That determination means ensuring children get the best education possible "not only because we need to give every child a chance to fulfill her God-given potential, but because we need to make sure American workers can go head-to-head with every other country on Earth," Obama said during a tour of Orion Energy Systems in Manitowoc, Wis., repeating a key element of his State of the Union address delivered Tuesday evening before a joint session of Congress.
The United States must be determined to make sure the nation's infrastructure can meet the demands of the 21st century by repairing decrepit roadways and connecting America and the American people with high-speed rail and high-speed Internet, he said.
Determination also means "doing what we try to do in our own lives and taking responsibility for our deficits by cutting wasteful, excessive spending wherever we find it," Obama said. "And it means reforming the way our government does business so it's efficient and responsive to the needs of Americans rather than a cobbled-together relic of an earlier era."
The president said he came to Manitowoc "to glimpse that future," noting that a chunk of the Soviet Union's Sputnik space capsule fell in the community 50 years ago at the start of the U.S.-Soviet Union space race, and to say "it's here in Manitowoc that the race for the 21st Century will be won."
Manitowoc, he said, reinvented itself after one of the city's largest employers moved its operation abroad in 2003, shaking the community.
"Fast forward to 2011, and new manufacturing plants -- and new hopes -- are taking root," Obama said at the first of three stops at clean energy firms, including Skana Aluminum Co., an aluminum manufacturer and rolling mill, and Tower Tech Systems, a wind turbine tower manufacturer.
The country must get behind entrepreneurs, clean energy companies and innovation, the president said, because "that's how we'll meet the goal I set last night and make sure 80 percent of America's electricity comes from clean energy sources by 2035."
Obama repeated his belief that the nation leading the world in clean energy will lead the global economy in the 21st century.
"Here in America, we play to win," Obama said in closing. "And if entrepreneurs like Neal (Verfuerth, Orion Energy Systems chief executive officer) keep sticking with it, and small businesses like Orion keep breaking new ground; and if we, as a country, continue to invest in you, then I'm absolutely confident America will win the future in this century as we did in the last."