not go back to the days when Wall Street was allowed to play by its own set of rules.  The new rules we passed restore what should be any financial system’s core purpose:  Getting funding to entrepreneurs with the best ideas, and getting loans to responsible families who want to buy a home, or start a business, or send their kids to college.
So if you are a big bank or financial institution, you’re no longer allowed to make risky bets with your customers’ deposits.  You’re required to write out a “living will” that details exactly how you’ll pay the bills if you fail –- because the rest of us are not bailing you out ever again.  (Applause.)  And if you’re a mortgage lender or a payday lender or a credit card company, the days of signing people up for products they can’t afford with confusing forms and deceptive practices -- those days are over.  Today, American consumers finally have a watchdog in Richard Cordray with one job:  To look out for them.  (Applause.)  
We’ll also establish a Financial Crimes Unit of highly trained investigators to crack down on large-scale fraud and protect people’s investments.  Some financial firms violate major anti-fraud laws because there’s no real penalty for being a repeat offender.  That’s bad for consumers, and it’s bad for the vast majority of bankers and financial service professionals who do the right thing.  So pass legislation that makes the penalties for fraud count.
And tonight, I’m asking my Attorney General to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorney general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis.  (Applause.)  This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans.
Now, a return to the American values of fair play and shared responsibility will help protect our people and our economy.  But it should also guide us as we look to pay down our debt and invest in our future.
Right now, our most immediate priority is stopping a tax hike on 160 million working Americans while the recovery is still fragile.  (Applause.)  People cannot afford losing $40 out of each paycheck this year.  There are plenty of ways to get this done.  So let’s agree right here, right now:  No side issues.  No drama.  Pass the payroll tax cut without delay.  Let’s get it done.  (Applause.)
When it comes to the deficit, we’ve already agreed to more than $2 trillion in cuts and savings.  But we need to do more, and that means making choices.  Right now, we’re poised to spend nearly $1 trillion more on what was supposed to be a temporary tax break for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.  Right now, because of loopholes and shelters in the tax code, a quarter of all millionaires pay lower tax rates than millions of middle-class households.  Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. 
Do we want to keep these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans?  Or do we want to keep our investments in everything else –- like education and medical research; a strong military and care for our veterans?  Because if we’re serious about paying down our debt, we can’t do both. 
The American people know what the right choice is.  So do I.  As I told the Speaker this summer, I’m prepared to make more reforms that rein in the long-term costs of Medicare and Medicaid, and strengthen Social Security, so long as those programs remain a guarantee of security for seniors.
But in return, we need to change our tax code so that people like me, and an awful lot of members of Congress, pay our fair share of taxes.  (Applause.)
Tax reform should follow the Buffett Rule.  If you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes.  And my Republican friend Tom Coburn is right:  Washington should stop subsidizing millionaires.  In fact, if you’re earning a million dollars a year, you shouldn’t get special tax subsidies or deductions.  On the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year, like 98 percent of American families, your taxes shouldn’t go up.  (Applause.)  You’re the ones struggling with rising costs and stagnant wages.  You’re the ones who need relief.  
Now, you can call this class warfare all you want.  But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes?  Most Americans would call that common sense.
We don’t begrudge financial success in this country.  We admire it.  When Americans talk about folks like me paying my fair share of taxes, it’s not because they envy the rich.  It’s because they understand that when I get a tax break I don’t need and the country can’t afford, it either adds to the deficit, or somebody else has to make up the difference -- like a senior on a fixed income, or a student trying to get through school, or a family trying to make ends meet.  That’s not right.  Americans know that’s not right.  They know that this generation’s success is only possible because past generations felt a responsibility to each other, and to the future of their country, and they know our way of life will only endure if we feel that same sense of shared responsibility.  That’s how we’ll reduce our deficit.  That’s an America built to last.  (Applause.)
Now, I recognize that people watching tonight have differing views about taxes and debt, energy and health care.  But no matter what party they belong to, I bet most Americans are thinking the same thing right about now:  Nothing will get done in Washington this year, or next year, or maybe even the year after that, because Washington is broken.
Can you blame them for feeling a little cynical?
The greatest blow to our confidence in our economy last year didn’t come from events beyond our control.  It came from a debate in Washington over whether the United States would pay its bills or not.  Who benefited from that fiasco?
I’ve talked tonight about the deficit of trust between Main Street and Wall Street.  But the divide between this city and the rest of the country is at least as bad -- and it seems to get worse every year.
Some of this has to do with the corrosive influence of money in politics.  So together, let’s take some steps to fix that.  Send me a bill that bans insider trading by members of Congress; I will sign it tomorrow.  (Applause.)  Let’s limit any elected official from owning stocks in industries they impact.  Let’s make sure people who bundle campaign contributions for Congress can’t lobby Congress, and vice versa -- an idea that has bipartisan support, at least outside of Washington.
Some of what’s broken has to do with the way Congress does its business these days.  A simple majority is no longer enough to get anything -– even routine business –- passed through the Senate.  (Applause.)  Neither party has been blameless in these tactics.  Now both parties should put an end to it.  (Applause.)  For starters, I ask the Senate to pass a simple rule that all judicial and public service nominations receive a simple up or down vote within 90 days.  (Applause.) 
The executive branch also needs to change.  Too often, it’s inefficient, outdated and remote.  (Applause.)  That’s why I’ve asked this Congress to grant me the authority to consolidate the federal bureaucracy, so that our government is leaner, quicker, and more responsive to the needs of the American people.  (Applause.) 
Finally, none of this can happen unless we also lower the temperature in this town.  We need to end the notion that the two parties must be locked in a perpetual campaign of mutual destruction; that politics is about clinging to rigid ideologies instead of building consensus around common-sense ideas.
I’m a Democrat.  But I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed:  That government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.  (Applause.)  That’s why my education reform offers more competition, and more control for schools and states.  That’s why we’re getting rid of regulations that don’t work.  That’s why our health care law relies on a reformed private market, not a government program.
On the other hand, even my Republican friends who complain the most about government spending have supported federally financed roads, and clean energy projects, and federal offices for the folks back home.
The point is, we should all want a smarter, more effective government.  And while we may not be able to bridge our biggest philosophical differences this year, we can make real progress.  With or without this Congress, I will keep taking actions that help the economy grow.  But I can do a whole lot more with your help.  Because when we act together, there’s nothing the United States of America can’t achieve.  (Applause.)  That’s the lesson we’ve learned from our actions abroad over the last few years.
Ending the Iraq war has allowed us to strike decisive blows against our enemies.  From Pakistan to Yemen, the al Qaeda operatives who remain are scrambling, knowing that they can’t escape the reach of the United States of America.  (Applause.)
From this position of strength, we’ve begun to wind down the war in Afghanistan.  Ten thousand of our troops have come home.  Twenty-three thousand more will leave by the end of this summer.  This transition to Afghan lead will continue, and we will build an enduring partnership with Afghanistan, so that it is never again a source of attacks against America.  (Applause.)
As the tide of war recedes, a wave of change has washed across the Middle East and North Africa, from Tunis to Cairo; from Sana’a to Tripoli.  A year ago, Qaddafi was one of the world’s longest-serving dictators -– a murderer with American blood on his hands.  Today, he is gone.  And in Syria, I have no doubt that the Assad regime will soon discover that the forces of change cannot be reversed, and that human dignity cannot be denied.  (Applause.)
How this incredible transformation will end remains uncertain.  But we have a huge stake in the outcome.  And while it’s ultimately up to the people of the region to decide their fate, we will advocate for those values that have served our own country so well.  We will stand against violence and intimidation.  We will stand for the rights and dignity of all human beings –- men and women; Christians, Muslims and Jews.  We will support policies that lead to strong and stable democracies and open markets, because tyranny is no match for liberty.
And we will safeguard America’s own security against those who threaten our citizens, our friends, and our interests.  Look at Iran.  Through the power of our diplomacy, a world that was once divided about how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program now stands as one.  The regime is more isolated than ever before; its leaders are faced with crippling sanctions, and as long as they shirk their responsibilities, this pressure will not relent.
Let there be no doubt:  America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal.  (Applause.)
But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better, and if Iran changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the community of nations.
The renewal of American leadership can be felt across the globe.  Our oldest alliances in Europe and Asia are stronger than ever.  Our ties to the Americas are deeper.  Our ironclad commitment -- and I mean ironclad -- to Israel’s security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history.  (Applause.)
We’ve made it clear that America is a Pacific power, and a new beginning in Burma has lit a new hope.  From the coalitions we’ve built to secure nuclear materials, to the missions we’ve led against hunger and disease; from the blows we’ve dealt to our enemies, to the enduring power of our moral example, America is back.
Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they’re talking about.  (Applause.)
That’s not the message we get from leaders around the world who are eager to work with us.  That’s not how people feel from Tokyo to Berlin, from Cape Town to Rio, where opinions of America are higher than they’ve been in years.  Yes, the world is changing.  No, we can’t control every event.  But America remains the one indispensable nation in world affairs –- and as long as I’m President, I intend to keep it that way.  (Applause.) 
That’s why, working with our military leaders, I’ve proposed a new defense strategy that ensures we maintain the finest military in the world, while saving nearly half a trillion dollars in our budget.  To stay one step ahead of our adversaries, I’ve already sent this Congress legislation that will secure our country from the growing dangers of cyber-threats.  (Applause.)
Above all, our freedom endures because of the men and women in uniform who defend it.  (Applause.)  As they come home, we must serve them as well as they’ve served us.  That includes giving them the care and the benefits they have earned –- which is why we’ve increased annual VA spending every year I’ve been President.  (Applause.)  And it means enlisting our veterans in the work of rebuilding our nation.
With the bipartisan support of this Congress, we’re providing new tax credits to companies that hire vets.  Michelle and Jill Biden have worked with American businesses to secure a pledge of 135,000 jobs for veterans and their families.  And tonight, I’m proposing a Veterans Jobs Corps that will help our communities hire veterans as cops and firefighters, so that America is as strong as those who defend her.  (Applause.)
Which brings me back to where I began.  Those of us who’ve been sent here to serve can learn a thing or two from the service of our troops.  When you put on that uniform, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white; Asian, Latino, Native American; conservative, liberal; rich, poor; gay, straight.  When you’re marching into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the mission fails.  When you’re in the thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one nation, leaving no one behind.
One of my proudest possessions is the flag that the SEAL Team took with them on the mission to get bin Laden.  On it are each of their names.  Some may be Democrats.  Some may be Republicans.  But that doesn’t matter.  Just like it didn’t matter that day in the Situation Room, when I sat next to Bob Gates -- a man who was George Bush’s defense secretary -- and Hillary Clinton -- a woman who ran against me for president.
All that mattered that day was the mission.  No one thought about politics.  No one thought about themselves.  One of the young men involved in the raid later told me that he didn’t deserve credit for the mission.  It only succeeded, he said, because every single member of that unit did their job -- the pilot who landed the helicopter that spun out of control; the translator who kept others from entering the compound; the troops who separated the women and children from the fight; the SEALs who charged up the stairs.  More than that, the mission only succeeded because every member of that unit trusted each other -- because you can’t charge up those stairs, into darkness and danger, unless you know that there’s somebody behind you, watching your back.
So it is with America.  Each time I look at that flag, I’m reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those 50 stars and those 13 stripes.  No one built this country on their own.  This nation is great because we built it together.  This nation is great because we worked as a team.  This nation is great because we get each other’s backs.  And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard.  As long as we are joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, and our future is hopeful, and the state of our Union will always be strong.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)
10:16 P.M. EST