President Obama delivered his second official State of the Union address to the nation last night, telling Americans the worst of the economic downturn is over, making now the time to rebuild and reinvest.
State of the Union speeches are generally heavy on domestic priorities. It’s the president’s opportunity to tell Americans what initiatives he wants the country to undertake, and what goals he wants the country to achieve. In his speech, President Obama focused largely on education, innovation, and fiscal responsibility. He reminded Americans that they “do big things,” and are “poised for progress.”
He set goals for the United States, including:
- By 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources
- By the end of the decade, have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world
- Within 25 years, give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail
- Lower the corporate tax rate without adding to our deficit
But along with the upbeat outlook and talk of past and future American success, President Obama also acknowledged the difficult realities facing Americans in the 21st Century. “The world has changed,” he said, “And for many, the change has been painful.” He spoke of changes in manufacturing needs, technology, and global competition, all of which have left some Americans feeling as though “the rules have been changed in the middle of the game.” He added, “They’re right. The rules have changed”
The speech focused on domestic issues, but it was not without reference to foreign policy and foreign events. The president touched on shrinking safe havens for al Qaeda in Pakistan, the New START treaty between the U.S. and Russia, cooperation among nations to place tougher sanctions on Iran, U.S. involvement in NATO, as well as recent democratic movements in south Sudan and Tunisia. He also announced he will travel to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador this March.
Despite the changes and the challenges Americans have seen and are facing, President Obama was optimistic about the future of the United States. He assured Americans that the United States is not in decline as many have predicted, but that the country’s talented citizens, free society, and democratic traditions will ensure a strong future. He ended his speech with the traditional declaration: “The State of our Union is strong.”