Obama focuses on education in State of the Union

In his annual State of the Union address to the American public, President Barack Obama focused his attention on current political issues ranging from foreign policy, to the economy, to education.

President Obama began his address by speaking about Iraq. “For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country.” He continued to praise America’s military, honoring their commitment to the virtues of courage, selflessness, and teamwork.

The president then turned toward the future stability of the United State and the promise of America. “If you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement. The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important.”

The speech shifted toward both the economy and the current employment situation. “In the six months before I took office, we lost nearly 4 million jobs, and we lost another 4 million before our policies were in full effect,” said Obama, addressing the fact that the economy has added 3 million jobs in the past 22 months. He then proposed to get rid of red tape to help create more jobs, speaking of how there was once a regulation that forced some dairy farmers to prove that they could contain a milk spill. It cost some of them $10,000 a year to meet this regulation.

The president then discussed taxes for the wealthiest Americans, “Right now, we’re poised to spend nearly $1 trillion more on what was supposed to be a temporary tax break for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. Right now, because of loopholes and shelters in the tax code, a quarter of all millionaires pay lower tax rates than millions of middle-class households. Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. Do we want to keep these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans? Or do we want to keep our investments in everything else like education and medical research; a strong military and care for our veterans? Because if we’re serious about paying down our debt, we can’t do both.”

Concerning education, President Obama told the story of Jackie Bray, a single mom who was laid off during the recession. A partnership between a local business and a community college allowed her to attend Central Piedmont Community College where she received the training she required to earn a job at a Siemens Energy plant. In response, the President proposed a national commitment to providing job-based skills to 2 million Americans.

Continuing with the classroom, Obama said, “Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let’s offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. And in return, grant schools flexibility to teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.”

He further proposed that all states require students to stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18. As far as post-secondary education, the president called on the federal government, state governments, and universities in solving the problem of rising tuition. He supported extending the federal tuition tax credit, encouraged states to spend more money on higher education, and encouraged colleges and universities to work at keeping their costs down.

The president also addressed the partisan gridlock in Congress. He offered to continue the momentum of the work they have accomplished by working with anyone in the chamber, but promised to fight obstruction with action.

President Obama ended his speech as he started, speaking about foreign policy. He spoke of winding down the war in Afghanistan, strengthening alliances, and his stance on Iran. “Let there be no doubt,” he said, “America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal. But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better, and if Iran changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the community of nations.” said Obama.

He ended by praising Seal Team 6, the special forces team who assassinated Osama bin Laden, and concluding that “as long as we are joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, and our future is hopeful, and the state of our Union will always be strong. Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.”

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