Transcript of Obama's State of the Union 2013 speech

Postby luther » Wed Feb 13, 2013 12:46 am

Transcript of Obama's State of the Union

February 12, 2013
OBAMA: Thank you. Please, everybody, have a seat.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress,
fellow Americans, 51 years ago, John F. Kennedy declared to this
chamber that ``the Constitution makes us not rivals for power,
but partners for progress.''
``It is my task,'' he said, ``to report the state of the
union. To improve it is the task of us all.''
Tonight, thanks to the grit and determination of the
American people, there is much progress to report. After a
decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are
coming home.
After years of grueling recession, our businesses have
created over 6 million new jobs. We buy more American cars than
we have in five years and less foreign oil than we have in 20.
Our housing market is healing, our stock market is
rebounding, and consumers, patients and homeowners enjoy
stronger protections than ever before.

OBAMA: So, together, we have cleared away the rubble of
crisis, and we can say with renewed confidence that the state of
our union is stronger.
But -- but we gather here knowing that there are millions
of Americans whose hard work and dedication have not yet been
rewarded. Our economy is adding jobs, but too many people still
can't find full- time employment. Corporate profits have
skyrocketed to all-time highs, but for more than a decade, wages
and incomes have barely budged. It is our generation's task,
then, to reignite the true engine of America's economic growth:
a rising, thriving middle class.
It is -- it is our unfinished task to restore the basic
bargain that built this country, the idea that if you work hard
and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter
where you come from, no matter what you look like or who you
It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government
works on behalf of the many, and not just the few, that it
encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and
opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great

OBAMA: The American people don't expect government to
solve every problem. They don't expect those of us in this
chamber to agree on every issue. But they do expect us to put
the nation's interests before party.
They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we
can, for they know that America moves forward only when we do so
together and that the responsibility of improving this union
remains the task of us all.
Our work must begin by making some basic decisions about
our budget, decisions that will have a huge impact on the
strength of our recovery. Over the last few years, both parties
have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5
trillion, mostly through spending cuts, but also by raising tax
rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. As a result, we
are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit
reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances.

Now we need to finish the job. And the question is: How?
In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties
couldn't agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a
trillion dollars' worth of budget cuts would automatically go
into effect this year. These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts
would jeopardize our military readiness, they'd devastate
priorities like education and energy and medical research. They
would certainly slow our recovery and cost us hundreds of
thousands of jobs. And that's why Democrats, Republicans,
business leaders, and economists have already said that these
cuts -- known here in Washington as ``the sequester'' -- are a
really bad idea.
Now, some in this Congress have proposed preventing only
the defense cuts by making even bigger cuts to things like
education and job training, Medicare and Social Security
benefits. That idea is even worse.
Yes, the biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising
cost of health care for an aging population. And those of us
who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the
need for modest reforms. Otherwise, our retirement programs
will crowd out the investments we need for our children and
jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement for future
But we can't ask senior citizens and working families to
shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking
nothing more from the wealthiest and the most powerful.
We won't grow the middle class simply by shifting the cost
of health care or college onto families that are already
struggling or by forcing communities to lay off more teachers
and more cops and more firefighters. Most Americans --
Democrats, Republicans and independents -- understand that we
can't just cut our way to prosperity. They know that
broad-based economic growth requires a balanced approach to
deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue, and with
everybody doing their fair share.
And that's the approach I offer tonight. On Medicare, I'm
prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of
health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the
reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission.
Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the
growth of health care costs.
And -- and the reforms I'm proposing go even further.
We'll reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies
and ask more from the wealthiest seniors.

We'll bring down costs by changing the way our government
pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn't be based
on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital.
They should be based on the quality of care that our seniors
And I am open to additional reforms from both parties, so
long as they don't violate the guarantee of a secure retirement.
Our government shouldn't make promises we cannot keep, but we
must keep the promises we've already made.
To hit the rest of our deficit reduction target, we should
do what leaders in both parties have already suggested and save
hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes
and deductions for the well-off and the well-connected. After
all, why would we choose to make deeper cuts to education and
Medicare just to protect special interest tax breaks? How is
that fair? Why is it that deficit reduction is a big emergency,
justifying making cuts in Social Security benefits, but not
closing some loopholes? How does that promote growth?
Now is our best chance for bipartisan, comprehensive tax
reform that encourages job creation and helps bring down the
We can get this done.
The American people deserve a tax code that helps small
businesses spend less time filling out complicated forms and
more time expanding and hiring, a tax code that ensures
billionaires with high- powered accountants can't work the
system and pay a lower rate than their hard-working secretaries,
a tax code that lowers incentives to move jobs overseas and
lowers tax rates for businesses and manufacturers that are
creating jobs right here in the United States of America.
That's what tax reform can deliver. That's what we can do
I realize that tax reform and entitlement reform will not
be easy. The politics will be hard for both sides. None of us
will get 100 percent of what we want. But the alternative will
cost us jobs, hurt our economy, visit hardship on millions of
hardworking Americans.
So let's set party interests aside and work to pass a
budget that replaces reckless cuts with smart savings and wise
investments in our future. And let's do it without the
brinksmanship that stresses consumers and scares off investors.
The greatest nation on Earth -- the greatest nation on
Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one
manufactured crisis to the next. We can't do it.
Let's agree -- let's agree, right here, right now, to keep
the people's government open and pay our bills on time and
always uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of
The American people have worked too hard, for too long,
rebuilding from one crisis to see their elected officials cause
another. Now...
... most of us agree that a plan to reduce the deficit must
be part of our agenda. But let's be clear: Deficit reduction
alone is not an economic plan.
A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs,
that must be the North Star that guides our efforts.
Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a
nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we
equip our people with the skills they need to get those jobs?
And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?

OBAMA: A year-and-a-half ago, I put forward an American
Jobs Act that independent economists said would create more than
1 million new jobs. And I thank the last Congress for passing
some of that agenda; I urge this Congress to pass the rest.
... tonight I'll lay out additional proposals that are
fully paid for and fully consistent with the budget framework
both parties agreed to just 18 months ago. Let me repeat:
Nothing I'm proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a
single dime. It is not a bigger government we need, but a
smarter government that sets priorities and invests in
broad-based growth.
That's what we should be looking for.
Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs
and manufacturing. After shedding jobs for more than 10 years,
our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past
three. Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan. Ford is
bringing jobs back from Mexico. And this year, Apple will start
making Macs in America again.
There are things we can do, right now, to accelerate this
trend. Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation
institute in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is
now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the
3-D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we
make almost everything. There's no reason this can't happen in
other towns.
So tonight, I'm announcing the launch of three more of
these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the
Departments of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by
globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. And I ask
this Congress to help create a network of 15 of these hubs and
guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is made
right here in America. We can get that done.
Now, if we want to make the best products, we also have --
have to invest in the best ideas. Every dollar we invested to
map the human genome returned $140 to our economy. Every
dollar. Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to
unlock the answers to Alzheimer's. We're developing drugs to
regenerate damaged organs, devising new materials to make
batteries 10 times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut
these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now
is the time to reach a level of research and development not
seen since the height of the space race. We need to make those
Today, no area holds more promise than our investments in
American energy. After years of talking about it, we're finally
poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at
home than we have in 15 years.
We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon
of gas and the amount of renewable energy we generate from
sources like wind and solar, with tens of thousands of good,
American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than
ever before, and nearly everyone's energy bill is lower because
of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the
dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have
actually fallen.
But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do
more to combat climate change.

OBAMA: Now...
Now, it's true that no single event makes a trend. But the
fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the
last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods, all are now
more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that
Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and
the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a
freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the
overwhelming judgment of science and act before it's too late.
Now, the good news is, we can make meaningful progress on
this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this
Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based
solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe
Lieberman worked on together a few years ago.
But if Congress won't act soon to protect future
generations, I will. I will direct...
I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions
we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare
our communities for the consequences of climate change, and
speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.
Now, four years ago, other countries dominated the
clean-energy market and the jobs that came with it. And we've
begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half
of all new power capacity in America. So let's generate even
more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year. Let's drive down
costs even further. As long as countries like China keep going
all-in on clean energy, so must we.
Now, in the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to
cleaner power and greater energy independence. We need to
encourage that. That's why my administration will keep cutting
red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.
That's got to be part of an all-of-the-above plan. But I
also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research
and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and
protects our air and our water.
In fact, much of our newfound energy is drawn from lands
and waters that we, the public, own together. So tonight, I
propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an
Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and
technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.
If a nonpartisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and
admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we. Let's take
their advice and free our families and businesses from the
painful spikes in gas prices we've put up with for far too long.
I'm also issuing a new goal for America: Let's cut in half
the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20
We'll work with the states to do it. Those states with the
best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing
more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help
make that happen.
America's energy sector is just one part of an aging
infrastructure badly in need of repair. Ask any CEO where
they'd rather locate and hire, a country with deteriorating
roads and bridges or one with high-speed rail and Internet,
high-tech schools, self- healing power grids.
The CEO of Siemens America -- a company that brought
hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina -- has said that if we
upgrade our infrastructure, they'll bring even more jobs. And
that's the attitude of a lot of companies all around the world.
And I know you want these job-creating projects in your
district; I've seen all those ribbon- cuttings.
So, tonight, I propose a ``Fix-It-First'' program to put
people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs,
like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the
And to make sure taxpayers don't shoulder the whole burden,
I'm also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that
attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need
most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to
withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children.
Let's prove there's no better place to do business than
here in the United States of America, and let's start right
away. We can get this done.

OBAMA: And part of our rebuilding effort must also involve
our housing sector. The good news is, our housing market is
finally healing from the collapse of 2007. Home prices are
rising at the fastest pace in six years. Home purchases are up
nearly 50 percent. And construction is expanding again.
But even with mortgage rates near a 50-year low, too many
families with solid credit who want to buy a home are being
rejected. Too many families who have never missed a payment and
want to refinance are being told no. That's holding our entire
economy back. We need to fix it.
Right now, there's a bill in this Congress that would give
every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000
a year by refinancing at today's rates. Democrats and
Republicans have supported it before. So what are we waiting
for? Take a vote and send me that bill.
Why are -- why would we be against that?
Why would that be a partisan issue, helping folks
refinance? Right now, overlapping regulations keep responsible
young families from buying their first home. What's holding us
back? Let's streamline the process and help our economy grow.
Now, these initiatives in manufacturing, energy,
infrastructure, housing, all these things will help
entrepreneurs and small-business owners expand and create new
jobs. But none of it will matter unless we also equip our
citizens with the skills and training to fill those jobs.
And that has to start at the earliest possible age. You
know, study after study shows that the sooner a child begins
learning, the better he or she does down the road. But today,
fewer than three in ten 4-year-olds are enrolled in a
high-quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can't
afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool. And
for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to
preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives.
So, tonight, I propose working with states to make
high-quality preschool available to every single child in
That's something we should be able to do.
Every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood
education can save more than seven dollars later on, by boosting
graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent
crime. In states that make it a priority to educate our
youngest children -- like Georgia or Oklahoma -- studies show
students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level,
graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of
their own. We know this works. So let's do what works and make
sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.
Let's give our kids that chance.
Let's also make sure that a high school diploma puts our
kids on a path to a good job. Right now, countries like Germany
focus on graduating their high school students with the
equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community
colleges, so those German kids, they're ready for a job when
they graduate high school. They've been trained for the jobs
that are there.
Now at schools like P-TECH in Brooklyn, a collaboration
between New York public schools and City University of New York
and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and
an associate's degree in computers or engineering. We need to
give every American student opportunities like this. And four
years ago...
Four years ago, we started Race to the Top, a competition
that convinced almost every state to develop smarter curricula
and higher standards, all for about 1 percent of what we spend
on education each year.

OBAMA: Tonight, I'm announcing a new challenge, to
redesign America's high schools so they better equip graduates
for the demands of a high-tech economy. And we'll reward
schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and
employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology,
engineering and math, the skills today's employers are looking
for to fill the jobs that are there right now and will be there
in the future.
Now, even with better high schools, most young people will
need some higher education. It's a simple fact: The more
education you've got, the more likely you are to have a good job
and work your way into the middle class. But today,
skyrocketing costs price too many young people out of a higher
education or saddle them with unsustainable debt.
Through tax credits, grants, and better loans, we've made
college more affordable for millions of students and families
over the last few years. But taxpayers can't keep on
subsidizing higher and higher and higher costs for higher
education. Colleges must do their part to keep costs down, and
it's our job to make sure that they do.
So, tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education
Act so that affordability and value are included in determining
which colleges receive certain types of federal aid.
And -- and tomorrow, my Administration will release a new
college scorecard that parents and students can use to compare
schools based on a simple criteria: where you can get the most
bang for your educational buck.
Now, to grow our middle class, our citizens have to have
access to the education and training that today's jobs require.
But we also have to make sure that America remains a place where
everyone who's willing to work -- everybody who's willing to
work hard has the chance to get ahead.
Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and
ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants.
And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law
enforcement, faith communities, they all agree that the time has
come to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Now's the time
to do it.
Now's the time to get it done.
Now's the time to get it done.
Real reform means strong border security, and we can build
on the progress my administration's already made, putting more
boots on the southern border than at any time in our history and
reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.
Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to
earned citizenship, a path that includes passing a background
check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English,
and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to
come here legally.
And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system
to cut waiting periods and attract the highly skilled
entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow
our economy.
In other words, we know what needs to be done. And as we
speak, bipartisan groups in both chambers are working diligently
to draft a bill, and I applaud their efforts. So let's get this
done. Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the
next few months, and I will sign it right away. And America
will be better for it.
Let's get it done. Let's get it done.
But we can't stop there. We know our economy is stronger
when our wives, our mothers, our daughters can live their lives
free from discrimination in the workplace and free from the fear
of domestic violence. Today, the Senate passed the Violence
Against Women's Act that Joe Biden originally wrote almost 20
years ago. And I now urge the House to do the same.
Good job, Joe.
And I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a
-- a living equal to their efforts and finally pass the Paycheck
Fairness Act this year.

OBAMA: We know our economy's stronger when we reward an
honest day's work with honest wages. But today, a full-time
worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with
the tax relief we've put in place, a family with two kids that
earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line.
That's wrong. That's why, since the last time this Congress
raised the minimum wage, 19 states have chosen to bump theirs
even higher.
Tonight, let's declare that, in the wealthiest nation on
Earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty
-- and raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.
We should be able to get that done.
This single step would raise the incomes of millions of
working families. It could mean the difference between
groceries or the food bank, rent or eviction, scraping by or
finally getting ahead. For businesses across the country, it
would mean customers with more money in their pockets.
And a whole lot of folks out there would probably need less
help from government. In fact, working folks shouldn't have to
wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up, while CEO
pay has never been higher. So here's an idea that Governor
Romney and I actually agreed on last year: Let's tie the
minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a
wage you can live on.
Tonight, let's also recognize that there are communities in
this country where, no matter how hard you work, it is virtually
impossible to get ahead -- factory towns decimated from years of
plants packing up, inescapable pockets of poverty, urban and
rural, where young adults are still fighting for their first
America is not a place where the chance of birth or
circumstance should decide our destiny. And that's why we need
to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for
all who are willing to climb them.
Let's offer incentives to companies that hire Americans
who've got what it takes to fill that job opening, but have been
out of work so long that no one will give them a chance anymore.
Let's put people back to work rebuilding vacant homes in
rundown neighborhoods.
And this year, my administration will begin to partner with
20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities
back on their feet. And we'll work with local leaders to target
resources at public safety and education and housing. We'll
give new tax credits to businesses that hire and invest. And
we'll work to strengthen families by removing the financial
deterrents to marriage for low- income couples and do more to
encourage fatherhood, because what makes you a man isn't the
ability to conceive a child, it's having the courage to raise
one. And we want to encourage that. We want to help that.
Stronger families. Stronger communities. A stronger
America. It is this kind of prosperity -- broad, shared, built
on a thriving middle class -- that has always been the source of
our progress at home. It's also the foundation of our power and
influence throughout the world.
Tonight, we stand united in saluting the troops and
civilians who sacrifice every day to protect us. Because of
them, we can say with confidence that America will complete its
mission in Afghanistan and achieve our objective of defeating
the core of Al Qaida.

OBAMA: Already we have brought home 33,000 of our brave
servicemen and women. This spring, our forces will move into a
support role, while Afghan security forces take the lead.
Tonight, I can announce that, over the next year, another 34,000
American troops will come home from Afghanistan. This drawdown
will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in
Afghanistan will be over.
Beyond 2014, America's commitment to a unified and
sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of our
commitment will change. We're negotiating an agreement with the
Afghan government that focuses on two missions: training and
equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not again slip
into chaos and counterterrorism efforts that allow us to pursue
the remnants of Al Qaida and their affiliates.
Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a
shadow of its former self.
It's true, different Al Qaida affiliates and extremist
groups have emerged, from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa. The
threat these groups pose is evolving. But to meet this threat,
we don't need to send tens of thousands of our sons and
daughters abroad or occupy other nations. Instead, we'll need
to help countries like Yemen, Libya, and Somalia provide for
their own security and help allies who take the fight to
terrorists, as we have in Mali. And, where necessary, through a
range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action
against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to
Americans. Now...
... as we do, we must enlist our values in the fight.
That's why my administration has worked tirelessly to forge a
durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism
efforts. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of
our efforts. And I recognize that, in our democracy, no one
should just take my word for it that we're doing things the
right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage
Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention and
prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and
system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even
more transparent to the American people and to the world. Of
... our challenges don't end with Al Qaida. America will
continue to lead the effort to prevent the spread of the world's
most dangerous weapons. The regime in North Korea must know,
they will only achieve security and prosperity by meeting their
international obligations. Provocations of the sort we saw last
night will only further isolate them, as we stand by our allies,
strengthen our own missile defense, and lead the world in taking
firm action in response to these threats.
Likewise, the leaders of Iran must recognize that now is
the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands
united in demanding that they meet their obligations. And we
will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear
At the same time, we'll engage Russia to seek further
reductions in our nuclear arsenals and continue leading the
global effort to secure nuclear materials that could fall into
the wrong hands, because our ability to influence others depends
on our willingness to lead and meet our obligations.
America must also face the rapidly growing threat from
cyber attacks.
Now, we know hackers steal people's identities and
infiltrate private e-mails. We know foreign countries and
companies swipe our corporate secrets. Now our enemies are also
seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial
institutions, our air traffic control systems. We cannot look
back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of
real threats to our security and our economy.
That's why, earlier today, I signed a new executive order
that will strengthen our cyber defenses by increasing
information-sharing and developing standards to protect our
national security, our jobs, and our privacy.

OBAMA: But now -- now Congress must act, as well, by
passing legislation to give our government a greater capacity to
secure our networks and deter attacks. This is something we
should be able to get done on a bipartisan basis.
Now, even as we protect our people, we should remember that
today's world presents not just dangers, not just threats. It
presents opportunities. To boost American exports, support
American jobs, and level the playing field in the growing
markets of Asia, we intend to complete negotiations on a
Trans-Pacific Partnership. And tonight, I'm announcing that we
will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and
Investment Partnership with the European Union, because trade
that is fair and free across the Atlantic supports millions of
good-paying American jobs.
We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts
of our world enriches us all, not only because it creates new
markets, more stable order in certain regions of the world, but
also because it's the right thing to do.
You know, in many places, people live on little more than a
dollar a day. So the United States will join with our allies to
eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades, by
connecting more people to the global economy, by empowering
women, by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities
to serve and helping communities to feed and power and educate
themselves, by saving the world's children from preventable
deaths, and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation,
which is within our reach.
You see...
You see, America must remain a beacon to all who seek
freedom during this period of historic change. I saw the power
of hope last year in Rangoon, in Burma, when Aung San Suu Kyi
welcomed an American president into the home where she had been
imprisoned for years, when thousands of Burmese lined the
streets, waving American flags, including a man who said, ``There
is justice and law in the United States. I want our country to
be like that.''
In defense of freedom, we'll remain the anchor of strong
alliances, from the Americas to Africa, from Europe to Asia. In
the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand
their universal rights, and support stable transitions to
We know the process will be messy, and we cannot presume to
dictate the course of change in countries like Egypt, but we can
-- and will -- insist on respect for the fundamental rights of
all people.
We'll keep the pressure on a Syrian regime that has
murdered its own people and support opposition leaders that
respect the rights of every Syrian. And we will stand steadfast
with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace.
These are the messages I'll deliver when I travel to the
Middle East next month.
And all this work depends on the courage and sacrifice of
those who serve in dangerous places at great personal risk: our
diplomats, our intelligence officers, and the men and women of
the United States armed forces. As long as I'm
commander-in-chief, we will do whatever we must to protect those
who serve their country abroad, and we will maintain the best
military the world has ever known.
We'll invest in new capabilities, even as we reduce waste
and wartime spending. We will ensure equal treatment for all
servicemembers, and equal benefits for their families, gay and

We will draw upon the courage and skills of our sisters and
daughters and moms, because women have proven under fire that
they are ready for combat. We will keep faith with our
veterans, investing in world-class care, including mental health
care, for our wounded warriors...
... supporting our military families, giving our veterans
the benefits and education and job opportunities that they have
earned. And I want to thank my wife, Michelle, and Dr. Jill
Biden for their continued dedication to serving our military
families as well as they have served us.
Thank you, hon. Thank you, Jill.
Defending our freedom, though, is not just the job of our
military alone. We must all do our part to make sure our
God-given rights are protected here at home. That includes one
of the most fundamental rights of a democracy, the right to
When any American -- no matter where they live or what
their party -- are denied that right because they can't wait for
five or six or seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are
betraying our ideals. So...
So, tonight, I'm announcing a nonpartisan commission to
improve the voting experience in America. And it definitely
needs improvement. I'm asking two long-time experts in the
field -- who, by the way, recently served as the top attorneys
for my campaign and for Governor Romney's campaign -- to lead
it. We can fix this. And we will. The American people demand
it, and so does our democracy.
Of course, what I've said tonight matters little if we
don't come together to protect our most precious resource, our
It has been two months since Newtown. I know this is not
the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun
violence, but this time is different. Overwhelming majorities
of Americans -- Americans who believe in the Second Amendment --
have come together around commonsense reform, like background
checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands
on a gun. Senators...
Senators -- senators of both parties are working together
on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale
to criminals. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons
of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because
these police chiefs, they're tired of seeing their guys and gals
being outgunned.
Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress.
If you want to vote no, that's your choice. But these
proposals deserve a vote, because in the two months since
Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations,
anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a
gun. More than a thousand.
One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya
Pendleton. She was 15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip
gloss. She was a majorette.

OBAMA: She was so good to her friends, they all thought
they were her best friend.
Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her
classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And
a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after
school, just a mile away from my house.
Hadiya's parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber
tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives
have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote.
They deserve a vote.
They deserve a vote.
Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.
The families of Newtown deserve a vote.
The families of Aurora deserve a vote.
The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and
the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence,
they deserve a simple vote.
They deserve -- they deserve a simple vote.
Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of
violence in this country. In fact, no laws, no initiatives, no
administrative acts will perfectly solve all of the challenges
I've outlined tonight. But we were never sent here to be
perfect. We were sent here to make what difference we can -- to
secure this nation, expand opportunity, uphold our ideals
through the hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary
work of self-government.
We were sent here to look out for our fellow Americans the
same way they look out for one another, every single day,
usually without fanfare, all across this country. We should
follow their example.
We should follow the example of a New York City nurse named
Menchu Sanchez. When Hurricane Sandy plunged her hospital into
darkness, she wasn't thinking about how her own home was faring.
Her mind was on the 20 precious newborns in her care and the
rescue plan she devised that kept them all safe.
We should follow the example of a North Miami woman named
Desiline Victor. When Desiline arrived at her polling place,
she was told the wait to vote might be six hours. And as time
ticked by, her concern was not with her tired body or aching
feet, but whether folks like her would get to have their say.
And hour after hour, a throng of people stayed in line in
support of her, because Desiline is 102 years old.
And they erupted in cheers when she finally put on a
sticker that read ``I Voted.''
You know...
There's Desiline.
We should follow the example of a police officer named
Brian Murphy. When a gunman opened fire on a Sikh temple in
Wisconsin, Brian was the first to arrive, and he did not
consider his own safety. He fought back until help arrived and
ordered his fellow officers to protect the safety of the fellow
Americans worshiping inside, even as he lay bleeding from 12
bullet wounds.
And when asked how he did that, Brian said, ``That's just
the way we're made.'' That's just the way we're made.
We may do different jobs, and wear different uniforms, and
hold different views than the person beside us. But as
Americans, we all share the same proud title: We are citizens.
It's a word that doesn't just describe our nationality or legal
status. It describes the way we're made. It describes what we
believe. It captures the enduring idea that this country only
works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to
future generations; that our rights are wrapped up in the rights
of others; and that well into our third century as a nation, it
remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States,
to be the authors of the next great chapter in our American
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless these United States
of America.
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