State of the Union: 'America Built to Last'

Jan. 24, 2012 at 9:36 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- President Obama, in what could be his last State of the Union address, told lawmakers and citizens Tuesday his vision for an America "built to last."

Obama, speaking before a joint session of Congress, spoke of what he wants to do to help jump-start the economy, improve the job numbers and create a sense of fairness for all Americans, as well as his goals for energy and the environment, foreign policy and the military.

Receiving warm applause and a lengthy standing ovation was Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was wounded in the head a year ago during a shooting spree at a meet-and-greet outside a Tucson grocery store that left six people dead and 13 injured. After announcing she was resigning, effective Wednesday, to focus on her rehabilitation, Giffords returned to Washington to attend her last State of the Union address.

As he entered to give his address, Obama stopped in front of Giffords and gave her a hug. Her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, was a guest of first lady Michelle Obama.

Five of the nine Supreme Court justices attended the address.

"The state of our union is getting stronger," Obama said. "And we've come too far to turn back now. As long as I'm president, I will work with anyone in this chamber to build on this momentum. But I intend to fight obstruction with action, and I will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place."

He asked his listeners to think about the "America within our reach: A country that leads the world in educating its people. An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs. A future where we're in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren't so tied to unstable parts of the world. An economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded."

The country can accomplish this, he said, "because we've done it before."

Obama noted he, lawmakers and other dignitaries gathered that the U.S. military "has made the United States safer and more respected around the world. For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq."

He received a standing ovation when he said, "For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country."

The achievements achieved by the U.S. military is a testament to its "the courage, selflessness, and teamwork. … At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations. They're not consumed with personal ambition. They don't obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together."

He spoke of his grandparents as examples of those who could share "the basic American promise that 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," Obama said, to a round of applause. "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."

He said the United States won't return to an economy sapped by "outsourcing, bad debt and phony financial profits."

He said a U.S. economy that's "built to last" will be built on manufacturing, energy, a skilled workforce and "a renewal of American values."

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