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Obama Delivers State of the Union Address

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President Barack Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union last Tuesday, Jan. 28. His address covered topics ranging from immigration to America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, from retirement for the middle class to education reform.

The speech, which lasted more than an hour, was directed to the American public as he used a teacher, an entrepreneur, autoworker, farmer, and doctor, among other examples, as an effort to credit American citizens for what Obama dubbed  will be “a breakthrough year for America.”

Obama also credited both Democrats and Republicans for producing a budget to counteract severe governmental cuts that affected education and employment last year, but stated that many Americans are still working just to get by, if they are employed at all.

Part of the president’s agenda for 2014 is to reverse the elimination of middle-class jobs. He cited First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! partnership with schools and The Joining Forces alliance as examples of “moving forward,” and as inspiration for the White House’s College Opportunity Summit that calls for universities, businesses and nonprofits to commit to reduce inequality in accessing higher education.

The president then discussed tax reform, citing it as a way to in-source jobs as opposed to hiring overseas, and noted that the U.S. has “the chance, right now, to beat other countries in the race for the next wave of high-tech manufacturing jobs.” According to Obama, six “hubs for high-tech manufacturing” where businesses will be connected to research universities will be launched this year.

In accordance with employment rates and his focus on innovation, the president then discussed what many may consider an elephant in the room of American politics: energy conservation.

Obama stated that America is closer to energy independence than it has been in decades, especially because of natural gas, and plans to help businesses invest “almost $100 billion” in new factories that use natural gas, but claimed that solar energy is what will help prevent jobs from being outsourced.

“Let’s continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don’t need it, so that we can invest more in fuels of the future that do,” the president said.

President Obama then segued to unemployment insurance reform stating that Congress “needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people.” He also addressed CEOs to give long-term unemployed workers “a fair shot at a new job.”

Education reform was then discussed at length, as well as women in the workforce, in which the president stated his plan for twenty million students to have access to high-speed broadband internet without adding to the current deficit; he also called on Congress and businesses “to give every woman the opportunity she deserves.”

Retirement was also covered in the speech. The president said he will direct the Treasury to create MyRA, a savings bond to encourage nest eggs, tying back to his encouragement of tax reform. The president stated that every American should be offered access to an automatic IRA on the job, and that legislation should protect taxpayers from “footing the bill for a housing crisis every again.”

Lastly, the president addressed financial security, stating that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has given coverage to “more than 3 million Americans under age 26 under their parents’ plans.” President Obama said he doesn’t expect to convince Republicans of the ACA’s merits and called on them to “see if the numbers add up” if they wish to cut costs or cover more people.

The conclusion of President Obama’s speech discussed American citizenship in terms of voting, where he mentioned gun control and Sandy Hook. He then stated after 2014, America will support a unified Afghanistan that will take responsibility for its own future.

“For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed,” the president said.

President Obama said if Congress sends him a new sanctions bill that could derail negotiations to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, he will veto it.

The president then closed with a recap of his main points, telling his audience to “expand the possibilities of individual achievement, to free other nations from tyranny and fear; to promote justice, and fairness, and equality under the law, so that the words set to paper by our founders are made real for every citizen.”

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