The State of the Union is "Stronger"
President Obama lays out policy plans in annual address
On Tuesday night, President Barack Obama delivered the first State of the Union Address of his second term. He made the speech in front of a joint session of Congress, his Cabinet, the Supreme Court Justices, and invited guests.
The State of the Union speech is given by the President every year to update American citizens on the condition of the country. It also gives the President an opportunity to lay out his top legislative priorities.
Issue Number One: The Economy, Jobs, and the Middle Class
President Obama's speech Tuesday focused largely on the country's economy and bringing jobs back to America.
"Tonight, thanks to the grit and determination of the American people, there is much progress to report," Obama said. "Together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is stronger. But we gather here knowing that there are millions of Americans whose hard work and dedication have not yet been rewarded."
The President talked about making America "a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing", naming companies such as Intel and Apple that have begun to move manufacturing jobs back to the United States.
The creation of new manufacturing jobs in America is key to reestablishing the nation's middle class, the President said.
"A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs – that must be the North Star that guides our efforts," Obama said. "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 needed to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?"
The President's answer to that last question was to call for an increase in the minimum wage, from $7.25 to $9.00 per hour.
Other issues that factored into the President's goals for the economy included investing in new clean energy, protecting the environment, and an improved education system.
"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," the President said.
To help make that happen, Obama announced a challenge to redesign high schools to "better equip graduates for the demands of a high tech economy."
The Need to Reform Immigration and Education
But the economy wasn't the only topic on the President's agenda on Tuesday.
Obama also talked about plans to withdraw 34,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan over the next year. This will allow Afghan security forces to take the lead in the Afghanistan War.
The President called on Congress to fix the immigration system and pass comprehensive immigration reform.
"Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away," Obama said. "And America will be better for it."
"Let's get it done," he added.
Getting things done was a theme that ran throughout the President's speech. But he also said he knew politicians are divided on key issues.
At the end of the State of the Union Address, Obama asked Congress to come together to solve our nation's problems.
"We may do different jobs and wear different uniforms, and hold different views than the person beside us," Obama said. "But as Americans, we all share the same proud title — we are citizens. 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 of our American story."
The Republican Response
Shortly after the President finished his speech, Florida Senator Marco Rubio delivered the Republican response.
Every State of the Union Address is followed by a response from a member of the opposite party.
Rubio is seen as a rising star in the Republican Party.
Like President Obama, Rubio focused much of his televised response on the economy.
He said that the President's plans were not helping the middle class, but instead hurting it. He outlined the Republican Party's proposal for less government and more free enterprise.
"This idea – that our problems were caused by a government that was too small – it's just not true," Rubio said.
"The tax increases and the deficit spending you propose will hurt middle class families," Rubio continued, speaking directly to the President. "It will cost them their raises. It will cost them their benefits. It may even cost some of them their jobs."
Rubio also addressed issues like a balanced budget, energy, education, and immigration. He went on to lay out fundamental disagreements with the President's policies and ideas on all those issues.
But he found some common ground with the President. Like Obama, Rubio ended his speech with an appeal to unity.
"This dream – of a better life for their children – it's the hope of parents everywhere," he concluded. "Now, let that hope bring us together again. To solve the challenges of our time and write the next chapter in the amazing story of the greatest nation man has ever known."
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