[House Document 111-80]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]




111th Congress,  - - - - - - - - - - - House Document 111-80
2d Session


 
                       STATE OF THE UNION MESSAGE

                               __________

                                MESSAGE

                                  from

                     THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

                              transmitting

THE PRESIDENT'S ADDRESS BEFORE A JOINT SESSION OF CONGRESS ON THE STATE 
                              OF THE UNION




  January 29, 2010.--Message and accompanying papers referred to the 
 Committee on the Whole House on the State of the Union and ordered to 
                               be printed
To the Congress of the United States:
    Madam Speaker, Vice President Biden, Members of Congress, 
distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:
    Our Constitution declares that from time to time, the 
President shall give to Congress information about the state of 
our Union. For 220 years, our leaders have fulfilled this duty. 
They have done so during periods of prosperity and tranquility. 
And they have done so in the midst of war and depression; at 
moments of great strife and great struggle.
    It's tempting to look back on these moments and assume that 
our progress was inevitable--that America was always destined 
to succeed. But when the Union was turned back at Bull Run and 
the Allies first landed at Omaha Beach, victory was very much 
in doubt. When the market crashed on Black Tuesday and civil 
rights marchers were beaten on Bloody Sunday, the future was 
anything but certain. These were times that tested the courage 
of our convictions, and the strength of our Union. And despite 
all our divisions and disagreements; our hesitations and our 
fears; America prevailed because we chose to move forward as 
one Nation, and one people.
    Again, we are tested. And again, we must answer history's 
call.
    One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economy 
rocked by severe recession, a financial system on the verge of 
collapse, and a Government deeply in debt. Experts from across 
the political spectrum warned that if we did not act, we might 
face a second depression. So we acted--immediately and 
aggressively. And 1 year later, the worst of the storm has 
passed.
    But the devastation remains. One in ten Americans still 
cannot find work. Many businesses have shuttered. Home values 
have declined. Small towns and rural communities have been hit 
especially hard. For those who had already known poverty, life 
became that much harder.
    This recession has also compounded the burdens that 
America's families have been dealing with for decades--the 
burden of working harder and longer for less; of being unable 
to save enough to retire or help kids with college.
    So I know the anxieties that are out there right now. 
They're not new. These struggles are the reason I ran for 
President. These struggles are what I've witnessed for years in 
places like Elkhart, Indiana and Galesburg, Illinois. I hear 
about them in the letters that I read each night. The toughest 
to read are those written by children--asking why they have to 
move from their home, or when their mom or dad will be able to 
go back to work.
    For these Americans and so many others, change has not come 
fast enough. Some are frustrated; some are angry. They don't 
understand why it seems like bad behavior on Wall Street is 
rewarded but hard work on Main Street isn't; or why Washington 
has been unable or unwilling to solve any of our problems. They 
are tired of the partisanship and the shouting and the 
pettiness. They know we can't afford it. Not now.
    So we face big and difficult challenges. And what the 
American people hope--what they deserve--is for all of us, 
Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences; to 
overcome the numbing weight of our politics. For while the 
people who sent us here have different backgrounds, different 
stories and different beliefs, the anxieties they face are the 
same. The aspirations they hold are shared. A job that pays the 
bills. A chance to get ahead. Most of all, the ability to give 
their children a better life.
    You know what else they share? They share a stubborn 
resilience in the face of adversity. After one of the most 
difficult years in our history, they remain busy building cars 
and teaching kids; starting businesses and going back to 
school. They're coaching little league and helping their 
neighbors. As one woman wrote me, ``We are strained but 
hopeful, struggling but encouraged.''
    It is because of this spirit--this great decency and great 
strength--that I have never been more hopeful about America's 
future than I am tonight. Despite our hardships, our union is 
strong. We do not give up. We do not quit. We do not allow fear 
or division to break our spirit. In this new decade, it's time 
the American people get a Government that matches their 
decency; that embodies their strength. And tonight, I'd like to 
talk about how together, we can deliver on that promise.
    It begins with our economy.
    Our most urgent task upon taking office was to shore up the 
same banks that helped cause this crisis. It was not easy to 
do. And if there's one thing that has unified Democrats and 
Republicans, it's that we all hated the bank bailout. I hated 
it. You hated it. It was about as popular as a root canal.
    But when I ran for President, I promised I wouldn't just do 
what was popular--I would do what was necessary. And if we had 
allowed the meltdown of the financial system, unemployment 
might be double what it is today. More businesses would 
certainly have closed. More homes would have surely been lost.
    So I supported the last Administration's efforts to create 
the financial rescue program. And when we took the program 
over, we made it more transparent and accountable. As a result, 
the markets are now stabilized, and we have recovered most of 
the money we spent on the banks.
    To recover the rest, I have proposed a fee on the biggest 
banks. I know Wall Street isn't keen on this idea, but if these 
firms can afford to hand out big bonuses again, they can afford 
a modest fee to pay back the taxpayers who rescued them in 
their time of need.
    As we stabilized the financial system, we also took steps 
to get our economy growing again, save as many jobs as 
possible, and help Americans who had become unemployed.
    That's why we extended or increased unemployment benefits 
for more than 18 million Americans; made health insurance 65 
percent cheaper for families who get their coverage through 
COBRA; and passed 25 different tax cuts.
    Let me repeat: we cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95 percent of 
working families. We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut 
taxes for first-time homebuyers. We cut taxes for parents 
trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for 8 million 
Americans paying for college. As a result, millions of 
Americans had more to spend on gas, and food, and other 
necessities, all of which helped businesses keep more workers. 
And we haven't raised income taxes by a single dime on a single 
person. Not a single dime.
    Because of the steps we took, there are about two million 
Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed. 
Two hundred thousand work in construction and clean energy. 
Three hundred thousand are teachers and other education 
workers. Tens of thousands are cops, firefighters, correctional 
officers, and first responders. And we are on track to add 
another one and a half million jobs to this total by the end of 
the year.
    The plan that has made all of this possible, from the tax 
cuts to the jobs, is the Recovery Act. That's right--the 
Recovery Act, also known as the Stimulus Bill. Economists on 
the left and the right say that this bill has helped saved jobs 
and avert disaster. But you don't have to take their word for 
it.
    Talk to the small business in Phoenix that's about to 
triple its workforce because of the Recovery Act.
    Talk to the window manufacturer in Philadelphia who said he 
used to be skeptical about the Recovery Act, until he had to 
add two more work shifts just because of the business it 
created.
    Talk to the single teacher raising two kids who was told by 
her principal on the last week of school that because of the 
Recovery Act, she wouldn't be laid off after all.
    There are stories like this all across America. And after 2 
years of recession, the economy is growing again. Retirement 
funds have started to gain back some of their value. Businesses 
are beginning to invest again, and slowly some are starting to 
hire again.
    But I realize that for every success story, there are other 
stories, of men and women who wake up with the anguish of not 
knowing where their next paycheck will come from; who send out 
resumes week after week and hear nothing in response. That is 
why jobs must continue to be our number one focus in 2010. And 
that is why I am calling for a new jobs bill tonight.
    Now, the true engine of job creation in this country will 
always be America's businesses. But Government can create the 
conditions necessary for businesses to expand and hire more 
workers.
    We should start where most new jobs do--in small 
businesses, companies that begin when an entrepreneur takes a 
chance on a dream, or a worker decides it's time she became her 
own boss.
    Through sheer grit and determination, these companies have 
weathered the recession and are ready to grow. But when you 
talk to small business owners in places like Allentown, 
Pennsylvania or Elyria, Ohio, you find out that even though 
banks on Wall Street are lending again, they are mostly lending 
to bigger companies. But financing remains difficult for small 
business owners across the country.
    So tonight, I'm proposing that we take $30 billion of the 
money Wall Street banks have repaid and use it to help 
community banks give small businesses the credit they need to 
stay afloat. I am also proposing a new small business tax 
credit--one that will go to over one million small businesses 
who hire new workers or raise wages. While we're at it, let's 
also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business 
investment; and provide a tax incentive for all businesses, 
large and small, to invest in new plants and equipment.
    Next, we can put Americans to work today building the 
infrastructure of tomorrow. From the first railroads to the 
interstate highway system, our Nation has always been built to 
compete. There's no reason Europe or China should have the 
fastest trains, or the new factories that manufacture clean 
energy products.
    Tomorrow, I'll visit Tampa, Florida, where workers will 
soon break ground on a new high-speed railroad funded by the 
Recovery Act. There are projects like that all across this 
country that will create jobs and help our Nation move goods, 
services, and information. We should put more Americans to work 
building clean energy facilities, and give rebates to Americans 
who make their homes more energy efficient, which supports 
clean energy jobs. And to encourage these and other businesses 
to stay within our borders, it's time to finally slash the tax 
breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas and give those 
tax breaks to companies that create jobs in the United States 
of America.
    The House has passed a jobs bill that includes some of 
these steps. As the first order of business this year, I urge 
the Senate to do the same. People are out of work. They are 
hurting. They need our help. And I want a jobs bill on my desk 
without delay.
    But the truth is, these steps still won't make up for the 
seven million jobs we've lost over the last 2 years. The only 
way to move to full employment is to lay a new foundation for 
long-term economic growth, and finally address the problems 
that America's families have confronted for years.
    We cannot afford another so-called economic ``expansion'' 
like the one from last decade--what some call the ``lost 
decade''--where jobs grew more slowly than during any prior 
expansion; where the income of the average American household 
declined while the cost of health care and tuition reached 
record highs; where prosperity was built on a housing bubble 
and financial speculation.
    From the day I took office, I have been told that 
addressing our larger challenges is too ambitious--that such 
efforts would be too contentious, that our political system is 
too gridlocked, and that we should just put things on hold for 
awhile.
    For those who make these claims, I have one simple 
question:
    How long should we wait? How long should America put its 
future on hold?
    You see, Washington has been telling us to wait for 
decades, even as the problems have grown worse. Meanwhile, 
China's not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany's not 
waiting. India's not waiting. These nations aren't standing 
still. These nations aren't playing for second place. They're 
putting more emphasis on math and science. They're rebuilding 
their infrastructure. They are making serious investments in 
clean energy because they want those jobs.
    I do not accept second-place for the United States of 
America. As hard as it may be, as uncomfortable and contentious 
as the debates may be, it's time to get serious about fixing 
the problems that are hampering our growth.
    One place to start is serious financial reform. Look, I am 
not interested in punishing banks, I'm interested in protecting 
our economy. A strong, healthy financial market makes it 
possible for businesses to access credit and create new jobs. 
It channels the savings of families into investments that raise 
incomes. But that can only happen if we guard against the same 
recklessness that nearly brought down our entire economy.
    We need to make sure consumers and middle-class families 
have the information they need to make financial decisions. We 
can't allow financial institutions, including those that take 
your deposits, to take risks that threaten the whole economy.
    The House has already passed financial reform with many of 
these changes. And the lobbyists are already trying to kill it. 
Well, we cannot let them win this fight. And if the bill that 
ends up on my desk does not meet the test of real reform, I 
will send it back.
    Next, we need to encourage American innovation. Last year, 
we made the largest investment in basic research funding in 
history--an investment that could lead to the world's cheapest 
solar cells or treatment that kills cancer cells but leaves 
healthy ones untouched. And no area is more ripe for such 
innovation than energy. You can already see the results of last 
year's investment in clean energy--in the North Carolina 
company that will create 1,200 jobs making advanced batteries; 
or in the California business that's putting thousands to work 
making solar panels.
    But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more 
production, more efficiency, more incentives. That means 
building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants 
in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening 
new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means 
continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal 
technologies. And yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy 
and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean 
energy the profitable kind of energy in America.
    I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last 
year. This year, I am eager to help advance the bipartisan 
effort in the Senate. I know there have been questions about 
whether we can afford such changes in a tough economy; and I 
know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming 
scientific evidence on climate change. But even if you are a 
doubter, providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean 
energy are the right thing to do for our future--because the 
nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation 
that leads the global economy. And America must be that Nation.
    Third, we need to export more of our goods. Because the 
more products we make and sell to other countries, the more 
jobs we support here in America. So tonight, we set a new goal: 
We will double our exports over the next 5 years, an increase 
that will support two million jobs in America. To help meet 
this goal, we're launching a National Export Initiative that 
will help farmers and small businesses increase their exports, 
and reform export controls consistent with national security.
    We have to seek new markets aggressively, just as our 
competitors are. If America sits on the sidelines while other 
nations sign trade deals, we will lose the chance to create 
jobs on our shores. But realizing those benefits also means 
enforcing those agreements so our trading partners play by the 
rules. And that's why we will continue to shape a Doha trade 
agreement that opens global markets, and why we will strengthen 
our trade relations in Asia and with key partners like South 
Korea, Panama, and Colombia.
    Fourth, we need to invest in the skills and education of 
our people.
    This year, we have broken through the stalemate between 
left and right by launching a national competition to improve 
our schools. The idea here is simple: instead of rewarding 
failure, we only reward success. Instead of funding the status 
quo, we only invest in reform--reform that raises student 
achievement, inspires students to excel in math and science, 
and turns around failing schools that steal the future of too 
many young Americans, from rural communities to inner-cities. 
In the 21st century, one of the best anti-poverty programs is a 
world-class education. We cannot settle for an America where 
the success of our children depends more on their zip code than 
their potential. And when we renew the Elementary and Secondary 
Education Act, we will work with Congress to expand these 
reforms to all 50 states.
    Still, in this economy, a high school diploma no longer 
guarantees a good job. I urge the Senate to follow the House 
and pass a bill that will revitalize our community colleges, 
which are a career pathway to the children of so many working 
families. To make college more affordable, this bill will 
finally end the unwarranted taxpayer-subsidies that go to banks 
for student loans. Instead, let's take that money and give 
families $10,000 for 4 years of college and increase Pell 
Grants. And let's tell another one million students that when 
they graduate, they will be required to pay only ten percent of 
their income on student loans. Because in the United States of 
America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to 
college. And it's time for colleges and universities to get 
serious about cutting their own costs--because they too have a 
responsibility to help solve this problem.
    Now, the price of college tuition is just one of the 
burdens facing the middle-class. That's why last year I asked 
Vice President Biden to chair a task force on Middle-Class 
Families. That's why we're nearly doubling the child care tax 
credit, and making it easier to save for retirement by giving 
every worker access to a retirement account and expanding the 
tax credit for those who start a nest egg. That's why we're 
working to lift the value of a family's single largest 
investment--their home. The steps we took last year to shore up 
the housing market have allowed millions of Americans to take 
out new loans and save an average of $1,500 on mortgage 
payments. This year, we will step up re-financing so that 
homeowners can move into more affordable mortgages.
    And that's why we still need health insurance reform--
because there is no greater long-term burden on middle-class 
families.
    Now let's be clear--I did not choose to tackle this issue 
to get some legislative victory under my belt. And by now it 
should be fairly obvious that I didn't take on health care 
because it was good politics.
    I took on health care because of the stories I've heard 
from Americans with pre-existing conditions whose lives depend 
on getting coverage; patients who've been denied coverage; and 
families--even those with insurance--who are just one illness 
away from financial ruin.
    After nearly a century of trying, we are closer than ever 
to bringing more security to the lives of so many Americans. 
The approach we've taken would protect every American from the 
worst practices of the insurance industry. It would give small 
businesses and uninsured Americans a chance to choose an 
affordable health care plan in a competitive market. It would 
require every insurance plan to cover preventive care. And I 
want to acknowledge our First Lady, Michelle Obama, who this 
year is creating a national movement to tackle the epidemic of 
childhood obesity and make our kids healthier.
    Our approach would preserve the right of Americans who have 
insurance to keep their doctor and their plan. It would reduce 
costs and premiums for families and businesses. And according 
to the Congressional Budget Office--the independent 
organization that both parties have cited as the official 
scorekeeper for Congress--our approach would bring down the 
deficit by as much as $1 trillion over the next two decades.
    Still, this is a complex issue, and the longer it was 
debated, the more skeptical people became. I take my share of 
the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American 
people. And I know that with all the lobbying and horse-
trading, this process left most Americans wondering what's in 
it for them.
    But I also know this problem is not going away. By the time 
I'm finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost 
their health insurance. Millions will lose it this year. Our 
deficit will grow. Premiums will go up. Patients will be denied 
the care they need. Small business owners will continue to drop 
coverage altogether.
    I will not walk away from these Americans. And neither 
should the people in this chamber. As temperatures cool, I want 
everyone to take a second look at the plan we've proposed. 
There's a reason why many doctors, nurses, and health care 
experts across the country consider this approach a vast 
improvement over the status quo. But if anyone from either 
party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, 
bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen 
Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me 
know. Here's what I ask of Congress, though: Do not walk away 
from reform. Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a 
way to come together and finish the job for the American 
people.
    Now, even as health care reform would reduce our deficit, 
it's not enough to dig us out of a massive fiscal hole in which 
we find ourselves. It's a challenge that makes all others that 
much harder to solve, and one that's been subject to a lot of 
political posturing.
    So let me start the discussion of Government spending by 
setting the record straight. At the beginning of the last 
decade, America had a budget surplus of over $200 billion. By 
the time I took office, we had a 1 year deficit of over $1 
trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next 
decade. Most of this was the result of not paying for two wars, 
two tax cuts, and an expensive prescription drug program. On 
top of that, the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion 
hole in our budget. That was before I walked in the door.
    Now if we had taken office in ordinary times, I would have 
liked nothing more than to start bringing down the deficit. But 
we took office amid a crisis, and our efforts to prevent a 
second Depression have added another $1 trillion to our 
national debt.
    I am absolutely convinced that was the right thing to do. 
But families across the country are tightening their belts and 
making tough decisions. The Federal Government should do the 
same. So tonight, I'm proposing specific steps to pay for the 
$1 trillion that it took to rescue the economy last year.
    Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government 
spending for 3 years. Spending related to our national 
security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will not be 
affected. But all other discretionary Government programs will. 
Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to 
invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don't. And if I 
have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will.
    We will continue to go through the budget line by line to 
eliminate programs that we can't afford and don't work. We've 
already identified $20 billion in savings for next year. To 
help working families, we will extend our middle-class tax 
cuts. But at a time of record deficits, we will not continue 
tax cuts for oil companies, investment fund managers, and those 
making over $250,000 a year. We just can't afford it.
    Now, even after paying for what we spent on my watch, we 
will still face the massive deficit we had when I took office. 
More importantly, the cost of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social 
Security will continue to skyrocket. That's why I've called for 
a bipartisan Fiscal Commission, modeled on a proposal by 
Republican Judd Gregg and Democrat Kent Conrad. This can't be 
one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend we solved 
a problem. The Commission will have to provide a specific set 
of solutions by a certain deadline. Yesterday, the Senate 
blocked a bill that would have created this commission. So I 
will issue an executive order that will allow us to go forward, 
because I refuse to pass this problem on to another generation 
of Americans. And when the vote comes tomorrow, the Senate 
should restore the pay-as-you-go law that was a big reason why 
we had record surpluses in the 1990s.
    I know that some in my own party will argue that we cannot 
address the deficit or freeze Government spending when so many 
are still hurting. I agree, which is why this freeze will not 
take effect until next year, when the economy is stronger. But 
understand--if we do not take meaningful steps to rein in our 
debt, it could damage our fragile markets, increase the cost of 
borrowing, and jeopardize our recovery--all of which could have 
an even worse effect on our job growth and family incomes.
    From the right, I expect we'll hear that we should make 
fewer investments in our people, extend tax cuts for wealthier 
Americans, eliminate more regulations, and maintain the status 
quo on health care. The problem is, that's what we did for 8 
years. That's what helped lead us into this crisis. It's what 
helped lead to these deficits. And we cannot do it again.
    Rather than fight the same tired battles that have 
dominated Washington for decades, it's time to try something 
new. Let's invest in our people without leaving them a mountain 
of debt. Let's meet our responsibility to the citizens who sent 
us here. Let's try common sense.
    To do that, we have to recognize that we face more than a 
deficit of dollars right now. We face a deficit of trust--deep 
and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been 
growing for years. To close that credibility gap we must take 
action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to end the outsized 
influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; and to give our 
people the Government they deserve.
    That's what I came to Washington to do. That's why--for the 
first time in history--my Administration posts our White House 
visitors online. And that's why we've excluded lobbyists from 
policy-making jobs or seats on Federal boards and commissions.
    But we can't stop there. It's time to require lobbyists to 
disclose each contact they make on behalf of a client with my 
Administration or Congress. And it's time to put strict limits 
on the contributions that lobbyists give to candidates for 
Federal office. Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century 
of law to open the floodgates for special interests--including 
foreign corporations--to spend without limit in our elections. 
Well, I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by 
America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign 
entities. They should be decided by the American people, and 
that's why I'm urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill 
that helps to right this wrong.
    I'm also calling on Congress to continue down the path of 
earmark reform. You have trimmed some of this spending and 
embraced some meaningful change. But restoring the public trust 
demands more. For example, some members of Congress post some 
earmark requests online. Tonight, I'm calling on Congress to 
publish all earmark requests on a single website before there's 
a vote so that the American people can see how their money is 
being spent.
    Of course, none of these reforms will even happen if we 
don't also reform how we work with one another.
    I am not naive. I never thought the mere fact of my 
election would usher in peace, harmony, and some post-partisan 
era. I knew that both parties have fed divisions that are 
deeply entrenched. And on some issues, there are simply 
philosophical differences that will always cause us to part 
ways. These disagreements, about the role of Government in our 
lives, about our national priorities and our national security, 
have been taking place for over 200 years. They are the very 
essence of our democracy.
    But what frustrates the American people is a Washington 
where every day is Election Day. We cannot wage a perpetual 
campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most 
embarrassing headlines about their opponent--a belief that if 
you lose, I win. Neither party should delay or obstruct every 
single bill just because they can. The confirmation of well-
qualified public servants should not be held hostage to the pet 
projects or grudges of a few individual Senators. Washington 
may think that the vitriol spilled out on cable and talk radio 
is just part of the game; that saying anything about the other 
side, no matter how false, is what it takes to get power. But 
it is precisely such politics that has stopped either party 
from helping the American people. Worse yet, it is sowing 
further division among our citizens and further distrust in our 
Government.
    So no, I will not give up on changing the tone of our 
politics. I know it's an election year. And after last week, it 
is clear that campaign fever has come even earlier than usual. 
But we still need to govern. To Democrats, I would remind you 
that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the 
people expect us to solve some problems, not run for the hills. 
And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 
votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in 
this town, then the responsibility to govern is now yours as 
well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term 
politics, but it's not leadership. We were sent here to serve 
our citizens, not our ambitions. So let's show the American 
people that we can do it together. This week, I'll be 
addressing a meeting of the House Republicans. And I would like 
to begin monthly meetings with both the Democratic and 
Republican leadership. I know you can't wait.
    Throughout our history, no issue has united this country 
more than our security. Sadly, the unity we felt after 9/11 has 
dissipated. We can argue all we want about who's to blame for 
this, but I am not interested in re-litigating the past. I know 
that all of us love this country. All of us are committed to 
its defense. So let's put aside the schoolyard taunts about who 
is tough. Let's reject the false choice between protecting our 
people and upholding our values. Let's leave behind the fear 
and division, and do what it takes to defend our Nation and 
forge a more hopeful future--for America and the world.
    That is the work we began last year. Since the day I took 
office, we have renewed our focus on the terrorists who 
threaten our Nation. We have made substantial investments in 
our homeland security and disrupted plots that threatened to 
take American lives. We are filling unacceptable gaps revealed 
by the failed Christmas attack, with better airline security, 
and swifter action on our intelligence. We have prohibited 
torture and strengthened partnerships from the Pacific to South 
Asia to the Arabian Peninsula. And in the last year, hundreds 
of al Qaeda's fighters and affiliates, including many senior 
leaders, have been captured or killed--far more than in 2008.
    In Afghanistan, we are increasing our troops and training 
Afghan Security Forces so they can begin to take the lead in 
July of 2011, and our troops can begin to come home. We will 
reward good governance, reduce corruption, and support the 
rights of all Afghans--men and women alike. We are joined by 
allies and partners who have increased their own commitment, 
and who will come together tomorrow in London to reaffirm our 
common purpose. There will be difficult days ahead. But I am 
confident we will succeed.
    As we take the fight to al Qaeda, we are responsibly 
leaving Iraq to its people. As a candidate, I promised that I 
would end this war, and that is what I am doing as President. 
We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of 
this August. We will support the Iraqi government as they hold 
elections, and continue to partner with the Iraqi people to 
promote regional peace and prosperity. But make no mistake: 
this war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home.
    Tonight, all of our men and women in uniform--in Iraq, 
Afghanistan, and around the world--must know that they have our 
respect, our gratitude, and our full support. And just as they 
must have the resources they need in war, we all have a 
responsibility to support them when they come home. That is why 
we made the largest increase in investments for veterans in 
decades. That is why we are building a 21st centry VA. And that 
is why Michelle has joined with Jill Biden to forge a national 
commitment to support military families.
    Even as we prosecute two wars, we are also confronting the 
greatest danger to the American people--the threat of nuclear 
weapons. I have embraced the vision of John F. Kennedy and 
Ronald Reagan through a strategy that reverses the spread of 
these weapons, and seeks a world without them. To reduce our 
stockpiles and launchers, while ensuring our deterrent, the 
United States and Russia are completing negotiations on the 
farthest-reaching arms control treaty in nearly two decades. 
And at April's Nuclear Security Summit, we will bring 44 
nations together behind a clear goal: securing all vulnerable 
nuclear materials around the world in 4 years, so that they 
never fall into the hands of terrorists.
    These diplomatic efforts have also strengthened our hand in 
dealing with those nations that insist on violating 
international agreements in pursuit of these weapons. That is 
why North Korea now faces increased isolation, and stronger 
sanctions--sanctions that are being vigorously enforced. That 
is why the international community is more united, and the 
Islamic Republic of Iran is more isolated. And as Iran's 
leaders continue to ignore their obligations, there should be 
no doubt: they, too, will face growing consequences.
    That is the leadership that we are providing--engagement 
that advances the common security and prosperity of all people. 
We are working through the G-20 to sustain a lasting global 
recovery. We are working with Muslim communities around the 
world to promote science, education, and innovation. We have 
gone from a bystander to a leader in the fight against climate 
change. We are helping developing countries to feed themselves, 
and continuing the fight against HIV/AIDS. And we are launching 
a new initiative that will give us the capacity to respond 
faster and more effectively to bio-terrorism or an infectious 
disease--a plan that will counter threats at home, and 
strengthen public health abroad.
    As we have for over 60 years, America takes these actions 
because our destiny is connected to those beyond our shores. 
But we also do it because it is right. That is why, as we meet 
here tonight, over 10,000 Americans are working with many 
nations to help the people of Haiti recover and rebuild. That 
is why we stand with the girl who yearns to go to school in 
Afghanistan; we support the human rights of the women marching 
through the streets of Iran; and we advocate for the young man 
denied a job by corruption in Guinea. For America must stand on 
the side of freedom and human dignity.
    Abroad, America's greatest source of strength is our 
ideals. The same is true at home. We find unity in our 
incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our 
Constitution: that no matter who you are or what you look like, 
if you abide by the law you should be protected by it; if you 
adhere to our common values you should be treated no different 
than anyone else.
    We must carry this promise forward. My Administration has a 
Civil Rights Division that is once again prosecuting civil 
rights violations and employment discrimination. We finally 
strengthened our laws to protect against crimes driven by hate. 
This year, I will work with Congress and our military to 
finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to 
serve the country they love because of who they are. We are 
going to crack down on violations of equal pay laws--so that 
women get equal pay for an equal day's work. And we should 
continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system--to 
secure our borders and enforce our laws so that everyone plays 
by the rules.
    In the end, it is our ideals, our values that built 
America--values that allowed us to forge a Nation made up of 
immigrants from every corner of the globe; values that drive 
our citizens still. Every day, they meet their responsibilities 
to their families and their employers. Time and again, they 
lend a hand to their neighbors and give back to their country. 
They take pride in their labor, and are generous in spirit. 
These aren't Republican values or Democratic values they're 
living by; business values or labor values. They are American 
values.
    Unfortunately, too many of our citizens have lost faith 
that our biggest institutions--our corporations, our media, and 
yes, our Government--still reflect these same values. Each of 
these institutions are full of honorable men and women doing 
important work for the country. But each time a CEO rewards 
himself for failure, or a banker puts the rest of us at risk 
for his own selfish gain, people's doubts grow. Each time 
lobbyists game the system or politicians tear each other down 
instead of lifting this country up, we lose faith. The more 
that TV pundits reduce serious debates into silly arguments, 
and big issues into sound bites, our citizens turn away.
    No wonder there's so much cynicism out there. No wonder 
there's so much disappointment.
    I campaigned on the promise of change--change we can 
believe in, the slogan went. And right now, I know there are 
many Americans who aren't sure if they still believe we can 
change.
    But remember this--I never suggested that change would be 
easy. Democracy in a Nation of three hundred million people can 
be noisy and messy and complicated. And when you try to do big 
things and make big changes, it stirs passions and controversy. 
That's just how it is.
    Of course, those of us in public office can respond to this 
reality by playing it safe and keeping our poll numbers high. 
We can avoid telling hard truths. We can kick hard problems 
down the road. We can do what's necessary to get through the 
next election instead of what's best for the next generation.
    But I also know this: if people had made that decision 50 
years ago or 100 years ago or 200 years ago, we wouldn't be 
here tonight. The only reason we are is because generations of 
Americans were unafraid to do what was hard; to do what was 
needed even when success was uncertain; to do what it took to 
keep the dream of this Nation alive for their children and 
grandchildren.
    Our Administration has had some political setbacks this 
year, and some of them were deserved. But I wake up every day 
knowing that they are nothing compared to the setbacks that 
families all across this country have faced this year. And what 
keeps me going--what keeps me fighting--is that despite all 
these setbacks, that spirit of determination and optimism--that 
fundamental decency that has always been at the core of the 
American people--lives on.
    It lives on in the struggling small business owner who 
wrote to me of his company, ``None of us,'' he said, ``. . . 
are willing to consider, even slightly, that we might fail.''
    It lives on in the woman who said that even though she and 
her neighbors have felt the pain of recession, ``We are strong. 
We are resilient. We are American.''
    It lives on in the 8-year old boy in Louisiana, who just 
sent me his allowance and asked if I would give it to the 
people of Haiti. And it lives on in all the Americans who've 
dropped everything to go some place they've never been and pull 
people they've never known from rubble, prompting chants of 
``U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A!'' when another life was saved.
    The spirit that has sustained this Nation for more than two 
centuries lives on in you, its people. We have finished a 
difficult year. We have come through a difficult decade. But a 
new year has come. A new decade stretches before us. We don't 
quit. I don't quit. Let's seize this moment--to start anew, to 
carry the dream forward, and to strengthen our Union once more.
    Thank you. God Bless You. And God Bless the United States 
of America.
                                                      Barack Obama.
    The White House, January 27, 2010.