President Barack Obama gave his final State of the Union address Jan. 12, which White House officials said would be less traditional than past speeches, and the president touched on four major issues, including economic recovery, global climate change, keeping the country safe from terrorist threats, and fixing the country’s broken political system.
President Obama touted the creation of over 14 million new jobs and 900,000 manufacturing jobs as successes during his presidency, and also said he’s cut the country’s deficits by over 75 percent.
“We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private sector job creation in history,” Obama stated. “More than 14 million new jobs, the strongest two years of job growth since the ‘90s, an unemployment rate cut in half. Our auto industry just had its best year ever. That’s just part of a manufacturing surge that’s created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years. And we’ve done all this, while cutting our deficits by almost three-quarters.”
The president also mentioned the nation’s potential to become a leader in the area of climate change, and to capitalize on the opportunity to create clean energy sources, whether or not Republicans believe the problem actually exists.
“Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it,” Obama stated. “You will be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem, and intend to solve it. But even if – even if the planet wasn’t at stake; even if 2014 wasn’t the warmest year on record, until 2015 turned out to be even hotter, why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce, and sell, the energy of the future?”
He also spoke about confronting threats from the terrorist group ISIL, and refuted the calls from some Republicans, likely pointing a finger at Donald Trump, that we should classify all Muslims as being a threat from the Islamic state.
“His Holiness, Pope Francis, told this body, from the very spot that I’m standing on tonight, that ‘to imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place,’” the president stated. “When politicians insult Muslims, whether abroad or our fellow citizens; when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid is called names, that doesn’t make us safer. That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. It betrays who we are as a country.”
Yet, despite the successes of his administration he mentioned during his address, Obama said his only regret was that he hadn’t achieved more bi-partisanship.
“It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency, that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better,” he stated. “I have no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.”
Obama said he also pledged to create an effort to cure cancer, which he said would be spearheaded by Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden’s son, Beau Biden, passed away from the disease last year.
“Last year, Vice President Biden said that, with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer,” the president stated. “Last month, he worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources that they’ve had in over a decade. So tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done. I’m putting Joe in charge of mission control.”
Obama also highlighted his nuclear deal with Iran, and the country’s renewed relationship with Cuba as additional successes of his administration.
The State of the Union will likely be one of the president’s final, major speeches, aside from an address later this year at the Democratic National Convention.
Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina gave the Republicans’ rebuttal to the speech, and cited an agenda in contrast to the president’s plans.
“As he enters his final year in office, many Americans are still feeling the squeeze of an economy too weak to raise income levels,” Haley stated. “Even worse, we are facing the most dangerous terrorist threat our nation has seen since Sept. 11, and this president appears either unwilling, or unable, to deal with it.”
“If we held the White House, taxes would be lower, spending slowed, and the military strengthened,” she said.
View the president’s full address at https://www.whitehouse.gov/sotu.
View the Republicans’ response at http://sotu.gop.gov//.