Washington, D.C. --- President Barack Obama delivered the first State of the Union address of his second term last night, and he expanded on the broad themes of his inaugural address, in front of a joint session of Congress.
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 six 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.
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confidence that the State of our Union is stronger.The commander-in-chief announced that over 30,000 troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan over the next year, and that military benefits would be extended to the families of LGBT service members.
We will ensure equal treatment for all servicemembers, and equal benefits for their families -- gay and straight.The president urged Congress to set partisan differences aside, and work together to create jobs, improve the economy, repair and invest in our nation’s infrastructure, and strengthen the middle class.
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 cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next.President Obama implored lawmakers to increase the minimum wage, develop a national pre-school education initiative for 4 year olds, and pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.
I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a living equal to their efforts, and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year.The president also reiterated that he expects Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, as well as sensible gun control legislation. He announced that he created a non-partisan commission to study election reform, in order to eliminate the lengthy waiting time that voters endured in the last presidential contest.
The president claimed that his policy proposals wouldn’t add to current budget deficits, and suggested that Congress should consider climate-change legislation. He also said that if Congress failed to act that he would be proactive, and would exercise his executive authority to implement new climate-change rules.
While Obama encouraged lawmakers to bridge the partisan divide, he didn’t provide any evidence that he was ready to work with Congressional Republicans on specific policy proposals.
Toward the end of his speech, while discussing violence and gun-control legislation, the tone of the address changed, and the very skilled orator appeared to be speaking directly to the American people. As he cited many of the gun tragedies that most Americans are familiar with, he demanded that Congress bring gun-control legislation to the floor of the House and Senate for consideration. He said "They deserve a vote," and the emotional subtext of that simple phrase was felt in living rooms from Augusta, Maine, to Anchorage, Alaska.
Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. Now, 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. 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. 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 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 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.The president could not be more right - our nation does deserve a vote - and if Congress fails to debate and vote on gun-control legislation, I imagine that Obama will take every opportunity to remind the American people that Republicans are to blame.
Now that I think about it, there’s no doubt in my mind that I will do the same.
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