President Barack Obama is now delivering his State of the Union address.
At the U.S. Capitol Tuesday evening, he began the address by congratulating the new Congress and speaker of the House of Representatives, Republican John Boehner. He also noted the absence of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in an attack earlier this month, and is recovering at a hospital in Texas.
He said there have been political differences in the two years since he took office. But he said the contentious fights are a “good thing,” as that is what a robust democracy demands.
Mr. Obama called for political unity, saying everyone is part of the American family, bound together as one people, sharing common hopes and a common creed. He said the future will be determined by whether elected officials can work together.
He said either the country will move forward together – or not move forward at all. He said the challenges facing the country are bigger than a political party or politics.
President Obama says the United States is poised for progress, with the stock market and corporate profits up and the economy growing again. But he says the country has to do more to ensure its leadership and competitiveness in the future.
Mr. Obama said at stake right now is whether new jobs and industries take root in the U.S., or somewhere else.
He said revolutions in technology have “transformed the way we live, work and do business.” Mr. Obama pointed to China and India as examples of nations that have invested in education, research and new technologies to improve their competitiveness in this new world. But he said this competition for jobs should not discourage Americans, but challenge them.
He said the U.S. still has the “largest, most prosperous economy in the world” and is home to the most successful companies and the best colleges and universities.
He said the future is Americans’ to win, but that it will require work and sacrifice.
President Obama says the U.S. must work to lead the world in education in order to achieve success over other countries and “win the future.”
Mr. Obama said the quality of U.S. math and science education currently lags behind many other nations, and said the U.S. has fallen to 9th place in the proportion of young people with a college degree.
He highlighted steps his government has taken to improve the U.S. education system, describing a competition his administration launched as “the most meaningful reform” of U.S. public schools in a generation. He said the Race to the Top program has led more than 40 states to raise their standards for teaching and learning.
On higher education, President Obama called on Congress to help make college affordable for more Americans by making permanent a current tuition tax credit worth $10,000 for four years of college.
He also addressed the issue of immigration related to the education system, saying there are hundreds of thousands of undocumented students excelling in American schools. He said “it makes no sense” that many of them are deported after they obtain advanced degrees in the U.S.
The president said he strongly believes the government should take on the issue of illegal immigration. He said he knows the debate will be difficult and take time, but he called on lawmakers to agree to make the effort and stop expelling talented young people who he said “can staff our research labs, start new businesses, and further enrich this nation.”
Mr. Obama said another step in winning the future is rebuilding America’s infrastructure, including roads, bridges, high-speed rail and high-speed Internet.
He said that to attract new businesses, the country needs the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods and information.
He said homes in South Korea have better Internet access than those in the United States. He said Russia and Europe invest more in roads and railways than the United States does.
Mr. Obama said that in the last two years, the United States has begun rebuilding for the 21st century, but he proposed a redoubling of those efforts.
He said the goal is that within 25 years, 80 percent of Americans will have access to high-speed rail. He said that within the next five years, investments will make it possible for businesses to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98 percent of all Americans.
The president said investments in innovation, education and infrastructure will make America a better place to do business and create jobs — but that barriers still stand in the way of the success of companies. He called for simplification to the tax system and the elimination of tax loopholes. He said the savings can be used to lower the corporate tax rate for the first time in 25 years, without adding to the deficit.
He reiterated his goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2014, saying more exports mean more jobs in the United States. He called for Congress to pass the trade agreement recently finalized with South Korea. He said his administration also is pursuing agreements with Panama and Colombia, and is continuing the Asia-Pacific and global trade talks.
He said he will fix the rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, but he will not hesitate to create or enforce “commonsense safeguards” to protect the American people.