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Obama Adds Edge to Unify Nation in State of the Union Address

By Michael Higgs
On January 27, 2012

  • What's at stake are not Democratic values or Republican values, but American values, President Obama said in his speech. We have to reclaim them. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

With his assertive tone and presence, President Obama attempted to erase any doubts of his ability to lead the country during his State of the Union address on Tuesday night.

The president did not dance round the elephant in the room — the heated tension between political parties that he says is holding up progress. He affirmed his anger with Congress and acknowledged the "cynical" feeling of some Americans because of the lack of cooperation in government.

"I recognize that people watching tonight have differing views about taxes and debt; energy and health care," the president acknowledged. "But no matter what party they belong to, I bet most Americans are thinking the same thing right now: Nothing will get done this year or next year or maybe even the year after that, because Washington is broken. Can you blame them for feeling a little bit cynical?"

A Unified America

Obama's State of the Union address marks a pivotal time for many Americans who are worried about their future and quality of living. The economy is still down, the housing market has not had the jump many predicted and unemployment hovers at above 8 percent.

To tap into the emotions of the people, Obama spoke candidly about a unified America. At the forefront of his agenda is preserving the American dream, something with which the 98 percent of Americans who make less the $250,000 can relate.

"The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive," Obama said. "No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important."

"We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same set of rules. What's at stake are not Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. We have to reclaim them."

Blueprint for a Healthier Economy

Obama laid out his blueprint for a healthier economy. "This blueprint begins with American manufacturing," he said. "We have a huge opportunity, at this moment, to bring, manufacturing back. But we have to seize it."

Manufacturing is just one area Obama wants to revamp to stimulate the economy. He demanded change in the American tax code for businesses and wealthy individuals.

"My message is simple," Obama declared. "It's time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America."

"Send me these tax reforms, and I'll sign them right away," he said. "Tear down regulations that prevent aspiring entrepreneurs from getting the financing to grow. Expand tax relief to small businesses that are raising wages and creating good jobs. Both parties can agree on these ideas. So put them in a bill, and get it on my desk this year."

Screening With White House Aide and Political Leaders

No one was more pleased at President Barack Obama than some of the local elected officials, business representatives, civil rights activists, community leaders and educators present for a screening of his address at the Joint Center for Political and Economics Studies in downtown Washington.

Michael Strautmanis, Chief of Staff to the Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison, spoke briefly about what to expect and the administration's desire for feedback.

When the president finally too the podium all eyes were glued to the screen as Obama laid down the law for a stubborn Congress and a skeptical public. Like many in attendance, Paula Jackson, vice president of operations at the American Association of Blacks in Energy, saw the address as Obama's moment to set the tone for his re-election campaign.

"I'm definitely interested to see where Obama goes from here," Jackson said. "He has created a massive body of work, but has yet to deliver fixing the economy. I'm just excited to see what type of address the president will have to what his critics have negatively attributed to him."

Fired-Up Supporters

For Obama's supporters, his speech was a great stride in the right direction and he constructed a clear, prosperous future.

Obama fired up his Democratic base and won over Independent voters with his address. He did not just tell them what they wanted to hear, but he also outlined and proposed many policies that could significantly affect the United States in the future.

He mandated that banks and financial institutions write out a "living will" to detail how they would pay for their bills if they fail. He also called for the creation of a Trade Enforcement Unit, whose purpose would be to investigate unfair trading practices and prevent unsafe goods from crossing U.S. borders.

Obama came across as ambitious as he was when he first started campaigning for president back in early 2008. He attempted to place the ball in the Republican hopefuls' court and to shift the attention off himself for the time being in preparation for the 2012 presidential elections.

Read the full text of President Obama's speech, or watch it below.


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