Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Recap: 2011 State of the Union address

In case you missed the 2011 State of the Union address Tuesday night, here's a summary chock full of memorable lines spoken by our very own, President Barack Obama.

This year's occasion had a bipartisan approach where Republican and Democrat Congress members sat together. President Obama congratulated new members of Congress and recognizing the shooting tragedy in Tuscon. Despite her seat being empty, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and husband Mark Kelly watched the address from her room in a Houston rehab facility. The guest list for First Lady Michelle Obama included Daniel Hernandez, aide to Giffords who helped save her life; the family of slain 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green; and Pennsylvania Brandon and Julie Fisher, owners of a small business that manufactures parts and equipment that helped find and rescue the Chilean miners.

The speech drew on many points and areas both sides of Congress and the government need to work on in order to "Win the future." How will that be achieved? For one, President Obama acknowledged the challenges and shortfalls his administration has faced over the first half of his term.

President Obama described at length five pillars for ensuring America's competitiveness and economic growth: innovation, education, infrastructure, deficit reduction, and reforming government.

Here are some memorable lines:

Innovation: "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’d beat them to the moon. The science wasn’t there yet. NASA didn’t even 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."

"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. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s."

Education: "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. We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones. And over the next ten years, with so many Baby Boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math."

Infrastructure: "Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you 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. As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already underway."

"Within the next five years, we will make it possible for business to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98% of all Americans...It’s about connecting every part of America to the digital age."

Deficit Reduction: "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."

"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. 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."

Health Care Reform: "Now, I’ve heard rumors that a few of you have some concerns about the new health care law. 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."

Reforming Government: "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."

"And if we truly care about our deficit, we simply cannot afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. 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."

Don't Ask Don't Tell: "Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love. And with that change, I call on all of our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and the ROTC. It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. It is time to move forward as one nation."

In conclusion, President Obama reiterated the pledge to rebuild the peoples' trust in their government through more transparency. Taxpayer spending displayed online and passing a budget completely free of earmarks, to name a few examples. He repeated American troops will begin coming home from the Middle East this summer. Increased cooperation between America and European allies and strengthening relationships between other countries.

"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 do big things."

Full video of speech can be seen here:

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