United States Capitol, Washington, D.C.
9:12 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:
Tonight I want to begin by congratulating the men and women of the 112th Congress, as well as your new Speaker, John Boehner. (Applause.) And as we mark this occasion, we’re also mindful of the empty chair in this chamber, and we pray for the health of our colleague — and our friend -– Gabby Giffords. (Applause.)
It’s no secret that those of us here tonight have had our differences over the last two years. The debates have been contentious; we have fought fiercely for our beliefs. And that’s a good thing. That’s what a robust democracy demands. That’s what helps set us apart as a nation.
But there’s a reason the tragedy in Tucson gave us pause. Amid all the noise and passion and rancor of our public debate, Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater -– something more consequential than party or political preference.
We are part of the American family. We believe that in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; that we share common hopes and a common creed; that the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different than those of our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be fulfilled.
That, too, is what sets us apart as a nation. (Applause.)
Now, by itself, this simple recognition won’t usher in a new era of cooperation. What comes of this moment is up to us. What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow. (Applause.)
I believe we can. And I believe we must. That’s what the people who sent us here expect of us. With their votes, they’ve determined that governing will now be a shared responsibility between parties. New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all -– for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.
At stake right now is not who wins the next election -– after all, we just had an election. At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else. It’s whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded. It’s whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but the light to the world.
We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.
But we have never measured progress by these yardsticks alone. We measure progress by the success of our people. By the jobs they can find and the quality of life those jobs offer. By the prospects of a small business owner who dreams of turning a good idea into a thriving enterprise. By the opportunities for a better life that we pass on to our children.
That’s the project the American people want us to work on. Together. (Applause.)
We did that in December. Thanks to the tax cuts we passed, Americans’ paychecks are a little bigger today. Every business can write off the full cost of new investments that they make this year. And these steps, taken by Democrats and Republicans, will grow the economy and add to the more than one million private sector jobs created last year.
But we have to do more. These steps we’ve taken over the last two years may have broken the back of this recession, but to win the future, we’ll need to take on challenges that have been decades in the making.
Many people watching tonight can probably remember a time when finding a good job meant showing up at a nearby factory or a business downtown. You didn’t always need a degree, and your competition was pretty much limited to your neighbors. If you worked hard, chances are you’d have a job for life, with a decent paycheck and good benefits and the occasional promotion. Maybe you’d even have the pride of seeing your kids work at the same company.
That world has changed. And for many, the change has been painful. I’ve seen it in the shuttered windows of once booming factories, and the vacant storefronts on once busy Main Streets. I’ve heard it in the frustrations of Americans who’ve seen their paychecks dwindle or their jobs disappear -– proud men and women who feel like the rules have been changed in the middle of the game.
They’re right. The rules have changed. In a single generation, revolutions in technology have transformed the way we live, work and do business. Steel mills that once needed 1,000 workers can now do the same work with 100. Today, just about any company can set up shop, hire workers, and sell their products wherever there’s an Internet connection.
Meanwhile, nations like China and India realized that with some changes of their own, they could compete in this new world. And so they started educating their children earlier and longer, with greater emphasis on math and science. They’re investing in research and new technologies. Just recently, China became the home to the world’s largest private solar research facility, and the world’s fastest computer.
So, yes, the world has changed. The competition for jobs is real. But this shouldn’t discourage us. It should challenge us. Remember -– for all the hits we’ve taken these last few years, for all the naysayers predicting our decline, America still has the largest, most prosperous economy in the world. (Applause.) No workers — no workers are more productive than ours. No country has more successful companies, or grants more patents to inventors and entrepreneurs. We’re the home to the world’s best colleges and universities, where more students come to study than any place on Earth.
What’s more, we are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea -– the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny. That’s why centuries of pioneers and immigrants have risked everything to come here. It’s why our students don’t just memorize equations, but answer questions like “What do you think of that idea? What would you change about the world? What do you want to be when you grow up?”
The future is ours to win. But to get there, we can’t just stand still. As Robert Kennedy told us, “The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.” Sustaining the American Dream has never been about standing pat. It has required each generation to sacrifice, and struggle, and meet the demands of a new age.
And now it’s our turn. We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time. We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. (Applause.) We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business. We need to take responsibility for our deficit and reform our government. That’s how our people will prosper. That’s how we’ll win the future. (Applause.) And tonight, I’d like to talk about how we get there.
The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation. None of us can predict with certainty what the next big industry will be or where the new jobs will come from. Thirty years ago, we couldn’t know that something called the Internet would lead to an economic revolution. What we can do — what America does better than anyone else — is spark the creativity and imagination of our people. We’re the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook. In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives. It is how we make our living. (Applause.)
Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation. But because it’s not always profitable for companies to invest in basic research, throughout our history, our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need. That’s what planted the seeds for the Internet. That’s what helped make possible things like computer chips and GPS. Just think of all the good jobs — from manufacturing to retail — that have come from these breakthroughs.
Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik, we had no idea how we would beat them to the moon. The science wasn’t even there yet. NASA didn’t exist. But after investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.
This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. And in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology -– (applause) — an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.
Already, we’re seeing the promise of renewable energy. Robert and Gary Allen are brothers who run a small Michigan roofing company. After September 11th, they volunteered their best roofers to help repair the Pentagon. But half of their factory went unused, and the recession hit them hard. Today, with the help of a government loan, that empty space is being used to manufacture solar shingles that are being sold all across the country. In Robert’s words, “We reinvented ourselves.”
That’s what Americans have done for over 200 years: reinvented ourselves. And to spur on more success stories like the Allen Brothers, we’ve begun to reinvent our energy policy. We’re not just handing out money. We’re issuing a challenge. We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo projects of our time.
At the California Institute of Technology, they’re developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars. At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they’re using supercomputers to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities. With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. (Applause.)
We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. (Applause.) I don’t know if — I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. (Laughter.) So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.
Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: By 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources. (Applause.)
Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all — and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen. (Applause.)
Maintaining our leadership in research and technology is crucial to America’s success. But if we want to win the future -– if we want innovation to produce jobs in America and not overseas -– then we also have to win the race to educate our kids.
Think about it. Over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school education. And yet, as many as a quarter of our students aren’t even finishing high school. The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations. America has fallen to ninth in the proportion of young people with a college degree. And so the question is whether all of us –- as citizens, and as parents –- are willing to do what’s necessary to give every child a chance to succeed.
That responsibility begins not in our classrooms, but in our homes and communities. It’s family that first instills the love of learning in a child. Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done. We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair. (Applause.) We need to teach them that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline.
Our schools share this responsibility. When a child walks into a classroom, it should be a place of high expectations and high performance. But too many schools don’t meet this test. That’s why instead of just pouring money into a system that’s not working, we launched a competition called Race to the Top. To all 50 states, we said, “If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we’ll show you the money.”
Race to the Top is the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation. For less than 1 percent of what we spend on education each year, it has led over 40 states to raise their standards for teaching and learning. And these standards were developed, by the way, not by Washington, but by Republican and Democratic governors throughout the country. And Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that’s more flexible and focused on what’s best for our kids. (Applause.)
You see, we know what’s possible from our children when reform isn’t just a top-down mandate, but the work of local teachers and principals, school boards and communities. Take a school like Bruce Randolph in Denver. Three years ago, it was rated one of the worst schools in Colorado — located on turf between two rival gangs. But last May, 97 percent of the seniors received their diploma. Most will be the first in their families to go to college. And after the first year of the school’s transformation, the principal who made it possible wiped away tears when a student said, “Thank you, Ms. Waters, for showing that we are smart and we can make it.” (Applause.) That’s what good schools can do, and we want good schools all across the country.
Let’s also remember that after parents, the biggest impact on a child’s success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom. In South Korea, teachers are known as “nation builders.” Here in America, it’s time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. (Applause.) We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones. (Applause.) And over the next 10 years, with so many baby boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science and technology and engineering and math. (Applause.)
In fact, to every young person listening tonight who’s contemplating their career choice: If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference in the life of a child — become a teacher. Your country needs you. (Applause.)
Of course, the education race doesn’t end with a high school diploma. To compete, higher education must be within the reach of every American. (Applause.) That’s why we’ve ended the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that went to banks, and used the savings to make college affordable for millions of students. (Applause.) And this year, I ask Congress to go further, and make permanent our tuition tax credit –- worth $10,000 for four years of college. It’s the right thing to do. (Applause.)
Because people need to be able to train for new jobs and careers in today’s fast-changing economy, we’re also revitalizing America’s community colleges. Last month, I saw the promise of these schools at Forsyth Tech in North Carolina. Many of the students there used to work in the surrounding factories that have since left town. One mother of two, a woman named Kathy Proctor, had worked in the furniture industry since she was 18 years old. And she told me she’s earning her degree in biotechnology now, at 55 years old, not just because the furniture jobs are gone, but because she wants to inspire her children to pursue their dreams, too. As Kathy said, “I hope it tells them to never give up.”
If we take these steps -– if we raise expectations for every child, and give them the best possible chance at an education, from the day they are born until the last job they take –- we will reach the goal that I set two years ago: By the end of the decade, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. (Applause.)
One last point about education. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens. Some are the children of undocumented workers, who had nothing to do with the actions of their parents. They grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet they live every day with the threat of deportation. Others come here from abroad to study in our colleges and universities. But as soon as they obtain advanced degrees, we send them back home to compete against us. It makes no sense.
Now, I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration. And I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows. (Applause.) I know that debate will be difficult. I know it will take time. But tonight, let’s agree to make that effort. And let’s stop expelling talented, responsible young people who could be staffing our research labs or starting a new business, who could be further enriching this nation. (Applause.)
The third step in winning the future is rebuilding America. To attract new businesses to our shores, we need the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods, and information — from high-speed rail to high-speed Internet. (Applause.)
Our infrastructure used to be the best, but our lead has slipped. South Korean homes now have greater Internet access than we do. Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do. China is building faster trains and newer airports. Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation’s infrastructure, they gave us a “D.”
We have to do better. America is the nation that built the transcontinental railroad, brought electricity to rural communities, constructed the Interstate Highway System. The jobs created by these projects didn’t just come from laying down track or pavement. They came from businesses that opened near a town’s new train station or the new off-ramp.
So over the last two years, we’ve begun rebuilding for the 21st century, a project that has meant thousands of good jobs for the hard-hit construction industry. And tonight, I’m proposing that we redouble those efforts. (Applause.)
We’ll put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges. We’ll make sure this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and pick projects based [on] what’s best for the economy, not politicians.
Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail. (Applause.) This could allow you to go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying –- without the pat-down. (Laughter and applause.) As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already underway.
Within the next five years, we’ll make it possible for businesses to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98 percent of all Americans. This isn’t just about — (applause) — this isn’t about faster Internet or fewer dropped calls. It’s about connecting every part of America to the digital age. It’s about a rural community in Iowa or Alabama where farmers and small business owners will be able to sell their products all over the world. It’s about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device; a student who can take classes with a digital textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor.
All these investments -– in innovation, education, and infrastructure –- will make America a better place to do business and create jobs. But to help our companies compete, we also have to knock down barriers that stand in the way of their success.
For example, over the years, a parade of lobbyists has rigged the tax code to benefit particular companies and industries. Those with accountants or lawyers to work the system can end up paying no taxes at all. But all the rest are hit with one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. It makes no sense, and it has to change. (Applause.)
So tonight, I’m asking Democrats and Republicans to simplify the system. Get rid of the loopholes. Level the playing field. And use the savings to lower the corporate tax rate for the first time in 25 years –- without adding to our deficit. It can be done. (Applause.)
To help businesses sell more products abroad, we set a goal of doubling our exports by 2014 -– because the more we export, the more jobs we create here at home. Already, our exports are up. Recently, we signed agreements with India and China that will support more than 250,000 jobs here in the United States. And last month, we finalized a trade agreement with South Korea that will support at least 70,000 American jobs. This agreement has unprecedented support from business and labor, Democrats and Republicans — and I ask this Congress to pass it as soon as possible. (Applause.)
Now, before I took office, I made it clear that we would enforce our trade agreements, and that I would only sign deals that keep faith with American workers and promote American jobs. That’s what we did with Korea, and that’s what I intend to do as we pursue agreements with Panama and Colombia and continue our Asia Pacific and global trade talks. (Applause.)
To reduce barriers to growth and investment, I’ve ordered a review of government regulations. When we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them. (Applause.) But I will not hesitate to create or enforce common-sense safeguards to protect the American people. (Applause.) That’s what we’ve done in this country for more than a century. It’s why our food is safe to eat, our water is safe to drink, and our air is safe to breathe. It’s why we have speed limits and child labor laws. It’s why last year, we put in place consumer protections against hidden fees and penalties by credit card companies and new rules to prevent another financial crisis. (Applause.) And it’s why we passed reform that finally prevents the health insurance industry from exploiting patients. (Applause.)
Now, I have heard rumors that a few of you still have concerns about our new health care law. (Laughter.) So let me be the first to say that anything can be improved. If you have ideas about how to improve this law by making care better or more affordable, I am eager to work with you. We can start right now by correcting a flaw in the legislation that has placed an unnecessary bookkeeping burden on small businesses. (Applause.)
What I’m not willing to do — what I’m not willing to do is go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a preexisting condition. (Applause.)
I’m not willing to tell James Howard, a brain cancer patient from Texas, that his treatment might not be covered. I’m not willing to tell Jim Houser, a small business man from Oregon, that he has to go back to paying $5,000 more to cover his employees. As we speak, this law is making prescription drugs cheaper for seniors and giving uninsured students a chance to stay on their patients’ — parents’ coverage. (Applause.)
So I say to this chamber tonight, instead of re-fighting the battles of the last two years, let’s fix what needs fixing and let’s move forward. (Applause.)
Now, the final critical step in winning the future is to make sure we aren’t buried under a mountain of debt.
We are living with a legacy of deficit spending that began almost a decade ago. And in the wake of the financial crisis, some of that was necessary to keep credit flowing, save jobs, and put money in people’s pockets.
But now that the worst of the recession is over, we have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable. Every day, families sacrifice to live within their means. They deserve a government that does the same.
So tonight, I am proposing that starting this year, we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years. (Applause.) Now, this would reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, and will bring discretionary spending to the lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was President.
This freeze will require painful cuts. Already, we’ve frozen the salaries of hardworking federal employees for the next two years. I’ve proposed cuts to things I care deeply about, like community action programs. The Secretary of Defense has also agreed to cut tens of billions of dollars in spending that he and his generals believe our military can do without. (Applause.)
I recognize that some in this chamber have already proposed deeper cuts, and I’m willing to eliminate whatever we can honestly afford to do without. But let’s make sure that we’re not doing it on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens. (Applause.) And let’s make sure that what we’re cutting is really excess weight. Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may make you feel like you’re flying high at first, but it won’t take long before you feel the impact. (Laughter.)
Now, most of the cuts and savings I’ve proposed only address annual domestic spending, which represents a little more than 12 percent of our budget. To make further progress, we have to stop pretending that cutting this kind of spending alone will be enough. It won’t. (Applause.)
The bipartisan fiscal commission I created last year made this crystal clear. I don’t agree with all their proposals, but they made important progress. And their conclusion is that the only way to tackle our deficit is to cut excessive spending wherever we find it –- in domestic spending, defense spending, health care spending, and spending through tax breaks and loopholes. (Applause.)
This means further reducing health care costs, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which are the single biggest contributor to our long-term deficit. The health insurance law we passed last year will slow these rising costs, which is part of the reason that nonpartisan economists have said that repealing the health care law would add a quarter of a trillion dollars to our deficit. Still, I’m willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year — medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits. (Applause.)
To put us on solid ground, we should also find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations. (Applause.) We must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market. (Applause.)
And if we truly care about our deficit, we simply can’t afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. (Applause.) Before we take money away from our schools or scholarships away from our students, we should ask millionaires to give up their tax break. It’s not a matter of punishing their success. It’s about promoting America’s success. (Applause.)
In fact, the best thing we could do on taxes for all Americans is to simplify the individual tax code. (Applause.) This will be a tough job, but members of both parties have expressed an interest in doing this, and I am prepared to join them. (Applause.)
So now is the time to act. Now is the time for both sides and both houses of Congress –- Democrats and Republicans -– to forge a principled compromise that gets the job done. If we make the hard choices now to rein in our deficits, we can make the investments we need to win the future.
Let me take this one step further. We shouldn’t just give our people a government that’s more affordable. We should give them a government that’s more competent and more efficient. We can’t win the future with a government of the past. (Applause.)
We live and do business in the Information Age, but the last major reorganization of the government happened in the age of black-and-white TV. There are 12 different agencies that deal with exports. There are at least five different agencies that deal with housing policy. Then there’s my favorite example: The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they’re in saltwater. (Laughter.) I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked. (Laughter and applause.)
Now, we’ve made great strides over the last two years in using technology and getting rid of waste. Veterans can now download their electronic medical records with a click of the mouse. We’re selling acres of federal office space that hasn’t been used in years, and we’ll cut through red tape to get rid of more. But we need to think bigger. In the coming months, my administration will develop a proposal to merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America. I will submit that proposal to Congress for a vote –- and we will push to get it passed. (Applause.)
In the coming year, we’ll also work to rebuild people’s faith in the institution of government. Because you deserve to know exactly how and where your tax dollars are being spent, you’ll be able to go to a website and get that information for the very first time in history. Because you deserve to know when your elected officials are meeting with lobbyists, I ask Congress to do what the White House has already done — put that information online. And because the American people deserve to know that special interests aren’t larding up legislation with pet projects, both parties in Congress should know this: If a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it. I will veto it. (Applause.)
The 21st century government that’s open and competent. A government that lives within its means. An economy that’s driven by new skills and new ideas. Our success in this new and changing world will require reform, responsibility, and innovation. It will also require us to approach that world with a new level of engagement in our foreign affairs.
Just as jobs and businesses can now race across borders, so can new threats and new challenges. No single wall separates East and West. No one rival superpower is aligned against us.
And so we must defeat determined enemies, wherever they are, and build coalitions that cut across lines of region and race and religion. And America’s moral example must always shine for all who yearn for freedom and justice and dignity. And because we’ve begun this work, tonight we can say that American leadership has been renewed and America’s standing has been restored.
Look to Iraq, where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads held high. (Applause.) American combat patrols have ended, violence is down, and a new government has been formed. This year, our civilians will forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people, while we finish the job of bringing our troops out of Iraq. America’s commitment has been kept. The Iraq war is coming to an end. (Applause.)
Of course, as we speak, al Qaeda and their affiliates continue to plan attacks against us. Thanks to our intelligence and law enforcement professionals, we’re disrupting plots and securing our cities and skies. And as extremists try to inspire acts of violence within our borders, we are responding with the strength of our communities, with respect for the rule of law, and with the conviction that American Muslims are a part of our American family. (Applause.)
We’ve also taken the fight to al Qaeda and their allies abroad. In Afghanistan, our troops have taken Taliban strongholds and trained Afghan security forces. Our purpose is clear: By preventing the Taliban from reestablishing a stranglehold over the Afghan people, we will deny al Qaeda the safe haven that served as a launching pad for 9/11.
Thanks to our heroic troops and civilians, fewer Afghans are under the control of the insurgency. There will be tough fighting ahead, and the Afghan government will need to deliver better governance. But we are strengthening the capacity of the Afghan people and building an enduring partnership with them. This year, we will work with nearly 50 countries to begin a transition to an Afghan lead. And this July, we will begin to bring our troops home. (Applause.)
In Pakistan, al Qaeda’s leadership is under more pressure than at any point since 2001. Their leaders and operatives are being removed from the battlefield. Their safe havens are shrinking. And we’ve sent a message from the Afghan border to the Arabian Peninsula to all parts of the globe: We will not relent, we will not waver, and we will defeat you. (Applause.)
American leadership can also be seen in the effort to secure the worst weapons of war. Because Republicans and Democrats approved the New START treaty, far fewer nuclear weapons and launchers will be deployed. Because we rallied the world, nuclear materials are being locked down on every continent so they never fall into the hands of terrorists. (Applause.)
Because of a diplomatic effort to insist that Iran meet its obligations, the Iranian government now faces tougher sanctions, tighter sanctions than ever before. And on the Korean Peninsula, we stand with our ally South Korea, and insist that North Korea keeps its commitment to abandon nuclear weapons. (Applause.)
This is just a part of how we’re shaping a world that favors peace and prosperity. With our European allies, we revitalized NATO and increased our cooperation on everything from counterterrorism to missile defense. We’ve reset our relationship with Russia, strengthened Asian alliances, built new partnerships with nations like India.
This March, I will travel to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador to forge new alliances across the Americas. Around the globe, we’re standing with those who take responsibility -– helping farmers grow more food, supporting doctors who care for the sick, and combating the corruption that can rot a society and rob people of opportunity.
Recent events have shown us that what sets us apart must not just be our power -– it must also be the purpose behind it. In south Sudan -– with our assistance -– the people were finally able to vote for independence after years of war. (Applause.) Thousands lined up before dawn. People danced in the streets. One man who lost four of his brothers at war summed up the scene around him: “This was a battlefield for most of my life,” he said. “Now we want to be free.” (Applause.)
And we saw that same desire to be free in Tunisia, where the will of the people proved more powerful than the writ of a dictator. And tonight, let us be clear: The United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people. (Applause.)
We must never forget that the things we’ve struggled for, and fought for, live in the hearts of people everywhere. And we must always remember that the Americans who have borne the greatest burden in this struggle are the men and women who serve our country. (Applause.)
Tonight, let us speak with one voice in reaffirming that our nation is united in support of our troops and their families. Let us serve them as well as they’ve served us — by giving them the equipment they need, by providing them with the care and benefits that they have earned, and by enlisting our veterans in the great task of building our own nation.
Our troops come from every corner of this country -– they’re black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American. They are Christian and Hindu, Jewish and Muslim. And, yes, we know that some of them are gay. Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love. (Applause.) And with that change, I call on all our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and ROTC. It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. It is time to move forward as one nation. (Applause.)
We should have no illusions about the work ahead of us. Reforming our schools, changing the way we use energy, reducing our deficit –- none of this will be easy. All of it will take time. And it will be harder because we will argue about everything. The costs. The details. The letter of every law.
Of course, some countries don’t have this problem. If the central government wants a railroad, they build a railroad, no matter how many homes get bulldozed. If they don’t want a bad story in the newspaper, it doesn’t get written.
And yet, as contentious and frustrating and messy as our democracy can sometimes be, I know there isn’t a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth. (Applause.)
We may have differences in policy, but we all believe in the rights enshrined in our Constitution. We may have different opinions, but we believe in the same promise that says this is a place where you can make it if you try. We may have different backgrounds, but we believe in the same dream that says this is a country where anything is possible. No matter who you are. No matter where you come from.
That dream is why I can stand here before you tonight. That dream is why a working-class kid from Scranton can sit behind me. (Laughter and applause.) That dream is why someone who began by sweeping the floors of his father’s Cincinnati bar can preside as Speaker of the House in the greatest nation on Earth. (Applause.)
That dream -– that American Dream -– is what drove the Allen Brothers to reinvent their roofing company for a new era. It’s what drove those students at Forsyth Tech to learn a new skill and work towards the future. And that dream is the story of a small business owner named Brandon Fisher.
Brandon started a company in Berlin, Pennsylvania, that specializes in a new kind of drilling technology. And one day last summer, he saw the news that halfway across the world, 33 men were trapped in a Chilean mine, and no one knew how to save them.
But Brandon thought his company could help. And so he designed a rescue that would come to be known as Plan B. His employees worked around the clock to manufacture the necessary drilling equipment. And Brandon left for Chile.
Along with others, he began drilling a 2,000-foot hole into the ground, working three- or four-hour — three or four days at a time without any sleep. Thirty-seven days later, Plan B succeeded, and the miners were rescued. (Applause.) But because he didn’t want all of the attention, Brandon wasn’t there when the miners emerged. He’d already gone back home, back to work on his next project.
And later, one of his employees said of the rescue, “We proved that Center Rock is a little company, but we do big things.” (Applause.)
We do big things.
From the earliest days of our founding, America has been the story of ordinary people who dare to dream. That’s how we win the future.
We’re a nation that says, “I might not have a lot of money, but I have this great idea for a new company.” “I might not come from a family of college graduates, but I will be the first to get my degree.” “I might not know those people in trouble, but I think I can help them, and I need to try.” “I’m not sure how we’ll reach that better place beyond the horizon, but I know we’ll get there. I know we will.”
We do big things. (Applause.)
The idea of America endures. Our destiny remains our choice. And tonight, more than two centuries later, it’s because of our people that our future is hopeful, our journey goes forward, and the state of our union is strong.
Thank you. God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
by MARK S. SMITH
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON- President Barack Obama implored black voters to restoke the passion they felt for his groundbreaking campaign two years ago and turn out in force this fall to repel Republicans who are ready to “turn back the clock.”
In a fiery speech to the Congressional Black Caucus, Obama warned that Republicans hoping to seize control of Congress want “to do what’s right politically, instead of what’s right period.’’
“I need everybody here to go back to your neighborhoods, to go back to your workplaces, to go to the churches, and go to the barbershops and go to the beauty shops. And tell them we’ve got more work to do,’’ Obama said to cheers from a black-tie audience at the Washington Convention Center. “Tell them we can’t wait to organize. Tell them that the time for action is now.’’
His speech acknowledged what pollsters have been warning Democrats for months that blacks are among the key Democratic groups who right now seem unlikely to turn out in large numbers in November.
“It’s not surprising given the hardships that we’re seeing across the land that a lot of people may not be feeling very energized, very engaged right now,’’ Obama said. “A lot of folks may be feeling like politics is something that they get involved with every four years when there’s a presidential election, but they don’t see why they should bother the rest of the time.’’
But he said he’s just begun rolling back a devastating recession that’s come down “with a vengeance’’ on African-American neighborhoods that were already suffering.
“We have to finish the plan you elected me to put inplace,’’ Obama said.
Obama was treated to several standing ovations in the darkened cavernous Convention Center. But the hall grew quiet as Obama warned, “Remember, the other side has a plan too. It’s a plan to turn back the clock on every bit of progress we’ve made.’’
With polls showing his party facing a wide “enthusiasm gap’’ with the GOP, Obama sought to rally an important constituency in his speech.
What made the civil rights movement possible were foot soldiers like so many of you, sitting down at lunch counters and standing up for freedom. What made it possible for me to be here today are Americans throughout our history making our union more equal, making our union more just, making our union more perfect,’’ Obama said. “That’s what we need again.’’
By Shanita Bigelow
“[W]e need to find common ground…We know it’s possible to do this,” Obama stated in his weekly address, Saturday evening. “[N]o final bill will include everything that everyone wants. That’s what compromise is…I am eager and willing to move forward with members of both parties on health care…But I also believe that we cannot lose the opportunity to meet this challenge. The tens of millions of men and women who cannot afford their health insurance cannot wait another generation for us to act. Small businesses…Americans with preexisting conditions cannot wait. State and federal budgets cannot sustain these rising costs.”
Thursday’s bipartisan meeting, a seven hour, televised debate, further solidified Republican and Democratic differences; chief among them, cost and implementation. And what little ground they found provided few solutions and left many, even those in attendance, with more than a few questions, most prevalent: What’s next?
“I think it was a good forum,” Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And I hope that it could be the basis for us to have some serious negotiations. But we still have the fundamental problem: Do we go on the partisan plan that…ran through the Senate and the House or do we start over from the beginning?”
But starting over to some is tantamount to doing nothing. The “Republican mantra” of starting over “means do nothing,” according to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) also on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” That’s simply not the case, according to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WS), who said “we want to fix this…but this is not the solution,” at Thursday’s meeting.
Republicans fear a government takeover and suggest starting over and addressing the problem step by step. “Coverage doesn’t equal care,” said Sen. John Barrasso (RWY), as Republicans tout a bill that would expand coverage to only three of the more 30 million Americans currently uninsured.
“[We] can’t get from one point to the next incrementally unless we deal with it holistically,” said Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT).
Aside from opposing solutions to the health care quandary, the parties also differ in their definition of the problem itself, said Ronald Brownstein, Political Director for Atlantic Media, on “Meet the Press.”
“[T]he Senate bill reallocates resources in the health care system effectively enough that the independent Medicare actuary has estimated that the measure would cover 33 million more people by 2019 while increasing total health care spending by less than a penny on the dollar. It’s not perfect, but…does provide a solid foundation for a more equitable and efficient health system,” Brownstein wrote in the National Journal Magazine. Democrats hope to build upon the common ground and muster enough votesto move the legislation through to the American people. Should Democrats find themselves stymied by their fellow congressmen and women, they may opt for congressional r e c o n c i l i a t i o n . Reconciliation would allow for passage with a majority of 51 votes as opposed to 60, a risky move for such sweeping legislation. Today, President Obama will address “what’s next.” He “will talk about the merits of the legislation, mainly about the costs of doing nothing versus the cost of doing something and what this will accomplish,” said Rahm Emanuel, White House chief of staff, to the New York Times.
Black Nobel Peace Prize Winners
by Lesley R. Chinn
President Barack Obama may not have struck gold with the International Olympics Committee in Copenhagen to help Chicago bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics, but he struck gold when the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded him this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
After nine months into his first term, Obama received the honor from the Nobel Committee for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”
Moreover, the Committee cited Obama’s efforts to create a “new climate in international politics,” and attached special importance to the President’s vision and his work for a “world without nuclear weapons.”
Obama is the first Black president to win the honor. He also joins the ranks of President Theodore Roosevelt who won the Prize in 1906 and President Woodrow Wilson, who won in 1919. The President also joins a long list of Black Nobel Peace Prize winners who include: former United Nations mediator Ralph Bunche who won in 1950, African National Congress president Albert John Lutuli who won in 1960; Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu who won the prize in 198; South African leader Nelson
Mandela who won in 1993; Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General won in 2001, and Kenyan environmentalist and political activist Wangari Maathai in 2004.
News of winning the Nobel Peace Prize surprised Obama, who said he was to join the ranks of past recipients, but also used the opportunity to call for action towards improving world peace.
“This award must be shared with everyone who strives for justice and dignity – for the young woman who marches silently in the streets on behalf of her right to be heard even in the face of beatings and bullets; for the leader imprisoned in her own home because she refuses to abandon her commitment to democracy; for the soldier who sacrificed through tour after tour of duty on behalf of someone half a world away; and for all those men and women across the world who sacrifice their safety and their freedom and sometimes their lives for the cause of peace.”
Archbishop Tutu described Obama’s honor in an AP report as, “an award that speaks to the promise of President Obama’s message of hope,” while U.S. Senator Roland Burris said in a written statement that, “Throughout the course of his presidency, President Obama has struck a new tone of cooperation with the international community and has improved
America’s role throughout the world.” Gov. Pat Quinn added that, “The Prize demonstrates President Barack Obama’s message of peace and hope is being heard throughout the world.”
While President Obama is focused on a health care reform bill that “ensures choice and competition,” the President has stopped short of saying whether overhauling the nation’s healthcare system would include a so called public plan. However, reports indicate that the administration is involved in talks with Democratic lawmakers to push for passage of a public option.
On tomorrow, the Senate Finance Committee will vote on its sweeping health care reform bill while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will work to merge two Senate bills together. One bill was created in July by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and includes two fundamental provisions that the finance committee legislation does not.
Presumably, the finance committee legislation will include a government run insurance plan that Reid and other liberal Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have backed. However, the question over whether he will push for a government-run insurance plan in the final legislation remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the Senate committee is waiting on a report on cost projections from the Congressional Budget Office before it votes on the legislation and last week voted to strike two amendments that would establish a so-called public option to compete with private insurance coverage, according to reports.
During the debate on health reform, the public option has been positively posited as a means of keeping private insurers honest, thus ensuring fair and affordable prices for all Americans. On the other hand, opponents claim a public option would not allow for fair competition, putting private insurers out of business and ensuring a government takeover. But with all the talk about a public option, National Opinion Research Center (NORC) Senior Fellow Jon Gabel said, “it’s unfortunate that the public option has gained so much attention since the percentage [of the population] that could enroll in the public plan is only 5%.”
The uproar for and against the public plan is undermining what really matters and that’s changing the market, Gabel pointed out. Questions raised by the public option include, “Who will administer the public plan. If it is like Medicare, then private insurance companies will…even the public option will have a blend of the public and private,” he said.
“It hits a raw, ideological nerve on the left and the right, [but]…it’s a secondary issue rather than a primary [one],” Gabel maintains. The public option would be “most useful, as an alternative, in those states where there are one or two insurers…dominat[ing] the market,” he continued. “The most important objective of this legislation is to control [healthcare] costs,” Gabel said, which according to the latest data, are constantly going up. For example, family health premiums rose 5% over the past year to an annual cost of $13,375, according to the Employer Health Benefit 2009 Annual Survey. The survey results, released by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) and the Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET) also revealed a more than 131% increase in premiums since 1999. Since 1998, most Americans have felt and continue to feel that the government is not spending enough money on health care, said Tom W. Smith, Director of the General Social Survey (GSS).
“People come out and say it [reform] will cost $1 trillion…,” Smith said. “[It’s] the sheer enormity of the number that’s…scaring some people away.” Congress needs to get the “interim plans” down to “the plan with six to eight points people can grasp,” he continued. “Now, there is just too much uncertainty.”
by Lesley R. Chinn
Four cities and only one got the Gold and it wasn’t Chicago. Rio de Janeiro won the bid over Chicago, which surprisingly got eliminated in the first round by the International Olympics Committee to compete for the 2016 Olympic Games. Tokyo was eliminated in the second round. Rio beat surprise finalist Madrid in the final voting round.
Rio played heavily on the fact that South America has never hosted the Olympic Games, while Europe, Asia, and North America have done so repeatedly. Now, only Africa and Antarctica are the only continents which have not hosted the Olympics.
The presence of President Barack Obama, first Lady Michelle Obama, and Mayor Richard M. Daley along with a long list of celebrities including Oprah Winfrey wasn’t enough to help win over members of the International Olympic Committee members.
Within the last few days, many IOC members were charmed by First Lady Obama, but when IOC president Jacques Rogge announced the results of the first vote, Chicago’s name was announced.
While many gathered at Daley Plaza to await the results, some Chatham residents watched the results from home. As an avid Olympics fan, Sandra Hearn hoped to see the Games in person if Chicago won its bid. “I’m just shocked that Chicago was eliminated so quickly in the first round of voting. I thought Chicago had an excellent chance of getting the Games particularly after presentations were made by the [President and First Lady Obama],” Hearn stated. “Having the Olympics would have meant so much for the city in terms of economics, jobs, and beautification of the city especially on the Southside, but now [Chicago] has to concentrate on being a world class city with a failed Olympic bid,” she said.
After a reported $70 million raised toward the Olympic Games, Sandra’s husband, Bob, said he doesn’t see any future bidding opportunities for Chicago. Recognizing the city has a lot to offer, Hearn said Chicago “now has to find out why they got eliminated so quickly in the first round.”
If Chicago had been chosen, the games would have been held from July 22 to August 7, 2016 with the Paralympics held between August 12 and August 28. The bid plan highlighted the use of venues such as Washington Park, Soldier Field, and McCormick Place to host the games. The city previously announced a $500 million insurance policy to cover cost overruns and revenue shortfall.
The 2016 Olympics is not the first time Chicago bid for the games. They bid for the Games in 1952, but lost to Helsinki, Finland. Chicago was scheduled to host the 1904 Summer Olympics, but the games were relocated to St. Louis to coincide with the St. Louis World’s Fair.
Peaked by election of President Barack Obama
by Lesley R. Chinn
This year, Black History Month is celebrated on the heels of an historic inauguration of the nation’s first Black President Barack Obama.
While there has been a “pinned-up” interest in Black History for a long time, Cynthia Lowery Morris, executive director of the Washington, D.C.- based African-American Experience Fund (AAEF) of the National Park Foundation (NPF), hopes that with Obama’s historic election and inauguration, people will start to pay more attention.
Inviting the Tuskegee Airmen and members of the Little Rock Nine group to be special guests at the inauguration, “helps connect the dots for kids so that they understand that it is just not about Obama,” Lowery Morris stated. “President Obama has done a good job of acknowledging the trailblazers and the people who have made the way for him. Hopefully, that is sinking in with some of our younger people.”
The Little Rock Nine was a group of Black students who integrated Central High School in 1957 in Little Rock, Arkansas, three years after the U.S. Supreme court case Brown vs. Board of Education ruled that segregated schools were unconstitutional. The Tuskegee Airmen are a group of Black pilots who flew with distinction during World War II as the 332nd Fighter Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps.
Author, historian and professor Timuel Black said the dramatic ascendancy of President Obama has promoted interest not only in his background, but also in the background of other prominent African- Americans, like members of the Tuskegee Airmen and the Little Rock Nine. “Obama is living proof that you can rise to the top, but you have to be prepared,” he said.
According to a Kelton Research study conducted recently on behalf of the AAEF of the NFP, a large percentage of Americans do not know about Black contributions to U.S. History. While a study of more than 1,000 respondents revealed their lack of knowledge, it also showed that a percentage of Americans were interested in gaining more information.
According to the study, 32 percent of the respondents surveyed weren’t aware of Brown vs. Board of Education, nor the significance of this landmark case. Only 14 percent of the respondents correctly identified Carter G. Woodson as the founder of Black History Month (formerly Negro History Week) while 29 percent thought Black History Month’s founder was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
About 61 percent of the respondents said they would like to know more about Black History. Other Americans have visited on the average of one historical site per year, according to the survey, in order to increase their knowledge about Black History facts. The number tends to increase in adults under aged 30, who have visited on an average of seven historical sites in the past five years.
While fifty-seven percent of the respondents said they didn’t receive a comprehensive overview of Black History in school, Lowery Morris added more education is needed. “A lot of it is not being taught in the schools as part of the curriculum. If you talk about World War II and you don’t talk about the Tuskegee Airmen, then you’ve missed a huge component. Unfortunately, so much of our history is invisible and people just don’t even think about it,” she stated. Recollecting historic moments such as when Frederick Douglas persuaded President Abraham Lincoln to free the slaves and encouraged them to join the Union Army during the Civil War, Black mentioned these and other contributions should not be ignored. “How can you teach American history without dealing with the slave period or the conditions of Africans before they were snatched off from Africa?,” he asked.
Other statistics are even more alarming. According to an article in the Washington Post three years ago, a significant number of junior high school students believed Dr. King was instrumental in freeing the slaves, Lowery Morris said. “That’s kind of scary, isn’t it? We’re not doing a very good job. We need to figure out a way to teach [Black History] in our schools and in our community projects,” she said.
About 92 percent of those surveyed indicated they believe the emphasis on teaching Black History should be given the same attention as other subjects taught in school.
Although the late State Sen. William “Bill” Shaw was instrumental in passing legislation to ensure that Black History was taught in the schools, Maureen Forte, a fifth grade teacher at Sawyer Elementary School, said the measure has not been enforced. She agrees a greater emphasis should be placed on teaching Black History outside of the classroom.
Expressing pride in her son who was the only first grader in his class to understand the basic concept of a law enacted in 1787 and later challenged in 1856, which classified Black people as three-fifths of a person, Lowery Morris said, “Sometimes we just have to take it upon ourselves to see to it that they get that exposure.”
President Barack Obama hosted a news conference on Monday, February 9, 2009 in Elkhart, Indiana. Secretary Ray LaHood, Senator Evan Bayh, Representatives Joe Donnelly, Baron Hill, Brad Ellsworth, Fred Upton, and Andre Carson, and former Representatives Tim Roemer and Lee Hamilton joined Obama when he made his remarks that came on the heels of the Senate passing Obama’s economic recovery plan on a 61-37 vote.
I want to start by thanking Ed for coming here today and sharing his family’s story with all of us.You know, we tend to take the measure of the economic crisis we face in numbers and statistics. But when we say we’ve lost 3.6 million jobs since this recession began – nearly 600,000 in the past month alone; when we say that this area has lost jobs faster than anywhere else in America, with an unemployment rate over 15 percent; when we talk about layoffs at companies like Monaco Coach, Keystone RV, and Pilgrim International – companies that have sustained this community for years – we’re talking about Ed Neufeldt and people like him all across this country.
We’re talking about folks who’ve lost their livelihood and don’t know what will take its place. Parents who’ve lost their health care and lie awake nights praying the kids don’t get sick. Families who’ve lost the home that was their corner of the American dream. Young people who put that college acceptance letter back in the envelope because they just can’t afford it.
That’s what those numbers and statistics mean. That is the true measure of this economic crisis. Those are the stories I heard when I came here to Elkhart six months ago and that I have carried with me every day since.
I promised you back then that if elected President, I would do everything I could to help this community recover. And that’s why I’ve come back today – to tell you how I intend to keep that promise.
The situation we face could not be more serious. We have inherited an economic crisis as deep and as dire as any since the Great Depression. Economists from across the spectrum have warned that if we don’t act immediately, millions more jobs will be lost, and national unemployment rates will approach double digits. More people will lose their homes and their health care. And our nation will sink into a crisis that, at some point, we may be unable to reverse.
So we can no longer afford to wait and see and hope for the best. We can no longer posture and bicker and resort to the same failed ideas that got us into this mess in the first place – and that the American people rejected at the polls this past November. You didn’t send us to Washington because you were hoping for more of the same. You sent us there with a mandate for change, and the expectation that we would act quickly and boldly to carry it out – and that is exactly what I intend to do as President of the United States.
That is why I put forth a Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that is now before Congress. At its core is a very simple idea: to put Americans back to work doing the work America needs done.
The plan will save or create three to four million jobs over the next two years. But not just any jobs – jobs that meet the needs we’ve neglected for far too long and lay the groundwork for long-term economic growth: jobs fixing our schools; computerizing medical records to save costs and save lives; repairing our infrastructure; and investing in renewable energy to help us move toward energy independence. The plan also calls for immediate tax relief for 95 percent of American workers.
Now I know that some of you might be thinking, well that all sounds good, but when are we going to see any of that here in Elkhart? What does all that mean for our families and our community? Those are exactly the kind of questions you should be asking of your President and your government, and today, I want to provide some answers – and I want to be as specific as I can.
First, this plan will provide for extended unemployment insurance, health care and other assistance for workers and families who have lost their jobs in this recession.
That will mean an additional $100 per month in unemployment benefits to more than 450,000 Indiana workers, extended unemployment benefits for another 89,000 folks who’ve been laid off and can’t find work, and job training assistance to help more than 51,000 people here get back on their feet.
That is not only our moral responsibility – to lend a helping hand to our fellow Americans in times of emergency – but it also makes good economic sense. If you don’t have money, you can’t spend it. And if people don’t spend, our economy will continue to decline.
For that same reason, the plan includes badly needed tax relief for middle class workers and families. The middle class is under siege, and we need to give you more of the money you’ve earned, so you can spend it and pay your bills. Under our plan, individuals get $500 – families, $1,000 – providing relief for nearly 2.5 million workers and their families here in Indiana.
The plan will also provide a partially refundable $2,500 per-student tax credit to help 76,000 Hoosier families send their kids to college. This will benefit your household budgets in the short run, and will benefit America in the long run.
But providing tax relief, and college assistance and help to folks who’ve lost their jobs is not enough. A real recovery plan helps create more jobs and put people back to work.
That’s why, between the investments our plan makes – and the tax relief for small businesses it provides – we’ll create or save nearly 80,000 badly needed jobs for Indiana in the next two years. Now, you may have heard some of the critics of our plan saying that it would create mostly government jobs. That’s simply not true. More than 90 percent of these jobs will be in the private sector. More than 90 percent.
But it’s not just the jobs that will benefit Indiana and the rest of America. It’s the work people will be doing: Rebuilding our roads, bridges, dams and levees. Roads like US 31 here in Indiana that Hoosiers count on, and that connect small towns and rural communities to opportunities for economic growth. And I know that a new overpass downtown would make a big difference for businesses and families right here in Elkhart. We’ll also put people to work rebuilding our schools so all our kids can have the world-class classrooms, labs and libraries they need to compete in today’s global economy.
Investing in clean alternative sources of energy and the electric grid we need to transport it from coast to coast, helping make Indiana an energy-producing state, not just an energy-consuming state. Weatherizing homes across this state, and installing state of the art equipment to help you control your energy costs.
Building new high-speed broadband lines, reaching schools and small businesses in rural Indiana so they can connect and compete with their counterparts in any city in any country in the world.
And there is much, much more. Now I’m not going to tell you that this bill is perfect. It isn’t. But it is the right size, the right scope, and has the right priorities to create jobs that will jumpstart our economy and transform it for the twenty-first century.
I also can’t tell you with one hundred percent certainty that everything in this plan will work exactly as we hope. But I can tell you with complete confidence that endless delay or paralysis in Washington in the face of this crisis will bring only deepening disaster.
We’ve had a good debate. Now it’s time to act. That’s why I am calling on Congress to pass this bill immediately. Folks here in Elkhart and across America need help right now, and they can’t afford to keep on waiting for folks in Washington to get this done.
We know that even with this plan, the road ahead won’t be easy. This crisis has been a long time in the making, and we know that we cannot turn it around overnight. Recovery will likely be measured in years, not weeks or months. But we also know that our economy will be stronger for generations to come if we commit ourselves to the work that needs to be done today. And being here in Elkhart, I am more confident than ever before that we will get where we need to be.
Because while I know people are struggling, I also know that folks here are good workers and good neighbors who step up, help each other out, and make sacrifices when times are tough. I know that all folks here are asking for is a chance to work hard – and to have that work translate into a decent life for you and your family.
So I know you all are doing your part out here – and I think it’s about time the government did its part too. That’s what the recovery plan before Congress is about. And that is why I hope Congress passes it as soon as humanly possible, so we can get to work creating jobs, helping families and turning our economy around.
Prepared remarks of Michelle Obama, wife of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, for her address to the Democratic National Convention on Monday night in Denver, as released by the Obama campaign:
As you might imagine, for Barack, running for President is nothing compared to that first game of basketball with my brother Craig.
I can’t tell you how much it means to have Craig and my mom here
tonight. Like Craig, I can feel my dad looking down on us, just as I’ve felt his presence in every gracefilled moment of my life.
At six-foot-six, I’ve often felt like Craig was looking down on me too…literally. But the truth is, both
when we were kids and today, he wasn’t looking down on me – he was watching over me.
And he’s been there for me every step of the way since that clear February day 19 months ago, when
- with little more than our faith in each other and a hunger for change – we joined my husband, Barack
Obama, on the improbable journey that’s brought us to this moment.
But each of us also comes here tonight by way of our own improbable journey.
I come here tonight as a sister, blessed with a brother who is my mentor, my protector and my lifelong
friend. I come here as a wife who loves my husband and believes he will be an extraordinary president.
I come here as a Mom whose girls are the heart of my heart and the center of my world – they’re the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning, and the last thing I think about when I go to bed at night. Their future – and all our children’s future – is my stake in this election.
And I come here as a daughter – raised on the South Side of Chicago by a father who was a blue collar
city worker, and a mother who stayed at home with my brother and me. My mother’s love has always
been a sustaining force for our family, and one of my greatest joys is seeing her integrity, her compassion, and her intelligence reflected in my own daughters.
My Dad was our rock. Although he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in his early thirties, he was
our provider, our champion, our hero. As he got sicker, it got harder for him to walk, it took him longer
to get dressed in the morning. But if he was in pain, he never let on. He never stopped smiling and laughing – even while struggling to button his shirt, even while using two canes to get himself across the room to give my Mom a kiss. He just woke up a little earlier, and worked a little harder.
He and my mom poured everything they had into me and Craig. It was the greatest gift a child can
receive: never doubting for a single minute that you’re loved, and cherished, and have a place in this
world. And thanks to their faith and hard work, we both were able to go on to college. So I know firsthand from their lives – and mine – that the American Dream endures.
And you know, what struck me when I first met Barack was that even though he had this funny name, even though he’d grown up all the way across the continent in Hawaii, his family was so much like mine. He was raised by grandparents who were working class folks just like my parents, and by a single
mother who struggled to pay the bills just like we did. Like my family, they scrimped and saved so that
he could have opportunities they never had themselves. And Barack and I were raised with so many of
the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them, and even if you don’t agree with them.
And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children – and all children in this nation – to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.
And as our friendship grew, and I learned more about Barack, he introduced me to the work he’d
done when he first moved to Chicago after college. Instead of heading to Wall Street, Barack had
gone to work in neighborhoods devastated when steel plants shut down, and jobs dried up. And he’d been invited back to speak to people from those neighborhoods about how to rebuild their community.
The people gathered together that day were ordinary folks doing the best they could to build a good life. They were parents living paycheck to paycheck; grandparents trying to get by on a fixed income; men frustrated that they couldn’t support their families after their jobs disappeared. Those folks weren’t asking for a handout or a shortcut. They were ready to work – they wanted to contribute. They believed – like you and I believe – that America should be a place where you can make it if
Barack stood up that day, and spoke words that have stayed with me ever since. He talked about “The world as it is” and “The world as it should be.” And he said that all too often, we accept the distance between the two, and settle for the world as it is – even when it doesn’t reflect our values and aspirations. But he reminded us that we know what our world should look like. We know what fairness and justice and opportunity look like. And he urged us to believe in ourselves – to find
the strength within ourselves to strive for the world as it should be. And isn’t that the great American
It’s the story of men and women gathered in churches and union halls, in town squares and high school gyms – people who stood up and marched and risked everything they had – refusing to settle, determined to mold our future into the shape of our ideals. It is because of their will and determination that this week, we celebrate two anniversaries: the 88th anniversary of women winning the right to vote, and the 45th anniversary of that hot summer day when Dr. King lifted our sights and our hearts with his dream for our nation.
I stand here today at the crosscurrents of that history – knowing that my piece of the American Dream is a blessing hard won by those who came before me. All of them driven by the same conviction that drove my dad to get up an hour early each day to painstakingly dress himself for work. The same conviction that drives the men and women I’ve met all across this country:
People who work the day shift, kiss their kids goodnight, and head out for the night shift – without disappointment, without regret – that goodnight kiss a reminder of everything they’re working for.
The military families who say grace each night with an empty seat at the table. The servicemen and
women who love this country so much, they leave those they love most to defend it.
The young people across America serving our communities – teaching children, cleaning up neighborhoods, caring for the least among us each and every day.
People like Hillary Clinton, who put those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, so that our daughters -
and sons – can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher.
People like Joe Biden, who’s never forgotten where he came from, and never stopped fighting for folks who work long hours and face long odds and need someone on their side again.
All of us driven by a simple belief that the world as it is just won’t do – that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be.
That is the thread that connects our hearts. That is the thread that runs through my journey and
Barack’s journey and so many other improbable journeys that have brought us here tonight, where the
current of history meets this new tide of hope.
That is why I love this country.
And in my own life, in my own small way, I’ve tried to give back to this country that has given me so
much. That’s why I left a job at a law firm for a career in public service, working to empower young
people to volunteer in their communities. Because I believe that each of us – no matter what our age or background or walk of life – each of us has something to contribute to the life of this nation.
It’s a belief Barack shares – a belief at the heart of his life’s work.
It’s what he did all those years ago, on the streets of Chicago, setting up job training to get people
back to work and afterschool programs to keep kids safe – working block by block to help people lift up
It’s what he did in the Illinois Senate, moving people from welfare to jobs, passing tax cuts for hard working families, and making sure women get equal pay for equal work.
It’s what he’s done in the United States Senate, fighting to ensure the men and women who serve this
country are welcomed home not just with medals and parades, but with good jobs and benefits and health care – including mental health care.
That’s why he’s running – to end the war in Iraq responsibly, to build an economy that lifts every family, to make health care available for every American, and to make sure every child in this nation gets a world class education all the way from preschool to college. That’s what Barack Obama will do as President of the United States of America.
He’ll achieve these goals the same way he always has – by bringing us together and reminding us how
much we share and how alike we really are. You see, Barack doesn’t care where you’re from, or what
your background is, or what party – if any – you belong to. That’s not how he sees the world. He nows
that thread that connects us – our belief in America’s promise, our commitment to our children’s future
- is strong enough to hold us together as one nation even when we disagree. It was strong enough to bring hope to those neighborhoods in Chicago.
It was strong enough to bring hope to the mother he met worried about her child in Iraq; hope to the
man who’s unemployed, but can’t afford gas to find a job; hope to the student working nights to pay for her sister’s health care, sleeping just a few hours a day.
And it was strong enough to bring hope to people who came out on a cold Iowa night and became the first voices in this chorus for change that’s been echoed by millions of Americans from every corner of this nation.
Millions of Americans who know that Barack understands their dreams; that Barack will fight for people like them; and that Barack will finally bring the change we need.
And in the end, after all that’s happened these past 19 months, the Barack Obama I know today is the
same man I fell in love with 19 years ago. He’s the same man who drove me and our new baby daughter home from the hospital ten years ago this summer, inching along at a snail’s pace, peering anxiously at us in the rearview mirror, feeling the whole weight of her future in his hands, determined to give her everything he’d struggled so hard for himself, determined to give her what he never had: the affirming embrace of a father’s love.
And as I tuck that little girl and her little sister into bed at night, I think about how one day, they’ll
have families of their own. And one day, they – and your sons and daughters – will tell their own children about what we did together in this election. They’ll tell them how this time, we listened to our hopes, instead of our fears. How this time, we decided to stop doubting and to start dreaming. How this time, in this great country – where a girl from the South Side of Chicago can go to college and law school, and the son of a single mother from Hawaii can go all the way to the White House – we committed ourselves to building the world as it should be.
So tonight, in honor of my father’s memory and my daughters’ future – out of gratitude to those whose triumphs we mark this week, and those whose everyday sacrifices have brought us to this moment – let us devote ourselves to finishing their work; let us work together to fulfill their hopes; and let us stand together to elect Barack Obama President of the United States of America.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.
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by Lesley R. Chinn
Special to the NNPA from the Philadelphia Tribune
In numbers released this week in two separate Gallup Polls, Obama’s support moved up among all voters and among African-American voters.
Among all voters his support was recorded at 47 percent, up from 46 percent.
The gain is statistically insignificant but it countered concerns that Obama’s campaign might have suffered from a recent spat with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, negative publicity from the cover of New Yorker magazine that portrayed him as a Muslim and concerns that he has swung to the right politically.