President Barack Obama’s State of the Union 2014 – full transcript

January 29, 2014

Obama and Washington wait for the State of the Union -  White House caption: President Barack Obama reviews his speech one last time while waiting in a room at the U.S. Capitol prior to delivering the State of the Union address in the House Chamber in Washington, D.C., Jan. 28, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Obama and Washington wait for the State of the Union – White House caption: President Barack Obama reviews his speech one last time while waiting in a room at the U.S. Capitol prior to delivering the State of the Union address in the House Chamber in Washington, D.C., Jan. 28, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

From the Federal News Service, via Washington Post:

Published: January 28

President Obama delivered his 2014 State of the Union address on Jan. 28, 2014, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Transcript courtesy of Federal News Service.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so much.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, my fellow Americans, today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it and did her part to lift America’s graduation rate to its highest levels in more than three decades.

White House caption:  President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 28, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

White House caption: President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 28, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

An entrepreneur flipped on the lights in her tech startup and did her part to add to the more than 8 million new jobs our businesses have created over the past four years. (Applause.)

An autoworker fine-tuned some of the best, most fuel-efficient cars in the world and did his part to help America wean itself off foreign oil.

A farmer prepared for the spring after the strongest five-year stretch of farm exports in our history.

A rural doctor gave a young child the first prescription to treat asthma that his mother could afford. (Applause.) A man took the bus home from the graveyard shift, bone-tired but dreaming big dreams for his son. And in tight-knit communities all across America, fathers and mothers will tuck in their kids, put an arm around their spouse, remember fallen comrades and give thanks for being home from a war that after twelve long years is finally coming to an end. (Applause.)

Tonight this chamber speaks with one voice to the people we represent: It is you, our citizens, who make the state of our union strong. (Applause.)

And here are the results of your efforts: the lowest unemployment rate in over five years; a rebounding housing market — (applause) — a manufacturing sector that’s adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s — (applause) — more oil produced — more oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world, the first time that’s happened in nearly twenty years — (applause) — our deficits cut by more than half; and for the first time — (applause) — for the first time in over a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that China is no longer the world’s number one place to invest; America is.

(Cheers, applause.) That’s why I believe this can be a breakthrough year for America. After five years of grit and determined effort, the United States is better-positioned for the 21st century than any other nation on Earth.

The question for everyone in this chamber, running through every decision we make this year, is whether we are going to help or hinder this progress. For several years now, this town has been consumed by a rancorous argument over the proper size of the federal government. It’s an important debate — one that dates back to our very founding. But when that debate prevents us from carrying out even the most basic functions of our democracy — when our differences shut down government or threaten the full faith and credit of the United States — then we are not doing right by the American people. (Cheers, applause.)

Now, as president, I’m committed to making Washington work better, and rebuilding the trust of the people who sent us here. And I believe most of you are, too. Last month, thanks to the work of Democrats and Republicans,Congress finally produced a budget that undoes some of last year’s severe cuts to priorities like education. Nobody got everything they wanted, and we can still do more to invest in this country’s future while bringing down our deficit in a balanced way.

But the budget compromise should leave us freer to focus on creating new jobs, not creating new crises.

[Complete Enhanced Video Transcript]

And in the coming months — (applause) — in the coming months, let’s see where else we can make progress together. Let’s make this a year of action. That’s what most Americans want, for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations. And what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all, the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead in America. (Applause.)

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President Obama’s statement on preliminary agreement to stop nuclear proliferation in Iran

November 24, 2013

After the agreement was announced, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry embraced.

Foreign ministers of several nations collaborated in Geneva, Switzerland, to get an agreement to stop proliferation of nuclear weapons to Iran; an agreement to lead to a larger agreement was struck Saturday, November 23, 2013. After the agreement was announced, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry embraced.

Obama, Iran, Kerry, Nuclear, sanctions

More:

Foreign Ministers announce agreement on Iranian nuclear weapons development, November 23, 2013

Image and caption via CNN: Chief negotiator Catherine Ashton and Iran’s foreign minister announce agreement on Iran’s nuclear program early on Sunday, November 24 in Geneva. From left to right: British Foreign Secretary William Hague, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.


Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, 2013

November 11, 2013

President Obama Honors Veterans at Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day. November 11, 2013.

 


Clay Bennett: The Flat

November 2, 2013

Brilliant cartoon by Clay Bennett at the Chattanooga Times-Free Press.  It’s a perfect summary of GOP policies on everything, and why those policies won’t work.

“The Flat.”

Clay Bennett cartoon in the Chattanooga Times-Free Press, September 12, 2013

Clay Bennett cartoon in the Chattanooga Times-Free Press, September 12, 2013

I love Bennett’s clean lines, and acid commentary.

 


Obama already negotiated; GOP taking hallucinogens? (Again?)

October 8, 2013

Oh, Speaker Boehner forgot to mention that.

 

http://bit.ly/GE9nzF 

pic.twitter.com/8N4bG4GFHY


ObamaCare in 90 seconds – from nurses, so you know it’s right

June 18, 2013

Nurses attend signing ceremony

Nurses attended the  signing ceremony for the Affordable Care Act. Photo: flickr.nurse;

Tired of the distortions of ObamaCare all over Facebook, blogs, and Twitter?

Need a quick summary to give your obnoxious brother-in-law something to think about, without seeming rude?

Here, in 90 seconds, a bunch of nurses go over the basics:

Who did this video?

Wondering what the Affordable Care Act can do for you and your family? Check out what nurses have to say about the benefits of the healthcare law and then share this video with friends, family and co-workers!

* HealthLawBenefits.org is a joint campaign of SEIU, the Nurse Alliance of SEIU and 1199SEIU.

Tip of the old scrub brush to the BlueStreet Journal.

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Flag day June 14? Heck! Fly it all week!

June 11, 2013

“The American Flag”, music by L.S.D. Rees and words by J.B. Dickson, 1862. Music Division, Library of Congress

President Barack Obama proclaimed the week of June 9 through 16 National Flag Week, in anticipation of Flag Day, June 14.

Boy Scouts from Troop 123 stand together during a Flag Day ceremony Thursday, June 14, 2012 at Veterans Memorial Park in Peru, Ill.

Boy Scouts from Troop 123 stand together during a Flag Day ceremony Thursday, June 14, 2012 at Veterans Memorial Park in Peru, Ill. Photo and caption from Reactions

Fly your U.S. flag all week!

Of course, you may fly your state and local flags, too.

June 14 commemorates the day the first resolution was passed designating the stars and stripes as the national flag of the united colonies, June 14, 1777. This is another event occurring even prior to the creation of the United States by the Constitution.

Here’s the proclamation from President Obama:

For Immediate Release

June 07, 2013

Presidential Proclamation — Flag Day and National Flag Week, 2013

FLAG DAY AND NATIONAL FLAG WEEK, 2013

- – - – - – -

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

Each June, our Nation lifts its sights to the flag that has watched over us since the days of our founding. In those broad stripes and bright stars, we see the arc of the American story — from a handful of colonies to 50 States, united and free.

When proud patriots took up the fight for independence, they came together under a standard that showed their common cause. When the wounds of civil war were still fresh and our country walked the long road to reconstruction, our people found hope in a banner that testified to the strength of our Union. Wherever our American journey has taken us, whether on that unending path to the mountaintop or high above into the reaches of space, Old Glory has followed, reminding us of the rights and responsibilities we share as citizens.

This week, we celebrate that legacy, and we honor the brave men and women who have secured it through centuries of service at home and abroad. Let us raise our flags high, from small-town storefronts to duty stations stretched around the globe, and let us look to them once more as we press on in the march toward a more perfect Union.

To commemorate the adoption of our flag, the Congress, by joint resolution approved August 3, 1949, as amended (63 Stat. 492), designated June 14 of each year as “Flag Day” and requested that the President issue an annual proclamation calling for its observance and for the display of the flag of the United States on all Federal Government buildings. The Congress also requested, by joint resolution approved June 9, 1966, as amended (80 Stat. 194), that the President annually issue a proclamation designating the week in which June 14 occurs as “National Flag Week” and call upon citizens of the United States to display the flag during that week.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim June 14, 2013, as Flag Day and the week beginning June 9, 2013, as National Flag Week. I direct the appropriate officials to display the flag on all Federal Government buildings during that week, and I urge all Americans to observe Flag Day and National Flag Week by displaying the flag. I also call upon the people of the United States to observe with pride and all due ceremony those days from Flag Day through Independence Day, also set aside by the Congress (89 Stat. 211), as a time to honor America, to celebrate our heritage in public gatherings and activities, and to publicly recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this seventh day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.

BARACK OBAMA

You may want to read further history of Flag Day and the Wisconsin-born dentist who created and promoted the campaign to commemorate it, Bernard J. CiGrand, at the National Flag Day Foundation site.


Flag Day cartoon  by Joel Mielke in the North Coast Journal, Humboldt, California

Joel Mielke cartoon in the North Coast Journal, Humboldt, California. Each of these flag uses is, technically, a violation of the flag code. Fly your flag on Flag Day; it’s a non-violative, non-offensive way to honor the flag, and our nation.

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President Obama, a man of grace and encouragement

May 27, 2013

Consoler and Encourager in Chief:

Note President Obama left at Plaza Towers Elementary in Moore, Oklahoma

Caption from Pete Souza‘s slide show: A message from President Barack Obama is seen on a Plaza Towers Elementary School sign, at Moore Fire Department Station #1 in Moore, Okla., May 26, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Pete Souza‘s work as White House photographer will ultimately make historians’ work much richer.  He’s got a great eye for a shot that needs to be snapped, and a great sense of art on the fly.  If you’re not a regular watcher of Souza’s work, you probably should be, especially if you’re teaching history.

More:


President Obama ordered U.S. flags to fly at half-staff, honoring victims of Boston explosions

April 16, 2013

lag at half-staff in Southborough, Massachusetts

A flag at half-staff in Southborough, Massachusetts (photo from 2010). Image from MySouthborough.com

This morning the White House issued a proclamation ordering U.S. flags at U.S. facilities worldwide to be flown at half-staff, honoring victims of the explosions in Boston, yesterday.

For Immediate Release .                                    April 16, 2013

Presidential Proclamation — Honoring the victims of the tragedy in Boston, Massachusetts

HONORING THE VICTIMS OF THE TRAGEDY IN BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS

- – - – - – -

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

As a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated on April 15, 2013, in Boston, Massachusetts, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, April 20, 2013. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this sixteenth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.

BARACK OBAMA


White House Easter Egg Roll tickets go to kids of military

March 20, 2013

Not big news — they do this almost every year — but I want to put down the anchor on this story.

"EASTER EGG ROLLING, WHITE HOUSE" &q...

A photo from the distant, but indefinite past: “EASTER EGG ROLLING, WHITE HOUSE” “1 negative : glass ; 5 x 7 in. or smaller” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why do I want to anchor it?  In about three days, if tradition holds, I’ll get an e-mail from some vet madder than hell that Obama shut out the kids of military veterans from the Easter Egg Roll; the story he sends will probably claim Obama changed it to a Ramadan Relleno Roll, or something.

I post it here so I can find it quickly, then.  Obama H8ers will distort every piece of good news.  You can see the drumbeat start in the “More” section below.  A Continuing Resolution passed the Senate today, and is expected to win approval in the House tomorrow, providing funds to continue the Easter Egg roll on April 13, as well as the rest of the government through the end of the Fiscal Year.

President Barack Obama cheers on children part...

President Barack Obama cheers on children participating in rolling eggs across the South Lawn Monday, April 13, 2009, during the White House Easter Egg Roll. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

More:

Update:  Turns out that Fox News had already slammed Obama, falsely, for keeping the Egg Roll on the calendar.  As Mediaite reported, Fox News’s Megyn Kelly charged it was all politics, prompting White House press guy Jay Carney to explain the event is paid for out of donations, not out of the budget.


Obama H8rs complain, “Obama’s not emperor!”

February 18, 2013

President Obama at 2nd Google+ Fireside Hangout, February 14, 2013

Obama’s got good answers and is willing to discuss policy with American citizens; critics keep making stuff up to complain about. Caption from the White House: President Barack Obama participates in a “Fireside Hangout” on Google+ with Americans from around the country to discuss his State of the Union Address, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. February 14, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Can’t make this stuff up as fast as the unthinking anti-Obama folks can dish it out.

Their criticisms often vaporize at the slightest investigation, though.  Why not talk serious policy?  They won’t do it.

Wednesday night, President Obama participated in a Google+ ” Fireside Hangout.”  These sessions take their cue in part from FDR’s Fireside Chats.  In the modern, Google+ version, it’s not just the president talking.  He takes questions from a panel of interrogators, and from people who send in questions by Tweet or e-mail.  Obama took questions from citizens.

One woman, Jackie Guerrero (sp?) complained that the Obama administration enforces our immigration laws with much more toughness than any previous administration, ever.  She said too many people who shouldn’t be deported, are being deported.  She asked President Obama to explain why his administration has done that.

Obama said he’s the executive, and he’s required to carry out the laws.  He urged the woman to support changes in the laws, but he pointed out that must come from Congress.  His answer took two-and-a-half minutes, and he outlined the need for immigration reform.  In a few seconds, he started his answer with this:

“This is something I’ve struggled with throughout my presidency,” said Obama. “The problem is that I’m the president of the United States, I’m not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed.”

You as a reasonably intelligent and perceptive Dear Reader recognize that Obama is asking for citizen pressure on Congress to pass reform of our immigration laws.

You as a reasonably intelligent and perceptive Dear Reader are also well aware there is a group of people loose in America who say that, whatever Obama says, Obama is wrong.

So, what do those Obama H8rs say?  Do they complain about immigration reform, saying we don’t need it?

No, they don’t even give their listeners and viewers the dignity of talking about the issues. Here’s how Michael Savage butchered the video of the Google session:

Savage posted this wan explanation:

Published on Feb 15, 2013

In a Google hangout last evening February 14, 2013, President Barack Obama explained that his problem is that he’s “not the emperor of the United States”: “This is something I’ve struggled with throughout my presidency,” said Obama. “The problem is that I’m the president of the United States, I’m not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed.”

In a very technical sense, that’s accurate reporting of part of Obama’s statement.

But it’s not the whole truth, as you can see.  There is no mention whatsoever of the issue at hand, immigration reform, for example.  How can they report it correctly, if they don’t even report what happened?

How have others reacted?  Our old friend Joe Leavell leapt at the opening Michael Savage provided, with a Facebook post linking to the video:

“The problem is, I’m the President of the United States. I’m not the emperor of the United States.” – President Obama.
This is a problem? Yikes!

Can you tell Joe’s views on immigration reform?  On enforcing laws?  On not enforcing laws?  Just try to pin him down.

Leavell on Obama as emperor

On Facebook, a complaint leaving the impression that Obama said he wants to be emperor, though of course, that’s not at all what Obama said.

One more demonstration we don’t need that people who truly hate Obama with no good reason will make up crap to claim against him, regardless what he says.

Some wag said, “I hope President Obama comes out tomorrow with a warning against eating yellow snow, just so I can see these guys explain the benefits of eating yellow snow.”

I wish they’d just wake up, read the old Boy Scout Citizenship Merit Badge booklet, and be good citizens without all the hoax complaints.

No, Obama did not say he wants to be emperor.  No, he did not.

No, he didn’t.

Alas, Joe Leavell on Facebook is not the only one who had what should be embarrassing conniptions over the mined quote.

Wall of shame, commenters who fuzzed up the news and ran with the political smear; count ‘em:

  1. Weekly Standard (apparently all their fact checkers died; I didn’t realize they really have no regard for the accuracy of stuff they report, before).
  2. Obama: ‘The Problem is … I’m not the Emperor of the United States’ (radio.foxnews.com)
  3. Obama Says the “The Problem Is…I’m Not Emperor of the United States” (gunmartblog.com)
  4. Obama: “The Problem Is I’m President of the United States, I’m Not the Emperor” (Video) (thegatewaypundit.com)
  5. Obama: ‘The Problem Is … I’m Not the Emperor of the United States’ (givemeliberty01.com)
  6. Obama Says ‘The Problem Is That I’m Not The Emperor Of The United States’ (vineoflife.net)
  7. ‘The Problem Is … I’m Not the Emperor of the United States’ (ConservativeActionAlerts.com)
  8. I’m Not The Emperor of the USA (tarpon.wordpress.com)
  9. “The Problem is I’m not Emperor:” Obama’s Freudian Slip (rjblack.wordpress.com)
  10. Barack Obama: ‘The Problem Is … I’m Not the Emperor of the United States’ (ijreview.com)
  11. Obama: ‘The Problem Is I’m Not The Emperor Of The United States’ (conservativebyte.com)
  12. Barack Obama: I’m not emperor of the United States (Twitchy)
  13. Obama made a Freudian slip, The Rio Norte Line
  14. Of course The Blaze misreported it, too
  15. Washington Times blog screwed it up
  16. Victor Medina, a Dallas Republican operative, in the Examiner
  17. TeaParty.org copied the Weekly Standard, a weakly slandering practice of theirs
  18. WeaselZippers honestly stated they got the report “scouring the bowels of the internet” and came up with the same old offal; this is the quality of reporting we’re talking about here
  19. Before It’s News reported it, though it wasn’t news at all
  20. Nothing but the Truth misses its named target, copying the false report at Gateway Pundit

Some of you may remember Spike Jones’s send-up of that classic show tune, “I’m in the Mood for Love.”  One verse of the lyric is, “Funny, but when I’m near you, I’m in the mood for love.”  In Spike’s version, an indignant voice interrupts with, “Funny butt!  Who’se got a funny butt?”

That’s rather what Savage and others have done with Obama’s answer here.

How many of those sites do you think would like it if Obama had said, “Okay, we’ll stop deportations of all but criminal and dangerous undocumented aliens tomorrow?”  How many of those sites will favor action on immigration reform?  How many of them will want their children to know they wrote these things, in ten years?

This cheap and misleading criticism ignored the two-and-a-half-minute response Obama gave to the immigration and deportation question, in which he concisely explained the problems and the urgent need for immigration reform to benefit the U.S. economy.  See the complete answer in the video of the entire session, at the bottom of this post.

Obama’s critics don’t dare allow him a fair chance to state his position.  They have no answers for his clearly thought-out plans.

More:

See for yourself how Obama’s views were covered up and his meanings distorted.  Here’s the entire Google Fireside Hangout, all 47 minutes of it (in HD and stereo); the question on immigration comes about 19 minutes in, and Obama’s answer took about two and a half minutes, all ignored completely by Obama’s H8rs:

Update, post script:  CBS’s guy who keeps all the records, Mark Knoller, accurately reported Obama’s words in a Tweet, with just 140 characters; why can’t conservative wackoes get it right with 1,000 words and video?  They probably don’t intend to get it right, like Knoller works to get it right every day, day in, and day out.


Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech, 2013

February 12, 2013

Transcript of President Obama’s speech, as released from the White House:

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

February 12, 2013

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery

State of the Union Address

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Washington, DC

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, fellow citizens:

Fifty-one years ago, John F. Kennedy declared to this Chamber that “the Constitution makes us not rivals for power but partners for progress…It is my task,” he said, “to report the State of the Union – to improve it is the task of us all.”

Tonight, thanks to the grit and determination of the American people, there is much progress to report.  After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home.  After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created over six million new jobs.  We buy more American cars than we have in five years, and less foreign oil than we have in twenty.  Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding, and consumers, patients, and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever before.

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.  Our economy is adding jobs – but too many people still can’t find full-time employment.  Corporate profits have rocketed to all-time highs – but for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged.

It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth – a rising, thriving middle class.

It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country – the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love.

It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation.

The American people don’t expect government to solve every problem.  They don’t expect those of us in this chamber to agree on every issue.  But they do expect us to put the nation’s interests before party.  They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can.  For they know that America moves forward only when we do so together; and that the responsibility of improving this union remains the task of us all.

Our work must begin by making some basic decisions about our budget – decisions that will have a huge impact on the strength of our recovery.

Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion – mostly through spending cuts, but also by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.  As a result, we are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances.

Now we need to finish the job.  And the question is, how?

In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars’ worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year.  These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness.  They’d devastate priorities like education, energy, and medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs.  That’s why Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists have already said that these cuts, known here in Washington as “the sequester,” are a really bad idea.

Now, some in this Congress have proposed preventing only the defense cuts by making even bigger cuts to things like education and job training; Medicare and Social Security benefits.

That idea is even worse.  Yes, the biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost of health care for an aging population.  And those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms – otherwise, our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children, and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement for future generations.

But we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and most powerful.  We won’t grow the middle class simply by shifting the cost of health care or college onto families that are already struggling, or by forcing communities to lay off more teachers, cops, and firefighters.  Most Americans – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – understand that we can’t just cut our way to prosperity.  They know that broad-based economic growth requires a balanced approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue, and with everybody doing their fair share.   And that’s the approach I offer tonight.

On Medicare, I’m prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission.  Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs.  The reforms I’m proposing go even further.  We’ll reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors.  We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital – they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive.  And I am open to additional reforms from both parties, so long as they don’t violate the guarantee of a secure retirement.  Our government shouldn’t make promises we cannot keep – but we must keep the promises we’ve already made.

To hit the rest of our deficit reduction target, we should do what leaders in both parties have already suggested, and save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and well-connected.  After all, why would we choose to make deeper cuts to education and Medicare just to protect special interest tax breaks?  How is that fair?  How does that promote growth?

Now is our best chance for bipartisan, comprehensive tax reform that encourages job creation and helps bring down the deficit.  The American people deserve a tax code that helps small businesses spend less time filling out complicated forms, and more time expanding and hiring; a tax code that ensures billionaires with high-powered accountants can’t pay a lower rate than their hard-working secretaries; a tax code that lowers incentives to move jobs overseas, and lowers tax rates for businesses and manufacturers that create jobs right here in America.  That’s what tax reform can deliver.  That’s what we can do together.

I realize that tax reform and entitlement reform won’t be easy.  The politics will be hard for both sides.  None of us will get 100 percent of what we want.  But the alternative will cost us jobs, hurt our economy, and visit hardship on millions of hardworking Americans.  So let’s set party interests aside, and work to pass a budget that replaces reckless cuts with smart savings and wise investments in our future.  And let’s do it without the brinksmanship that stresses consumers and scares off investors.  The greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next.  Let’s agree, right here, right now, to keep the people’s government open, pay our bills on time, and always uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America.  The American people have worked too hard, for too long, rebuilding from one crisis to see their elected officials cause another.

Now, most of us agree that a plan to reduce the deficit must be part of our agenda.  But let’s be clear: deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan.  A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs – that must be the North Star that guides our efforts.  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?

A year and a half ago, I put forward an American Jobs Act that independent economists said would create more than one million new jobs.  I thank the last Congress for passing some of that agenda, and I urge this Congress to pass the rest.  Tonight, I’ll lay out additional proposals that are fully paid for and fully consistent with the budget framework both parties agreed to just 18 months ago.  Let me repeat – nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime.  It’s not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth.

Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing.

After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three. Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan.  Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico. After locating plants in other countries like China, Intel is opening its most advanced plant right here at home.  And this year, Apple will start making Macs in America again.

There are things we can do, right now, to accelerate this trend.  Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio.  A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything.  There’s no reason this can’t happen in other towns.  So tonight, I’m announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Departments of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs.  And I ask this Congress to help create a network of fifteen of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is Made in America.

If we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas.  Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy. Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s; developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs; devising new material to make batteries ten times more powerful.  Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation.  Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race.  And today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy.

After years of talking about it, we are finally poised to control our own energy future.  We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years.  We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it.  We produce more natural gas than ever before – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it.  And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.

But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.  Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend.  But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15.  Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense.  We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence.  Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.

The good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth.  I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago.  But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.  I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it.  We’ve begun to change that.  Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America.  So let’s generate even more.  Solar energy gets cheaper by the year – so let’s drive costs down even further.  As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.

In the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence.  That’s why my Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.  But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water.

Indeed, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together.  So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.  If a non-partisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we.  Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long.  I’m also issuing a new goal for America: let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next twenty years.  The states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make it happen.

America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair.  Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire: a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and internet; high-tech schools and self-healing power grids.  The CEO of Siemens America – a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina – has said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they’ll bring even more jobs.  And I know that you want these job-creating projects in your districts.  I’ve seen you all at the ribbon-cuttings.

Tonight, I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country.  And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children.  Let’s prove that there is no better place to do business than the United States of America.  And let’s start right away.

Part of our rebuilding effort must also involve our housing sector.  Today, our housing market is finally healing from the collapse of 2007.  Home prices are rising at the fastest pace in six years, home purchases are up nearly 50 percent, and construction is expanding again.

But even with mortgage rates near a 50-year low, too many families with solid credit who want to buy a home are being rejected.  Too many families who have never missed a payment and want to refinance are being told no.  That’s holding our entire economy back, and we need to fix it.  Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates.  Democrats and Republicans have supported it before.  What are we waiting for?  Take a vote, and send me that bill.  Right now, overlapping regulations keep responsible young families from buying their first home.  What’s holding us back?  Let’s streamline the process, and help our economy grow.

These initiatives in manufacturing, energy, infrastructure, and housing will help entrepreneurs and small business owners expand and create new jobs.  But none of it will matter unless we also equip our citizens with the skills and training to fill those jobs.  And that has to start at the earliest possible age.

Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road.  But today, fewer than 3 in 10 four year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program.  Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool.  And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives.

Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America.  Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.  In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their own.  So let’s do what works, and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.  Let’s give our kids that chance.

Let’s also make sure that a high school diploma puts our kids on a path to a good job.  Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges, so that they’re ready for a job.  At schools like P-Tech in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York Public Schools, the City University of New York, and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in computers or engineering.

We need to give every American student opportunities like this.  Four years ago, we started Race to the Top – a competition that convinced almost every state to develop smarter curricula and higher standards, for about 1 percent of what we spend on education each year.  Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy.  We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math – the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future.

Now, even with better high schools, most young people will need some higher education.  It’s a simple fact: the more education you have, the more likely you are to have a job and work your way into the middle class.  But today, skyrocketing costs price way too many young people out of a higher education, or saddle them with unsustainable debt.

Through tax credits, grants, and better loans, we have made college more affordable for millions of students and families over the last few years.  But taxpayers cannot continue to subsidize the soaring cost of higher education.  Colleges must do their part to keep costs down, and it’s our job to make sure they do.  Tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act, so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid.  And tomorrow, my Administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria: where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.

To grow our middle class, our citizens must have access to the education and training that today’s jobs require.  But we also have to make sure that America remains a place where everyone who’s willing to work hard has the chance to get ahead.

Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants.  And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, and faith communities all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my Administration has already made – putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history, and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.

Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship – a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.

And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods, reduce bureaucracy, and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy.

In other words, we know what needs to be done.  As we speak, bipartisan groups in both chambers are working diligently to draft a bill, and I applaud their efforts.  Now let’s get this done.  Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away.

But we can’t stop there.  We know our economy is stronger when our wives, mothers, and daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace, and free from the fear of domestic violence.  Today, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act that Joe Biden originally wrote almost 20 years ago.  I urge the House to do the same.  And I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a living equal to their efforts, and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year.

We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages.  But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year.  Even with the tax relief we’ve put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line.  That’s wrong.  That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, nineteen states have chosen to bump theirs even higher.

Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour.  This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families.  It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead.  For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets.  In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher.  So here’s an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year: let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.

Tonight, let’s also recognize that there are communities in this country where no matter how hard you work, it’s virtually impossible to get ahead.  Factory towns decimated from years of plants packing up.  Inescapable pockets of poverty, urban and rural, where young adults are still fighting for their first job.  America is not a place where chance of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny.  And that is why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them.

Let’s offer incentives to companies that hire Americans who’ve got what it takes to fill that job opening, but have been out of work so long that no one will give them a chance.  Let’s put people back to work rebuilding vacant homes in run-down neighborhoods.  And this year, my Administration will begin to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet.  We’ll work with local leaders to target resources at public safety, education, and housing.  We’ll give new tax credits to businesses that hire and invest.  And we’ll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples, and doing more to encourage fatherhood – because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one.

Stronger families.  Stronger communities.  A stronger America.  It is this kind of prosperity – broad, shared, and built on a thriving middle class – that has always been the source of our progress at home.  It is also the foundation of our power and influence throughout the world.

Tonight, we stand united in saluting the troops and civilians who sacrifice every day to protect us. Because of them, we can say with confidence that America will complete its mission in Afghanistan, and achieve our objective of defeating the core of al Qaeda.  Already, we have brought home 33,000 of our brave servicemen and women.  This spring, our forces will move into a support role, while Afghan security forces take the lead.  Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan.  This drawdown will continue.  And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.

Beyond 2014, America’s commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of our commitment will change.  We are negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government that focuses on two missions: training and equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not again slip into chaos, and counter-terrorism efforts that allow us to pursue the remnants of al Qaeda and their affiliates.

Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self.  Different al Qaeda affiliates and extremist groups have emerged – from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa.  The threat these groups pose is evolving.  But to meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations.  Instead, we will need to help countries like Yemen, Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali.  And, where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.

As we do, we must enlist our values in the fight.  That is why my Administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism operations.  Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts.  I recognize that in our democracy, no one should just take my word that we’re doing things the right way.  So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.

Of course, our challenges don’t end with al Qaeda.  America will continue to lead the effort to prevent the spread of the world’s most dangerous weapons.  The regime in North Korea must know that they will only achieve security and prosperity by meeting their international obligations.  Provocations of the sort we saw last night will only isolate them further, as we stand by our allies, strengthen our own missile defense, and lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats.

Likewise, the leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations, and we will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon.  At the same time, we will engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals, and continue leading the global effort to secure nuclear materials that could fall into the wrong hands – because our ability to influence others depends on our willingness to lead.

America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber-attacks.  We know hackers steal people’s identities and infiltrate private e-mail.  We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets.  Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, and our air traffic control systems.  We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.

That’s why, earlier today, I signed a new executive order that will strengthen our cyber defenses by increasing information sharing, and developing standards to protect our national security, our jobs, and our privacy.  Now, Congress must act as well, by passing legislation to give our government a greater capacity to secure our networks and deter attacks.

Even as we protect our people, we should remember that today’s world presents not only dangers, but opportunities.  To boost American exports, support American jobs, and level the playing field in the growing markets of Asia, we intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership.  And tonight, I am announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union – because trade that is free and fair across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs.

We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all.  In many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day.  So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades: by connecting more people to the global economy and empowering women; by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve and helping communities to feed, power, and educate themselves; by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths; and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation.

Above all, America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom during this period of historic change.  I saw the power of hope last year in Rangoon – when Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed an American President into the home where she had been imprisoned for years; when thousands of Burmese lined the streets, waving American flags, including a man who said, “There is justice and law in the United States.  I want our country to be like that.”

In defense of freedom, we will remain the anchor of strong alliances from the Americas to Africa; from Europe to Asia.  In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy.  The process will be messy, and we cannot presume to dictate the course of change in countries like Egypt; but we can – and will – insist on respect for the fundamental rights of all people.  We will keep the pressure on a Syrian regime that has murdered its own people, and support opposition leaders that respect the rights of every Syrian.  And we will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace.  These are the messages I will deliver when I travel to the Middle East next month.

All this work depends on the courage and sacrifice of those who serve in dangerous places at great personal risk – our diplomats, our intelligence officers, and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.  As long as I’m Commander-in-Chief, we will do whatever we must to protect those who serve their country abroad, and we will maintain the best military in the world.  We will invest in new capabilities, even as we reduce waste and wartime spending.  We will ensure equal treatment for all service members, and equal benefits for their families – gay and straight.  We will draw upon the courage and skills of our sisters and daughters, because women have proven under fire that they are ready for combat.  We will keep faith with our veterans – investing in world-class care, including mental health care, for our wounded warriors; supporting our military families; and giving our veterans the benefits, education, and job opportunities they have earned.  And I want to thank my wife Michelle and Dr. Jill Biden for their continued dedication to serving our military families as well as they serve us.

But defending our freedom is not the job of our military alone.  We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home.  That includes our most fundamental right as citizens:  the right to vote.  When any Americans – no matter where they live or what their party – are denied that right simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals.  That’s why, tonight, I’m announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America.  And I’m asking two long-time experts in the field, who’ve recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney’s campaign, to lead it.  We can fix this, and we will.  The American people demand it.  And so does our democracy.

Of course, what I’ve said tonight matters little if we don’t come together to protect our most precious resource – our children.

It has been two months since Newtown.  I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence.  But this time is different.  Overwhelming majorities of Americans – Americans who believe in the 2nd Amendment – have come together around commonsense reform – like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun.  Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals.  Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because they are tired of being outgunned.

Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress.  If you want to vote no, that’s your choice.  But these proposals deserve a vote.  Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun.

One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton.  She was 15 years old.  She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss.  She was a majorette.  She was so good to her friends, they all thought they were her best friend.  Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration.  And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.

Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence.  They deserve a vote.

Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.

The families of Newtown deserve a vote.

The families of Aurora deserve a vote.

The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence – they deserve a simple vote.

Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country.  Indeed, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all the challenges I’ve outlined tonight.  But we were never sent here to be perfect.  We were sent here to make what difference we can, to secure this nation, expand opportunity, and uphold our ideals through the hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government.

We were sent here to look out for our fellow Americans the same way they look out for one another, every single day, usually without fanfare, all across this country.  We should follow their example.

We should follow the example of a New York City nurse named Menchu Sanchez.  When Hurricane Sandy plunged her hospital into darkness, her thoughts were not with how her own home was faring – they were with the twenty precious newborns in her care and the rescue plan she devised that kept them all safe.

We should follow the example of a North Miami woman named Desiline Victor.  When she arrived at her polling place, she was told the wait to vote might be six hours.  And as time ticked by, her concern was not with her tired body or aching feet, but whether folks like her would get to have their say.  Hour after hour, a throng of people stayed in line in support of her.  Because Desiline is 102 years old.  And they erupted in cheers when she finally put on a sticker that read “I Voted.”

We should follow the example of a police officer named Brian Murphy.  When a gunman opened fire on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and Brian was the first to arrive, he did not consider his own safety.  He fought back until help arrived, and ordered his fellow officers to protect the safety of the Americans worshiping inside – even as he lay bleeding from twelve bullet wounds.

When asked how he did that, Brian said, “That’s just the way we’re made.”

That’s just the way we’re made.

We may do different jobs, and wear different uniforms, and hold different views than the person beside us.  But as Americans, we all share the same proud title:

We are citizens.  It’s a word that doesn’t just describe our nationality or legal status.  It describes the way we’re made.  It describes what we believe.  It captures the enduring idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations; that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; 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 in our American story.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

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Fly your flag today: Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday (and President Obama’s 2nd Inauguration)

January 21, 2013

I hope your flag is already flying today — sun’s up in almost all the U.S.

Newseum photo, U.S. Capitol at dawn in inauguration day, 2013

U.S. Capitol before dawn, January 21, 2013 — flags for the Senate and House not up yet, but the historic five flags of the nation hang ready for the 2nd Inauguration of the 44th President, Barack Obama. Photo from the roof of the Newseum.

Fly the U.S. flag today for the holiday for the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.  The holiday is celebrated on the third Monday in January.

Many Americans will celebrate with a day of service.

Today also celebrates the 2nd inauguration of President Barack Hussein Obama, the 57th inauguration of a president.

What a breathtaking intersection of history!

Miami Herald front page, January 21, 2013

Courtesy of the Newseum, the front page of the Miami Herald, today — featuring the Martin Luther King, Jr., monument, and the official inauguration of President Barack Obama.  40 years ago, who would have dared guess this front page in a southern newspaper?

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View from the National Capital Mall, 2nd Inauguration of Barack Obama

Photo by John Rudy, from the National Capital Mall, about 11:00 a.m., January 21, 2013. Flags a-flying there!


One more time: No, Texas cannot secede; no, Texas can’t split itself (2012 edition)

November 13, 2012

Someone in Texas, I swear, sells do-it-yourself-at-home lobotomy kits.  Worse, about 50,000 Texans buy the kits every year, and give themselves a self-lobotomy.  Then, when something happens in national politics or something else that doesn’t please them, having put an ice pick through that part of the brain that carries reason and self-control, and scrambled it, they start spouting nonsense about “Texas ought to secede.”

Texas splits from union, trespasses on Mexico

If Texas seceded from the U.S., would it be trespassing on Mexico?

This issue heated up last just after President Barack Obama took office and stopped the national slide into recession; Texans got ticked off that Obama hadn’t let them slip down the bung hole, and the Tea Party was born to push and make sure no one stopped such a slide in the future.  Rick Perry, our peripatetic occasional governor and head coyote persecutor, threw gasoline on the fire.  I posted this explanation back then.

Comes the 2012 election, Democrats and other supporters of Obama rise up and re-elect him.  One of the previously mentioned fools found a feature President Obama’s team added to the White House website, whereby anyone can start a petition on a subject; Obama being the fair-minded man these fools claim he is not, Obama and his team said they’d answer any petition that got more than 25,000 signatures.  Several people started petitions asking for secession.

Think about that for a moment.  They’re appealing to President Obama to let the secede, because they don’t like Obama’s reelection.  Compounding the irony, they’re using a citizen-feedback system designed by Obama’s team.

But then the pro-secession, anti-Obama people threw all sense to the wind.  This process is almost outside official channels.  While Congress will accept petitions, there’s no guarantee that these petitions will go to Congress — only that the Obama White House will answer the petition in some form.

More than a few of the signers are convinced that if they hit the magic number of 25,000 signatures, the action becomes semi-0fficial and will get real consideration.  Here’s news:  You might get a letter from President Obama.  Won’t that please them no end?

Gov. Perry already disowned the current round of zaniness.  It interferes with the zaniness in the run-up to the bi-annual Texas State Legislature meeting, for which “prefiling” of bills started this week.  Even and perhaps especially political zanies can handle only so much zaniness at one time — they’ve hit their zenith of zaniness for 2012.

But the bloggers and Facebookers still jump up and down.  Now, Dear Reader, you are a person of some intelligence:  You don’t think evolution is “from the pit of Hell,” you vaccinate your children and get an annual flu shot, you haven’t been abducted by alien spaceships recently, you worry that your home insurance will continue to climb until we act as a nation to stop air pollution that causes climate change, you understand Hawaii has been a state since 1960 and so a man born there after that, or at any time after annexation in 1898, is a U.S. citizen eligible to be U.S. president, and you don’t fear the UN is going to come take your golf course away (especially since golf-loving Barack Obama is our president); so I warn you, those yahoos who forgot entirely about the Civil War and think they might get a chance to secede from the U.S. and NASCAR just by putting their name on an internet petition, are not going to believe you, nor will they grant any credence to the facts outlined below, as to just why Texas cannot and will not secede.

But, here’s the explanation, anyway:

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Rick Perry put his foot into something during one of the Astro-turf “tea parties” on April 15 [2009].  Someone asked him about whether Texas should secede from the United States, as a protest against high taxes, or something.

The answer to the question is “No, secession is not legal.  Did you sleep through all of your U.S. history courses?  Remember the Civil War?”

Alas, Perry didn’t say that.

Instead, Perry said it’s not in the offing this week, but ‘Washington had better watch out.’

He qualified his statement by saying the U.S. is a “great union,” but he said Texans are thinking about seceding, and he trotted out a hoary old Texas tale that Texas had reserved that right in the treaty that ceded Texas lands to the U.S. in the switch from being an independent republic after winning independence from Mexico, to statehood in the U.S.

So, rational people want to know:  Does Perry know what he’s talking about?

No, he doesn’t.  Bud Kennedy, columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (still one of America’s great newspapers despite the efforts of its corporate owners to whittle it down), noted the error and checked with Gov. Perry’s history instructors at Texas A&M and his old high school, both of which said that Perry didn’t get the tale from them.  (Score one for Texas history teachers; rethink the idea about letting people run for state office without having to pass the high school exit history exam.)

A&M professor Walter L. Buenger is a fifth-generation Texan and author of a textbook on Texas’ last secession attempt. (The federal occupation lasted eight years after the Civil War.)

“It was a mistake then, and it’s an even bigger mistake now,” Buenger said by phone from College Station, where he has taught almost since Perry was an Aggie yell leader.

“And you can put this in the paper: To even bring it up shows a profound lack of patriotism,” Buenger said.

The 1845 joint merger agreement with Congress didn’t give Texas an option clause. The idea of leaving “was settled long ago,” he said.

“This is simple rabble-rousing and political posturing,” he said. “That’s all it is.  . . .  Our governor is now identifying himself with the far-right lunatic fringe.”

Three false beliefs about Texas history keep bubbling up, and need to be debunked every time.  The first is that Texas had a right to secede; the second is that Texas can divide itself into five states; and the third is that the Texas flag gets special rights over all other state flags in the nation.

Under Abraham Lincoln’s view the Union is almost sacred, and once a state joins it, the union expands to welcome that state, but never can the state get out.  Lincoln’s view prevailed in the Civil War, and in re-admittance of the 11 Confederate states after the war.

The second idea also died with Texas’s readmission.  The original enabling act (not treaty) said Texas could be divided, but under the Constitution’s powers delegated to Congress on statehood, the admission of Texas probably vitiated that clause.  In any case, the readmission legislation left it out.  Texas will remain the Lone Star State, and not become a Five Star Federation. (We dealt with this issue in an earlier post you probably should click over to see.)

Texas’s flag also gets no special treatment.  I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard Texans explain to Boy Scouts that the Texas flag — and only the Texas flag — may fly at the same level as the U.S. flag on adjacent flag poles.  Under the flag code, any flag may fly at the same level; the requirement is that the U.S. flag be on its own right.

Gov. Perry is behind Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in polling of a head-to-head contest between the two to see who will be the Republican nominee for governor in 2010 — Hutchison is gunning to unseat Perry.  He was trying to throw some red meat to far-right conservative partisans who, he hopes, will stick by him in that primary election.

Alas, he came off throwing out half-baked ideas instead.  It’s going to be a long, nasty election campaign.  [Yeah, those two paragraphs are dated; they are here as historical footnote.]

_____________

Update [2009]: A commenter named Bill Brock (the Bill Brock?) found the New York Times article from 1921 detailing John Nance Garner’s proposal to split Texas into five.  Nice find!

Another update: How much fuss should be made over the occasional wild hare move for some state to secede?  Probably not much.  A few years ago Alaska actually got a referendum on the ballot to study secession.  The drive to secede got nowhere, of course.  I was tracking it at the time to see whether anyone cared.  To the best of my knowledge, the New York Times never mentioned the controversy in Alaska, and the Washington Post gave it barely three paragraphs at the bottom of an inside page.

Texas has a slightly grandiose view of itself. TM Daily Post image

Texas has a slightly grandiose view of itself. TM Daily Post image

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Presidential proclamation for Veterans Day 2012

November 11, 2012

From the White House, November 7, 2012; note particularly the history:

Presidential Proclamation — Veterans Day, 2012

VETERANS DAY, 2012

- – - – - – -

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

Whether they fought in Salerno or Samarra, Heartbreak Ridge or Helmand, Khe Sanh or the Korengal, our veterans are part of an unbroken chain of men and women who have served our country with honor and distinction. On Veterans Day, we show them our deepest thanks. Their sacrifices have helped secure more than two centuries of American progress, and their legacy affirms that no matter what confronts us or what trials we face, there is no challenge we cannot overcome, and our best days are still ahead.

This year, we marked the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. We began to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. We welcomed our veterans back home from Iraq, and we continued to wind down operations in Afghanistan. These milestones remind us that, though much has changed since Americans first took up arms to advance freedom’s cause, the spirit that moved our forebears is the same spirit that has defined each generation of our service members. Our men and women in uniform have taught us about strength, duty, devotion, resolve — cornerstones of a commitment to protect and defend that has kept our country safe for over 200 years. In war and in peace, their service has been selfless and their accomplishments have been extraordinary.

Even after our veterans take off the uniform, they never stop serving. Many apply the skills and experience they developed on the battlefield to a life of service here at home. They take on roles in their communities as doctors and police officers, engineers and entrepreneurs, mothers and fathers. As a grateful Nation, it is our task to make that transition possible — to ensure our returning heroes can share in the opportunities they have given so much to defend. The freedoms we cherish endure because of their service and sacrifice, and our country must strive to honor our veterans by fulfilling our responsibilities to them and upholding the sacred trust we share with all who have served.

On days like this, we are called to reflect on immeasurable burdens that have been borne by so few. We pay tribute to our wounded, our missing, our fallen, and their families — men and women who have known the true costs of conflict and deserve our deepest respect, now and forever. We also remember that our commitments to those who have served are commitments we must honor not only on Veterans Day, but every day. As we do so, let us reaffirm our promise that when our troops finish their tours of duty, they come home to an America that gives them the benefits they have earned, the care they deserve, and the fullest opportunity to keep their families strong and our country moving forward.

With respect for and in recognition of the contributions our service members have made to the cause of peace and freedom around the world, the Congress has provided (5 U.S.C. 6103(a)) that November 11 of each year shall be set aside as a legal public holiday to honor our Nation’s veterans.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim November 11, 2012, as Veterans Day. I encourage all Americans to recognize the valor and sacrifice of our veterans through appropriate public ceremonies and private prayers. I call upon Federal, State, and local officials to display the flag of the United States and to participate in patriotic activities in their communities. I call on all Americans, including civic and fraternal organizations, places of worship, schools, and communities to support this day with commemorative expressions and programs.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this seventh day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.

BARACK OBAMA

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