President Barack Obama Weekly Address January 30, 2016 (Video/Transcript)

Barack Obama Weekly Address
The White House
January 30, 2016
Hi everybody.  As I said in my State of the Union address, we live in a time of extraordinary change – change that’s affecting the way we live and the way we work. New technology replaces any job where work can be automated.  Workers need more skills to get ahead.  These changes aren’t new, and they’re only going to accelerate.  So the question we have to ask ourselves is, “How can we make sure everyone has a fair shot at success in this new economy?”

The answer to that question starts with education. That’s why my Administration has encouraged states to raise standards.  We’ve cut the digital divide in our classrooms in half.  We’ve worked with Congress to pass a bipartisan bill to set the expectation that every student should graduate from high school ready for college and a good job.  And thanks to the hard work of students, teachers, and parents across the country, our high school graduation rate is at an all-time high.

Now we have to make sure all our kids are equipped for the jobs of the future – which means not just being able to work with computers, but developing the analytical and coding skills to power our innovation economy.  Today’s auto mechanics aren’t just sliding under cars to change the oil; they’re working on machines that run on as many as 100 million lines of code.  That’s 100 times more than the Space Shuttle.  Nurses are analyzing data and managing electronic health records.  Machinists are writing computer programs.  And workers of all kinds need to be able to figure out how to break a big problem into smaller pieces and identify the right steps to solve it.

In the new economy, computer science isn’t an optional skill – it’s a basic skill, right along with the three “Rs.”  Nine out of ten parents want it taught at their children’s schools.  Yet right now, only about a quarter of our K through 12 schools offer computer science.  Twenty-two states don’t even allow it to count toward a diploma.

So I’ve got a plan to help make sure all our kids get an opportunity to learn computer science, especially girls and minorities.  It’s called Computer Science For All.  And it means just what it says – giving every student in America an early start at learning the skills they’ll need to get ahead in the new economy.

First, I’m asking Congress to provide funding over the next three years so that our elementary, middle, and high schools can provide opportunities to learn computer science for all students.

Second, starting this year, we’re leveraging existing resources at the National Science Foundation and the Corporation for National and Community Service to train more great teachers for these courses.
And third, I’ll be pulling together governors, mayors, business leaders, and tech entrepreneurs to join the growing bipartisan movement around this cause.  Americans of all kinds – from the Spanish teacher in Queens who added programming to her classes to the young woman in New Orleans who worked with her Police Chief to learn code and share more data with the community – are getting involved to help young people learn these skills.  And just today, states like Delaware and Hawaii, companies like Google and SalesForce, and organizations like have made commitments to help more of our kids learn these skills.

That’s what this is all about – each of us doing our part to make sure all our young people can compete in a high-tech, global economy.  They’re the ones who will make sure America keeps growing, keeps innovating, and keeps leading the world in the years ahead.  And they’re the reason I’ve never been more confident about our future.

Thanks everybody, and have a great weekend.


How the GOP’s dishonesty led to the rise of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz

Opinion writer
To understand why the current conservative crack-up so confounds the Republican establishment, you have to recognize that the party is facing two separate but simultaneous revolts: one led by Ted Cruz, the other by Donald Trump.

The first is well described by E.J. Dionne Jr. in his important new book, “Why the Right Went Wrong.” For six decades, he explains, conservatives promised their voters that they were going to roll back big government. In the 1950s and early ’60s, they ran against the New Deal (Social Security). Then they railed against the Great Society (Medicare). Today it is Obamacare.

But they never actually did anything. Despite nominating Goldwater and electing Nixon, Reagan and two Bushes, despite a congressional revolution led by Newt Gingrich, these programs endured, and new ones were created.

The simple reason for this is that while Americans might oppose the welfare state in theory, in practice they like it. And the bulk of government spending is on the middle class, not the poor. Social Security and Medicare take up more than twice as much of the federal budget as all non-defense discretionary spending . One middle-class tax exemption — for employer-based health care — costs the federal government more than three times the total for the food stamp program.

Whatever the reality, Republicans kept promising something to their base but never delivered. This has led to what Dionne calls the “great betrayal.” Party activists are enraged, feel hoodwinked and view those in Washington as a bunch of corrupt compromisers. They want someone who will finally deliver on the promise of repeal and rollback.

Enter Cruz. How did a first-term senator, despised within his party both in Washington and Texas, get so far so fast? By promising to take on the party elites and finally throttle big government. Cruz has said that he will repeal Obamacare, abolish the IRS and propose a constitutional amendment to balance the budget — which would mean hundreds of billions of dollars in spending cuts.

Trump’s supporters, on the other hand, are old-fashioned economic liberals. In a powerful analysis, drawing on recent survey data from the Rand Corp., Michael Tesler shows that the Trump voter is very different from the Cruz voter. “Cruz outperforms Trump by about 15 percentage points among the most economically conservative Republicans,” he writes. “But Cruz loses to Trump by over 30 points among the quarter of Republicans who hold progressive positions on health care, taxes, the minimum wage and unions.” Trump is well aware of this fact, which explains why he has said repeatedly he won’t touch Social Security or Medicare, spoke fondly of the Canadian single-payer system, denounces high chief executive salaries, promises to build infrastructure and opposes free-trade deals.

Trump’s voters reflect an entirely different revolt. Since the 1960s, some members of the United States’ white middle and working classes have felt uncomfortable with the changes afoot in the country. They were uneasy with the social revolutions of the 1960s, dismayed by black protests and urban violence, and enraged by the increasing tide of immigrants, many of them Hispanic. In recent years, they have expressed hostility toward Muslims. It is this group of Americans — many of them registered Democrats and independents — who make up the core of support for Trump. (Obviously there are overlaps between the two candidates’ supporters, but the divergences are striking.)

In his analysis, Tesler shows that, statistically, “Trump performs best among Americans who express more resentment toward African Americans and immigrants and who tend to evaluate whites more favorably than minority groups.” The New York Times’s Nate Cohn points out that Trump’s support geographically is almost the opposite of that of the last major populist businessman to run for president, Ross Perot. Perot did well in the West and New England, but poorly in the South and industrial North. Trump’s support follows a different but familiar pattern. Cohn writes: “It is similar to a map of the tendency toward racism by region.” To be clear, many people back Trump for reasons entirely unrelated to race, religion or ethnicity, but the correlations shown by scholars are striking.

Could these revolts have been prevented? Perhaps, if the Republican Party had been honest with its voters and explained that the welfare state was here to stay, that free markets need government regulation, and that the empowerment of minorities and women was inevitable and beneficial. Its role was to manage these changes so that they develop organically, are not excessive and preserve enduring American values. But that is the role for a party that is genuinely conservative, rather than radical.


Why we fight about Iran

source: VOX

The debates are so vicious because they're not really about Iran — they're about much deeper disputes.


President Barack Obama Weekly Address January 23, 2016 (Video/Transcript)

President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
January 23, 2016
Hi, everybody.  When I took office seven years ago this week, more than 15% of Americans went without health insurance.  For folks who did have coverage, insurance companies could deny you coverage or charge you more just because you’d been sick.  And too many Americans gave up their dreams of changing jobs or going back to school because they couldn’t risk giving up their employer-based insurance plan.

We’ve changed that.  As the Affordable Care Act has taken effect, nearly 18 million Americans have gained coverage.  In fact, for the first time ever, more than 90 percent of Americans are covered.  Up to 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied coverage or be charged more just because they’ve been sick.  137 million Americans with private insurance are now guaranteed preventive care coverage.  We’ve done all this while cutting our deficits and keeping health care inflation to its lowest levels in fifty years.  And we’ve begun filling the gaps in employer-based care so that when we change jobs, lose a job, go back to school, or start that new business, we can still get coverage.

If you want to know how important that is, just ask an American like Heather Bragg.

Heather’s a small business owner in Bluffton, South Carolina.  Last year, she wrote me a letter and told me how, for years, her family had depended on her husband’s job for their insurance.  But thanks to the Affordable Care Act, her husband Mike had the freedom to switch jobs and join Heather at the small business she’d launched a few years ago.

Through the Health Insurance Marketplace, they found better coverage that actually saved them hundreds of dollars a month.  Today, Heather only pays about ten dollars for the asthma inhaler she needs.   “For the first time,” Heather wrote, “we’re not living paycheck to paycheck; we’re able to pay our bills and put some money back into savings.”  And because Mike doesn’t have to work nights or weekends anymore, he can coach their son’s soccer team and tuck the kids in at night.  And you can’t put a price on something like that.

If you haven’t looked at your new coverage options, you’ve still got time to get covered on the Health Insurance Marketplace for 2016.  You have until January 31 – next Sunday – to enroll.  Just go to,, or call 1-800-318-2596.  Most folks buying a plan on the Marketplace can find an option that costs less than $75 a month.  Even if you already have insurance, take a few minutes to shop around.  In fact, consumers who switched to a new plan for 2016 ended up saving an average of more than $500.

That’s what the Affordable Care Act did.  This is health care in America today.  Affordable, portable security for you and your loved ones.  It’s making a difference for millions of Americans every day.

 And it’s only going to get better.  Thanks, and have a great weekend. 


Calling in Kallstadt: A Visit to Donald Trump's Ancestral Home

Source: Der Spiegel

 The village of Kallstadt is famous in Germany for its local specialty, stuffed pork belly. It's also the place that Donald Trump's grandfather called home before emigrating to America. Locals are ambivalent about the man's politics and his bid for the presidency.

 America might be a different place today were it not for the village of Kallstadt in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. It's a sleepy place located west of Mannheim amidst vineyard-covered hills. A church rises in the center, surrounded by a few pubs and red gabled roofs. The local bakery closes early in the afternoon.

About 1,200 people call Kallstadt home. Residents like to make merry and they are proud of their local culinary specialty, Saumagen, stuffed pork belly. It's former Chancellor Helmut Kohl's favorite dish and it's said that he often came here to buy it. But are locals proud of their most famous family? After all, the village is the ancestral home of the Trumps.

"My father is Donald Trump's third cousin," says Bernd Weisenborn, with a broad grin planted on his face. The 54-year-old is standing in the courtyard of his restaurant.

An icy January wind blows through the village's narrow streets, but Weisenborn is in short sleeves. He has blond hair, strong hands and his glasses dangle from his neck.

 He doesn't know that much about his ancestors, Weisenborn, a vintner, grumbles. He says his father used to talk every now and then about the old Trumps, but otherwise it wasn't something that came up very often.

Weisenborn says he doesn't care how close his bloodlines are with Trump, the billionaire real estate mogul currently vying for the White House with his hardline rhetoric.

Obviously it's something special if a famous person shares roots from the same place you come from, he says. But would he like to meet Trump? "I would if the opportunity arose," Weisenborn says. And what about having Trump as a visitor here in Kallstadt? "I wouldn't mind at all," he adds. But when asked about Trump's current campaign, Weisenborn is decidedly less enthusiastic.

Trump, who is currently stirring up sentiment against foreigners in the US, is himself the product of immigration -- a history that leads back to 1885. That's the year people here claim Donald Trump's grandfather Friedrich, packed his bags and departed rather suddenly for America. Friedrich was 16 at the time. Upon arrival, he first worked in New York as a barber and later managed a hotel on the West Coast before opening a bar for gold prospectors in the Yukon. Friedrich bought property in Manhattan with the money he earned. The sites where Trump's flashy towers are located today were dirt cheap back then.

But Friedrich Trump then returned to Germany, where he married Elisabeth, who lived next door.

Elisabeth wanted to remain in Kallstadt, but Friedrich wasn't allowed to. The Kingdom of Bavaria, which controlled Palatinate at the time, declared that Friedrich had forfeited his citizenship by emigrating. 
So the young couple sailed to the United States where, after a few years, Trump died. In order to provide for her children, Elisabeth founded the E. Trump & Son company, the foundations of what would later become a real estate empire.

"That's the house," says Romy Feuerbach, pointing to a modest building where Trump's ancestors lived. A deep-blue sign at the entry gate reads, "God sees everything, but my neighbor sees even more."

Feuerbach is a senior official in town. Her purple-rimmed glasses darken in the sun. When she talks about Kallstadt, the town's florists, the different organizations, she smiles. "This is still the kind of village where everyone looks out for each other," Feuerbach says. When the subject of Donald Trump is raised, she grows silent, saying she doesn't want to talk politics. "It's not that we don't care" about the town's celebrity connection, "we just don't make much of a fuss about it."

In Kallstadt today, the only place you can still find the Trump name is on gravestones. There is no information board about the family or any street named after them. Not too long ago, though, the village began rediscovering its past.

What Kallstadt Residents Say About Trump

Young filmmaker Simone Wendel, who also happens to be a distant relative of the Trumps, made a documentary film about her hometown in 2014 called the "Kings of Kallstadt" that explored its most famous native sons. In addition to the Trumps, the billionaire Heinz ketchup family also hails from the village. 
During the making of her film, Wendel traveled to New York to interview Trump. The billionaire apparently knew very little about his family's past and said he had never visited the village. After the war, he said his family claimed for a long time to have come from Sweden. But Trump did say in Wendel's film, "I love Kallstadt."

Many residents of Kallstadt have familial links to the Trumps. And some fear those links could become a burden if the Republican politician's vulgar remarks draw unwanted attention, particularly from rival villages. It is typical for the region that villages make fun of each other, and the surrounding settlements accuse people from Kallstadt of being braggarts. Residents are not happy that Trump is not exactly disproving that image.
"He's full of hot air," says one sales woman at a local butcher shop. "It doesn't fit with who we are," says another woman walking her dog. Of Trump's election campaign, vintner Weisenborn says it's "not something you always have to be proud of." 
There is one man in town, though, who sees things a bit differently. Adolf Sauer, a 75-year-old with a mustache and white hair, lives just outside the village with his wife. Pewter plates are hung on the walls and a heavy oak cabinet stands in the corner. Sauer explains that he, too, has emigrants in his family. Even though they aren't related to the presidential candidate, Sauer says he likes the Trump story. He then holds a book in his hand that an American friend gave to him: "Crippled America," written by Trump.

Sauer isn't planning on reading it because he doesn't speak any English. But he still likes the idea that someone with a bit of Kallstadt in his blood is living the glamorous life in America, despite all Trump's escapades. After all, when people in Kallstadt do things, they tend to do them with great commitment, Sauer says. It's hardly surprising, he says, that some will find fame as a result. Finally, he adds, "I hope that Donald Trump becomes America's boss."


The U.S.’s political turmoil is ultimately a strength

Opinion writer
Source: The Washington Post

Conversations here at the World Economic Forum might begin with the global economy, but sooner or later they turn to Donald Trump. The Republican primary contest has gotten everyone’s attention. Some remain entertained, but many of the people I’ve spoken with are worried. As one European chief executive said to me, “We’re moving into a very difficult world. We need grown-ups in charge.”

That sense of a “difficult world” is palpable. There is more anxiety in the air than at any time since the global financial crisis. The worry is reflected in the world’s stock markets, which have collectively lost trillions of dollars since the start of the year. People still believe that the worst will not come to pass. China will not crash; the United States will not fall into a recession; Europe will not come apart. But in recent years, the conventional wisdom has been wrong on many issues.

Roger Altman, former deputy treasury secretary, pointed out to me that few experts predicted that oil and commodity prices would collapse or that growth would slump in China and crater in Brazil, South Africa and other emerging markets. No one saw that, even as the United States achieved nearly full employment wages would not rise, inflation would stay stubbornly muted and interest rates would remain low. And no one predicted the rise of the Islamic State or its ability to inspire terrorist attacks in countries far outside the Middle East.

Altman wonders whether we have arrived at the moment predicted in Alvin Toffler’s 1970 book “Future Shock” when the global system is so complex and changing so fast that it outpaces any ability to analyze and understand it.

Many of the trends now afoot, interacting with each other, could move faster and further than people realize. As the stock market falls, businesses and consumers get worried and pull back, spending less and saving more. A fall in oil prices is generally good for all countries except the major petroleum producers. But a fall this far, this fast could produce a credit crisis and a deflationary spiral.

And technological innovation is not a silver bullet to achieve broad-based prosperity. It is clear that dramatic improvements in technology, especially software, do not translate easily into wage increases for the average worker. We’re even seeing high-tech products cannibalize each other. The digital camera was once the way of the future, destroying old-fashioned film. But camera sales have collapsed as phones have more than enough camera power for most people.

I don’t know where it all goes. But in periods like this, open systems like the United States’ will do better than closed ones. America often looks dysfunctional because its problems are on display and debated daily. Everything — economic strategy, monetary policy, homeland security, police practices, infrastructure — is out there and open to constant criticism.

But this transparency means that people have information, and it forces the country to look at its problems, grapple with them and react. Although it’s a messy, sometimes ugly process, the U.S. system takes in a lot of diverse, contradictory information and responds. It seems dysfunctional, but it is actually highly adaptive.

Closed systems often look much better. China, with its tightly centralized decision-making, has been the envy of the world. People across the globe have marveled at the government’s ability to make decisions, plan for the future and build gleaming infrastructure. And when China was growing, we were amazed by the efficiency of the system. But now that growth has stalled, no one is sure why, what went wrong, who’s to blame and whether it is being fixed. A black box produces awe when things go well. But when they don’t, that opacity causes anxiety and fear.

The biggest question about the world economy right now is: What is going on inside China’s black box? The country is, after all, the second-largest economy on the planet and the engine that has powered global growth in recent years. Its remarkable opacity is not simply about economics but about politics and governance in general.

These days, U.S. politics is showcasing turmoil, rage and rebellion. But that’s ultimately a strength in these fast-changing times. People are angry. The economy, the society and the country are being transformed. That politics reflects these changes is a strength, not a weakness. It allows the nation to absorb, react, adapt— and then move on.

At least that’s what I tell foreigners and myself — with fingers firmly crossed — as I watch the craziness on the campaign trail.


President Barack Obama Weekly Address January 16, 2016 (Video/Transcript)

President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
January 16, 2016
Hi, everybody.  On Tuesday, I gave my final State of the Union Address.  And a focus was this: how do we make the new economy work better for everyone, not just those at the top?

After the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, we’re in the midst of the longest streak of private-sector job growth in our history.  More than 14 million new jobs.  An unemployment rate cut in half.  At the same time, our economy continues to go through profound changes that began long before the Great Recession hit.  It’s changed to the point where even when folks have jobs; even when the economy is growing; it’s harder for hardworking families to pull themselves out of poverty, harder for young people to start out on their careers, and tougher for workers to retire when they want to.

That’s a big part of the reason a lot of working families are feeling anxious.  And it offends our fundamentally American belief that everybody who works hard should be able to get ahead.

That’s why we’ve been fighting so hard to give families more opportunity and more security – by working to create more good jobs, invest in our middle class, and help working people get a raise.
It’s what the Affordable Care Act is all about – filling in the gaps in employer-based care so that when somebody loses a job, or goes back to school, or starts that new business, they still have health care.  And it’s why I believe we’ve got to take steps to modernize our unemployment insurance system.

If a hardworking American loses her job, regardless of what state she lives in, we should make sure she can get unemployment insurance and some help to retrain for her next job.  If she’s been unemployed for a while, we should reach out to her and connect her with career counseling.  And if she finds a new job that doesn’t pay as much as her old one, we should offer some wage insurance that helps her pay her bills.  Under my plan, experienced workers who now make less than $50,000 could replace half of their lost wages – up to $10,000 over two years.  It’s a way to give families some stability and encourage folks to rejoin the workforce – because we shouldn’t just be talking about unemployment; we should be talking about re-employment.

That’s when America works best – when everyone has opportunity; when everyone has some security; and when everyone can contribute to this country we love.  That’s how we make sure that hardworking families can get ahead.  And that’s what I’ll be fighting for with every last day of my presidency.

Thanks everybody.  Have a great weekend.  


An Alternative State of the Union: Progressives on Obama's Legacy & Their Hopes for His Final Year

Source:Democracy Now
PUAN GONZÁLEZ: President Obama’s State of the Union on Tuesday night was the seventh and the final of his presidency. Obama defended his record while making implicit criticism of the Republican candidates who want to succeed him. While mostly avoiding specific policy proposals, Obama spoke out against stigmatizing vulnerable communities, including Muslims, immigrants and lower-income Americans. He defended his historic agreements with Iran and Cuba, while touting the U.S. as, quote, "the most powerful nation on Earth." And he called for change in the U.S. political system to stop the outsize influence of wealthy donors. Obama began his address by listing some of his presidency’s remaining goals.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I will keep pushing for progress on the work that I believe still needs to be done: fixing a broken immigration system, protecting our kids from gun violence, equal pay for equal work, paid leave, raising the minimum wage. All these things—all these things still matter to hard-working families. They’re still the right thing to do. And I won’t let up until they get done.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Obama also urged Congress to take meaningful action on climate change—including stopping its denial.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. You will be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community and 200 nations around the world, who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.
AMY GOODMAN: Today we host a roundtable discussion on President Obama’s final State of the Union. Joining us are five guests: U.S. Senate candidate Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland; public TV broadcaster and author Tavis Smiley, he’s editor of the new book, The Covenant with Black America–Ten Years Later; Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza also joins us; CodePink founder Medea Benjamin; and immigrants’ rights activist and military veteran Claudia Palacios.

We welcome you all to Democracy Now! Let’s begin with one of our guests who were in the House last night, in the Congress as President Obama delivered his last State of the Union address. Congresswoman Donna Edwards, welcome to Democracy Now! Your thoughts on President Obama’s State of the Union?

REP. DONNA EDWARDS: Good morning, Amy. I mean, I think the president really laid out a vision for America. I think he dealt with the political reality that not a lot of anything will be accomplished over this year, given that it’s an election season. But I think he also cautioned us to remember where we started and to use that as a basis for moving forward to strengthen the economy, to grow jobs for the 21st century and to invest in the American worker. I heard that message really clearly, and I think that his message was for Republicans to stop being so divisive, to stop calling out those of us who share a different faith, a different race, a different background. And I think that that was an important and optimistic message for a united America.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Congresswoman, in terms of the president being able to assert his accomplishments or his legacy, that this was billed as a speech that would do that, how successful do you think he was in that sense?

REP. DONNA EDWARDS: Well, I think the president was very clear in talking about the importance of an Affordable Care Act that’s delivered healthcare to 18 million people. I think that he was really clear about seven years of economic growth—not, you know, the kind of growth that we need to see overall in the economy for working people who have had stagnant wages, but we’re not losing 700,000 jobs every month. I think he pointed to an auto industry that Republicans, frankly, would have let failed and that we revived as Democrats. And so, I think that he was really clear about laying out what he accomplished, but also putting forward a vision for the United States that is not one that’s going to be achieved in his presidency, but one that we should aspire to.

AMY GOODMAN: Alicia Garza, you are not used to being on the inside; you’re usually on the outside protesting in the streets, co-founder of Black Lives Matter. Yet last night you were invited into the inner sanctum. You were there for the address, invited by Congressmember Barbara Lee. Your thoughts not only on the speech, but—this isn’t his first speech, it’s President Obama’s last State of the Union, and so it must be compared against his record.

ALICIA GARZA: Mm-hmm. I mean, first and foremost, it was such an honor to be a guest of such an incredible visionary for working people, for women. I was so glad and honored to be there as the guest of Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

The thing that I think was glaringly missing from the conversation last night was really the conversation around not just gun violence broadly, although that is a major issue in our country, but police violence as it relates to black communities. And as I was sitting there last night, I couldn’t help but think about Samaria Rice, and I couldn’t help but think about all the mothers who have lost their children, not just to gun violence broadly, but to the very people who are supposed to protect and serve us.

And so, to be quite frank, I think this message that President Obama came in with eight years ago around hope and change is a message that I think people are still looking for. How are we going to accomplish that? And ultimately, I think last night’s speech was definitely a vision for where we think the country can go, but certainly I think that many people who have been involved in this movement certainly wanted to hear President Obama, possibly the last black president in our country’s history, really talk about what’s going on in black communities specifically, really address the question of race, racism and structural racism and structural violence, and then, certainly, to talk about what kinds of proposals are on the table to ensure that black people can live full lives in this country like everyone else.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And following in that vein, I’d like to ask Tavis Smiley, who’s here in our studio—there were a lot of things that were not mentioned, including the president’s failure really to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But this whole issue of how he missed the opportunity to really make a final statement on the situation in black America?

TAVIS SMILEY: Yeah. I think, first of all, the president, into history, is going to be regarded and treated much more kindly then than he is now. That’s number one. He did get some things accomplished, and we ought to give him credit for the things that he did do.

Having said that, I think where the historians, Juan and Amy, are going to have a very difficult time is trying to juxtapose how, in the era of the first black president—and to Alicia’s point, maybe the last black president—but how, in the era of Barack Obama, did the bottom fall out of black America? What this book, The Covenant–Ten Years Later, underscores, Amy, is that we, black America, have lost ground—and it pains me to say this—we’ve lost ground in every major economic category over the last decade. Not one, two or three, Juan, but in every major economic category, black folk have lost ground over the last 10 years. Surely these issues existed before he arrived, but we didn’t make any ground. We didn’t cover any ground. And how do we redeem the time after he’s gone? And so that’s the part, I think, that Alicia is raising with specific regard to police brutality and police misconduct, but there are so many other issues, as I mentioned a moment ago, where we just lost ground for the last 10 years. And I think, again, the historians are going to have an interesting time trying to juxtapose those two realities.

AMY GOODMAN: Claudia Palacios, you were arrested on Friday in the streets of New York outside of ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, protesting the—the dawn of 2016, with that came these massive new raids, rounding up women, children, men, to deport them. Talk about your own experience. You were a marine; you’re a military veteran.

CLAUDIA PALACIOS: I mean—good morning, Amy. First of all, we have to understand that there hasn’t been an increase in deportations or raids. Annually, it’s been an average of 200,000 deported migrants from the United States, though it’s this—it’s a spectacle that was created by the mainstream media. In June of 2014, there was images that were leaked of inhumane detention centers, which allowed for the expansion of detention centers and an increase in law enforcement. And that was part of our demands as protesters on Friday, is that we need ICE out of these communities. We need to stop criminalizing people of color.

And, I mean, as a group of activists, we understand that we are part of the mass—of the anti-incarceration movement, because that is what is destroying our families, not only in the black communities, but in the migrant communities, comprised of brown, black people from all over the world, refugees. So these nonprofit industries are literally profiting off of creating situations in other countries where we’re forced to migrate, and we’re displaced. And then we come to this country, and we’re pushed, funneled into different industrial complexes, have it be, as myself, the military-industrial complex or the prison-industrial complex.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And yet the president had one of the leaders of the DREAMers movement sitting up in the gallery next to Michelle Obama, but the actual speech had very little reference, other than saying we have to fix our broken immigration system, little reference to his own record or legacy in terms of immigration.

CLAUDIA PALACIOS: Right. I mean, I think it’s a mockery to have him be a guest, an honored guest, at the State of the Union, and then have no—not even initiate the conversation of immigration and how we are going to deal with this or how we’re going to create sanctuaries for people that are being targeted. And we’re talking about women and children; we’re not talking about felons over families. And I mean, that’s what—like, as activists, that’s what—like, we’re boots on the ground. We’re willing to put our bodies on the line to send the message across that we want ICE out of our communities, and also we want our folks to know, our people, our pueblo, to know that we are willing to fight, we are willing to be out there and put everything.

AMY GOODMAN: Which brings us to Medea Benjamin. We weren’t sure if we were going to actually have you on the show today, Medea, co-founder of CodePink, whether you’d be interrupting the State of the Union address last night and maybe be in custody. We weren’t sure. You have been known to interrupt President Obama, for example, when he spoke at National Defense University laying out his drone program—you wrote a book on drones—protesting the people who have been killed by drones. What was your assessment of President Obama’s last State of the Union address?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, first, I think it’s important to recognize the historic foreign policy accomplishments in terms of Cuba and Iran. And I think it is so important that he counter the Islamophobia that is rising in this country. But his policies have really not been kind to Muslims around the world. He has authorized the largest weapons sales to Saudi Arabia ever in history, $46 billion during his term. This is being used not only to repress people inside Saudi Arabia, but to kill people in Yemen. He has increased the U.S. military aid to the repressive government of Israel. He has opened up the U.S. military cooperation with the repressive Egyptian government. He has used drone strikes to kill thousands of people in countries that we’re not even at war with. And he talked last night about wanting to close Guantánamo, and yet he’s said that for seven years, while he could use his executive power to actually close Guantánamo. I think if he really wanted to help Muslims around the world, the best thing he could have done was to call for an arms embargo to the Middle East. That would have been much more in line with the Martin Luther King call that he used for unarmed truth and unconditional love.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Medea, I wanted to ask you about his comments on climate change, which I think were some of the most pointed comments that he made in his speech. I think we have a floater where he’s talking about the continued denial by many in Congress of climate change. Let’s see if we can get that floater up there.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. You will be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community and 200 nations around the world, who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Medea, that was the president on climate change. Your assessment of his legacy in this area and of his challenge to the Congress?

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, there’s positive things in that he listened to the grassroots to stop the Keystone pipeline, that—the presence of the U.S. to try to come to some agreements in Paris. And yet his government has continued the subsidies to Big Oil. He talks about changing the relationship to coal, but keeps supporting it. And he supports the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would be disastrous for the environment. And then, finally, we should recognize that the U.S. military is the largest polluter in the world and something that continues to grow under the Obama administration.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Edwards, you won’t be able to spend the whole hour with us, so I wanted to get your response to a few things that were raised so far. On the issue of President Obama and war, the drone wars, can you talk about, as you run for Senate, what is your critique? And also, where do you think he has—how do you assess his policy around—well, he inherited two wars, but he’s also extended the longest war in U.S. history, in Afghanistan.

REP. DONNA EDWARDS: Well, I mean, I have long said, Amy—thanks for the question. You know, I celebrate President Obama in so many ways on a number of issues. On issues of the increased militarization, those are issues on which I and a handful of members of Congress have disagreed with him. On the increased use of a drone strategy, I think it’s been very counterproductive to what we need to have happen in civilian communities and destroyed relationships with families and communities, people that we actually need if we’re going to have a stronger vision for peace in some of those very difficult regions.

And I think the president was right last night in saying that if we—if we want to decide as a nation that we’re going to go forward in this area of military expansion, then Congress has a responsibility, too, to provide for a current Authorization for the Use of Military Force. Now, I’m not saying that I would agree with that kind of authorization, but I think it is ridiculous to continue military operations absent a new authorization or an updated authorization. I think the president has said that several times, and he put it back at the feet of the Congress again. I think it’s high time that we had that debate in the Congress of the United States. And I’m actually convinced that if we have a thorough debate, then the grassroots around this country are going to speak up and say that there has to be a limit in terms of what the United States and the role that the United States ought to play, from a military perspective, around the world. And so, were those things—that was missing? Yes. But the call to Congress to act when it comes to authorizing the use of military force with respect to ISIS, ISIL, I think that that’s important, and we can’t continue to run military operations, significant military operations, off of an authorization that’s, you know, the better part of 15 years, 10 to 15 years old now.

AMY GOODMAN: Michelle Obama sat next to an empty seat last night, that seat symbolizing the thousands of people who are missing in this country, killed because of gun violence. Could that seat have also represented the number of people who have been deported? Even some of President Obama’s closest allies in the Latino community and Latino organizations have called him the deporter-in-chief.

REP. DONNA EDWARDS: Well, I mean, I don’t think it’s my job as a member of Congress to call the president names, but what I will say is that last week I called out the president’s policies when it comes to deportation and this sort of extreme enforcement in communities that, in the congressional district that I represent, is causing so much great fear in communities—children not going to school, people not going to work, being afraid to be seen and visible in their communities. And I think it’s irresponsible. In fact, I just last week had a pretty heated conversation with ICE officials about their enforcement activities in my congressional district and across the country. And, you know, look, there is another place where the administration has discretion, and it can use that discretion to leave in peace families. You know, go after felons, go after lawbreakers, but leave families alone. And in the absence of this Republican Congress refusing to engage in a serious way on comprehensive immigration reform, I don’t think it is the responsibility of the administration to cover that up by deporting families.

AMY GOODMAN: So what did ICE tell you?

REP. DONNA EDWARDS: I couldn’t hear you. I’m sorry.

AMY GOODMAN: What did ICE tell you? You said you had a heated interaction with them. How do they explain? As President Obama says Congress is stopping comprehensive immigration reform, he’s not stopping, he’s not reforming, but he is actually moving forward, an acceleration we haven’t seen before.

REP. DONNA EDWARDS: I don’t think that there is—I mean, I don’t think that there is a response, frankly, that ICE can give now. I think their enforcement, the enforcement that they’re engaged in now, is unacceptable. I’ve joined on with a letter with over a hundred members of Congress to the administration to stop these deportations, these enforcement actions. Now, some people have described them as raids. I think that they’re pretty routine enforcement actions. The problem is that the administration has discretion when it comes to making a decision about whether to engage in this heightened level of enforcement or not, and they are taking that action to the extreme. And so, I hope that the administration, the president, are going to hear what we’re calling for as members of Congress, to stop this kind of heightened enforcement in our communities and stop putting the fear into families and children afraid to go to school, people afraid to go to church, because they’re afraid of these enforcement actions.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Edwards, we want to thank you for being with us. Congressmember Edwards is running for the U.S. Senate from the state of Maryland. We will continue with our other guests. Tavis Smiley, author of The Covenant with Black America–Ten Years Later, a PBS broadcaster, radio and television. Alicia Garza will continue with us, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter. She attended Obama’s State of the Union address last night as Congressmember Barbara Lee’s guest. We’re also joined by CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin. And we’re joined, as well, by Claudia Palacios, who is a military veteran and a migrant justice activist, just arrested on Friday trying to stop the ICE raids. Stay with us.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Our guests for the hour are Claudia Palacios, a Marine veteran, a migrant rights activist—she has a fascinating story herself, how she could have fought—served this country, and now her own birth certificate is being questioned—afterwards. We’re also joined by Alicia Garza, who’s the co-founder of Black Lives Matter; CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin; as well as PBS broadcaster and author of The Covenant with Black America, Tavis Smiley. Juan?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, as we continue to talk about President Obama’s State of the Union and his legacy, we have the discussion that I’d like to talk to Tavis about, the foreign policy aspect of the president’s speech. He’s devoted quite a bit of time to foreign policy, and he particularly, at one point, talked about how we cannot be—try to take over and rebuild every country. Let’s hear that part of it.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: For more than a year, America has led a coalition of more than 60 countries to cut off ISIL’s financing, disrupt their plots, stop the flow of terrorist fighters and stamp out their vicious ideology. With nearly 10,000 airstrikes, we’re taking out their leadership, their oil, their training camps, their weapons. We’re training, arming and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and Syria. If this Congress is serious about winning this war and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, authorize the use of military force against ISIL. Take a vote. Take a vote. But the American people should know that, with or without congressional action, ISIL will learn the same lessons as terrorists before them. If you doubt America’s commitment, or mine, to see that justice is done, just ask Osama bin Laden.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was the president talking about the fight against terrorism. But the increasing drone wars across the world, especially in the context of growing inequality at home, which has become a major subject of the Democratic presidential candidates, your sense of how the president has done in this area?

TAVIS SMILEY: Yeah, that’s a great question, Juan. A few thoughts. One, let’s be clear about this: With all due respect to President Obama, he has deported more people than George Bush deported. He has used drones to kill more innocent women and children than George Bush killed. We have a drone program on steroids. And so we kind of dance around these things. Let’s just come to the truth of what the facts tell us, what the data tell us, and that’s the reality. He’s killed more innocent women and children with drones than George Bush did.

Having said that, it’s also telling to me that while he got a nice applause line on the authorization issue, the Republicans have had far less issue with this president on foreign policy than they have on his domestic agenda. And that ought to tell you something, that Republicans, more often than not, have been with him on his foreign policy agenda than they have opposed him and obstructed him, quite frankly, on his domestic policy agenda. So that’s important, number two.

But thirdly, what’s really fascinating for me—the last time I was here, I think I was here talking about my book on Dr. King, Death of a King, about the last year in King’s life. And it is always fascinating for me to watch this president pivot in any speech to a Kingian notion. In this particular speech, it was unarmed truth, as Medea Benjamin mentioned earlier, unarmed truth and unconditional love. That’s at the heart of every speech that Martin gave—unarmed truth and unconditional love. So you pivot to quote Martin on the one hand, but what Martin was talking about, as we all know, at the end of his life, was that triple threat facing our democracy. It’s King who says that if we don’t deal with this triple threat, we’re going to lose our democracy. What is the triple threat? Racism, poverty and militarism.

So, for all that Barack Obama has in fact accomplished—and I must say, against a strong headwind, against a lot of obstructionism, he got some things done—but for all that he did accomplish, I judge this president—this is just me; since you asked me, this is my assessment, Juan—I judge this president, and any other president, by where they stand vis-à-vis a relationship to King’s legacy and that triple threat. Where do you stand, what did you do, on racism, poverty and militarism? Now, if that’s the scorecard that we’re grading this president on, it’s a very different conversation that we could have about what he has and hasn’t gotten done.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, talk about that.


AMY GOODMAN: You, when, a few years ago, we were talking to you—I can’t remember where, I think it was Ohio, when you were on a poverty tour.


AMY GOODMAN: But you have written The Covenant with Black America–Ten Years Later. You wrote it in 2006. Interestingly, it basically covers the Obama presidency.

TAVIS SMILEY: Yeah, it does.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And there’s a greater poverty percent—

TAVIS SMILEY: Oh, there’s no doubt about it.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —percent of people in poverty now than there were when the president came in.
TAVIS SMILEY: There’s no doubt about it. Poverty is threatening our very democracy. And not just that, speaking of national security, poverty is now a matter of national security. These numbers are just not sustainable. So, again, on racism, poverty and militarism, the grade’s not so good. But you have Alicia Garza on this program today, and it is amazing, again, that in this era of the first black president, black boys and black men are being shot dead in the streets, and too many cops are getting away with that. In this era, black women are still dying disproportionately from preventable diseases. In this era, black children are still struggling to gain access to an equal, high-quality education. In this era, environmental racism abounds. In this era, the digital divide still exists. And so, progress has been made, but it’s just troubling for me.

And what the book gets to, Amy, is how the president’s most loyal constituency over that period—the book is not about Obama. It’s about, again, where we are 10 years later. But it does, as you point out, cover most of his presidency. But how does the president’s most loyal constituency end up being the group that falls the farthest behind? Look at the gay and lesbian community. I celebrate this, but look at what they’ve accomplished over the last 10 years—because they made demands. The environmentalists has something to celebrate—because they made demands. Wall Street always gets what it wants; it’s always in celebration. But the president’s most loyal constituency, not much to celebrate.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Black Lives Matter certainly emerged during this period, Alicia Garza. Talk about what you think were the—was the greatest progress you made. And, I mean, President Obama is not at the end of his term. This is his last State of the Union address; he still has another year. What can the president do? And what do you feel must be left to people in the streets?

ALICIA GARZA: Sure. Well, first, let me talk about what I think we’ve accomplished, because, to be quite frank, even though President Obama did not speak in the way that we—that many would have wanted him to in the State of the Union address about race and racism, the reality is that there is a conversation that is happening all over the world about race, state-sanctioned violence and racism, that has not happened in this way in, you know, quite a long time. And I think that that is a very significant, very, very significant advance. Additionally, you know, what I heard yesterday was that many people in—many of the Congressional Black Caucus members, in particular, have been talking about various proposals for criminal justice. And without, you know, rubber-stamping any of those proposals, I do think it’s important that this issue has come up and is being moved, right, in a positive way.

But to be really, really frank, I think the biggest thing that we’ve accomplished is pressure from the outside, and to say, you know, we’re not endorsing Democrats or Republicans—both are equally culpable for the conditions that black folks are facing in this country and around the world. And so, certainly, there—what my hope would be is that there is an independent political force that is building in this country, that will move a different type of agenda, that will prioritize people and the planet over profits. That’s my hope.

Certainly, I think Obama—this is—it is his last year, and he still has time left. And I think what we should be pushing him around, in particular, is to use his power of executive order. I mean, quite certainly, Obama has really explicitly talked about race only a handful of times in the eight years that he has been president. And quite frankly, I think the sentiments that I’ve been hearing is that we can’t wait any longer. Again, when I was sitting in that chamber last night, all I could think about was Sandra Bland’s family, and how did Sandra Bland end up dead in a jail cell that she shouldn’t have been in in the first place? As I was sitting in the chamber last night, all I could think about was—you know, when we’re talking about unemployment rates dropping, I’m thinking, "Yes, for everybody but black women." When we’re talking about gun violence, I’m thinking to myself, "Well, what about violence that’s also impacting the transgender community, where we had a little more than 25 murders of trans people, trans people of color, and most of them black trans people?" And then, of course, I’m thinking about the raids that have been happening in the beginning of this year. And I do think that Obama, while he kind of noted that it’s an election year and that he was acknowledging a, quote-unquote, "political reality" that not much might move this year, I do think that he can exercise more leadership and move things through his power as president through the tool of executive order. Now, yes, that’s going to make Republicans angry, but, quite frankly, I think that if anything is going to shift, we’re going to need to see some leadership. I understand this notion of bipartisanism, but for many of our communities, we can’t wait for people to reach across the aisle and figure out how to compromise. There does have to be some leadership for a progressive agenda that is really centralizing the needs of our communities, who are, quite frankly, under attack.

AMY GOODMAN: Alicia Garza, we have to take a break, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, special projects director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, attended Obama’s State of the Union address, pivotal also in the $15-an-hour—the push for the $15-an-hour minimum wage. Stay with us.


President Barack Obama delivers of The State of the Union Address (Video/Transcipt)

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:

Tonight marks the eighth year that I’ve come here to report on the State of the Union. And for this final one, I’m going to try to make it a little shorter. (Applause.) I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa. (Laughter.) I've been there. I'll be shaking hands afterwards if you want some tips. (Laughter.)

And I understand that because it’s an election season, expectations for what we will achieve this year are low. But, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the constructive approach that you and the other leaders took at the end of last year to pass a budget and make tax cuts permanent for working families. So I hope we can work together this year on some bipartisan priorities like criminal justice reform -- (applause) -- and helping people who are battling prescription drug abuse and heroin abuse. (Applause.) So, who knows, we might surprise the cynics again.

But tonight, I want to go easy on the traditional list of proposals for the year ahead. Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty, from helping students learn to write computer code to personalizing medical treatments for patients. And I will keep pushing for progress on the work that I believe still needs to be done. Fixing a broken immigration system. (Applause.) Protecting our kids from gun violence. (Applause.)

Equal pay for equal work. (Applause.) Paid leave. (Applause.) Raising the minimum wage.
(Applause.) All these things still matter to hardworking families. They’re still the right thing to do. And I won't let up until they get done.

But for my final address to this chamber, I don’t want to just talk about next year. I want to focus on the next five years, the next 10 years, and beyond. I want to focus on our future.

We live in a time of extraordinary change -- change that’s reshaping the way we live, the way we work, our planet, our place in the world. It’s change that promises amazing medical breakthroughs, but also economic disruptions that strain working families. It promises education for girls in the most remote villages, but also connects terrorists plotting an ocean away. It’s change that can broaden opportunity, or widen inequality. And whether we like it or not, the pace of this change will only accelerate.

America has been through big changes before -- wars and depression, the influx of new immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, movements to expand civil rights. Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change; who promised to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control. And each time, we overcame those fears. We did not, in the words of Lincoln, adhere to the “dogmas of the quiet past.” Instead we thought anew, and acted anew. We made change work for us, always extending America’s promise outward, to the next frontier, to more people. And because we did -- because we saw opportunity where others saw only peril -- we emerged stronger and better than before.

What was true then can be true now. Our unique strengths as a nation -- our optimism and work ethic, our spirit of discovery, our diversity, our commitment to rule of law -- these things give us everything we need to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come.

In fact, it’s that spirit that made the progress of these past seven years possible.  It’s how we recovered from the worst economic crisis in generations.  It’s how we reformed our health care system, and reinvented our energy sector; how we delivered more care and benefits to our troops and veterans, and how we secured the freedom in every state to marry the person we love.

But such progress is not inevitable. It’s the result of choices we make together. And we face such choices right now. Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, turning against each other as a people? Or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, in what we stand for, in the incredible things that we can do together?

So let’s talk about the future, and four big questions that I believe we as a country have to answer -- regardless of who the next President is, or who controls the next Congress.
First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy? (Applause.)

Second, how do we make technology work for us, and not against us -- especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change? (Applause.)
Third, how do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman? (Applause.)

And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?
Let me start with the economy, and a basic fact: The United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world. (Applause.) We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private sector job creation in history. (Applause.) More than 14 million new jobs, the strongest two years of job growth since the ‘90s, an unemployment rate cut in half. Our auto industry just had its best year ever. (Applause.) That's just part of a manufacturing surge that's created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years. And we’ve done all this while cutting our deficits by almost three-quarters. (Applause.)

Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction. (Applause.) Now, what is true -- and the reason that a lot of Americans feel anxious -- is that the economy has been changing in profound ways, changes that started long before the Great Recession hit; changes that have not let up.
Today, technology doesn’t just replace jobs on the assembly line, but any job where work can be automated. Companies in a global economy can locate anywhere, and they face tougher competition. As a result, workers have less leverage for a raise. Companies have less loyalty to their communities. And more and more wealth and income is concentrated at the very top.

All these trends have squeezed workers, even when they have jobs; even when the economy is growing. It’s made it harder for a hardworking family to pull itself out of poverty, harder for young people to start their careers, tougher for workers to retire when they want to. And although none of these trends are unique to America, they do offend our uniquely American belief that everybody who works hard should get a fair shot.

For the past seven years, our goal has been a growing economy that works also better for everybody. We’ve made progress. But we need to make more. And despite all the political arguments that we’ve had these past few years, there are actually some areas where Americans broadly agree.

We agree that real opportunity requires every American to get the education and training they need to land a good-paying job. The bipartisan reform of No Child Left Behind was an important start, and together, we’ve increased early childhood education, lifted high school graduation rates to new highs, boosted graduates in fields like engineering. In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by providing Pre-K for all and -- (applause) -- offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one. We should recruit and support more great teachers for our kids. (Applause.)

And we have to make college affordable for every American. (Applause.) No hardworking student should be stuck in the red. We’ve already reduced student loan payments to 10 percent of a borrower’s income. And that's good. But now, we’ve actually got to cut the cost of college. (Applause.) Providing two years of community college at no cost for every responsible student is one of the best ways to do that, and I’m going to keep fighting to get that started this year. (Applause.) It's the right thing to do. (Applause.)

But a great education isn’t all we need in this new economy. We also need benefits and protections that provide a basic measure of security. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that some of the only people in America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a health and retirement package for 30 years are sitting in this chamber. (Laughter.) For everyone else, especially folks in their 40s and 50s, saving for retirement or bouncing back from job loss has gotten a lot tougher. Americans understand that at some point in their careers, in this new economy, they may have to retool and they may have to retrain. But they shouldn’t lose what they’ve already worked so hard to build in the process.

That’s why Social Security and Medicare are more important than ever. We shouldn’t weaken them; we should strengthen them. (Applause.) And for Americans short of retirement, basic benefits should be just as mobile as everything else is today. That, by the way, is what the Affordable Care Act is all about. It’s about filling the gaps in employer-based care so that when you lose a job, or you go back to school, or you strike out and launch that new business, you’ll still have coverage. Nearly 18 million people have gained coverage so far. (Applause.) And in the process, health care inflation has slowed. And our businesses have created jobs every single month since it became law.

Now, I’m guessing we won’t agree on health care anytime soon. (Applause.) A little applause right there. Laughter.) Just a guess. But there should be other ways parties can work together to improve economic security. Say a hardworking American loses his job -- we shouldn’t just make sure that he can get unemployment insurance; we should make sure that program encourages him to retrain for a business that’s ready to hire him. If that new job doesn’t pay as much, there should be a system of wage insurance in place so that he can still pay his bills. And even if he’s going from job to job, he should still be able to save for retirement and take his savings with him. That’s the way we make the new economy work better for everybody.

I also know Speaker Ryan has talked about his interest in tackling poverty. America is about giving everybody willing to work a chance, a hand up. And I’d welcome a serious discussion about strategies we can all support, like expanding tax cuts for low-income workers who don't have children. (Applause.)

But there are some areas where we just have to be honest -- it has been difficult to find agreement over the last seven years. And a lot of them fall under the category of what role the government should play in making sure the system’s not rigged in favor of the wealthiest and biggest corporations. (Applause.) And it's an honest disagreement, and the American people have a choice to make.

I believe a thriving private sector is the lifeblood of our economy. I think there are outdated regulations that need to be changed. There is red tape that needs to be cut. (Applause.) There you go! Yes! (Applause But after years now of record corporate profits, working families won’t get more opportunity or bigger paychecks just by letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules at everybody else’s expense. (Applause.) Middle-class families are not going to feel more secure because we allowed attacks on collective bargaining to go unanswered. Food Stamp recipients did not cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did. (Applause.) Immigrants aren’t the principal reason wages haven’t gone up; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that all too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns. It’s sure not the average family watching tonight that avoids paying taxes through offshore accounts. (Applause.)

The point is, I believe that in this In new economy, workers and start-ups and small businesses need more of a voice, not less. The rules should work for them. (Applause.) And I'm not alone in this. This year I plan to lift up the many businesses who’ve figured out that doing right by their workers or their customers or their communities ends up being good for their shareholders. (Applause.) And I want to spread those best practices across America. That's part of a brighter future. (Applause.)

In fact, it turns out many of our best corporate citizens are also our most creative. And this brings me to the second big question we as a country have to answer: How do we reignite that spirit of innovation to meet our biggest challenges?

Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there. (Laughter.) We didn’t argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight. And 12 years later, we were walking on the moon. (Applause.)

Now, that spirit of discovery is in our DNA. America is Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers and George Washington Carver. America is Grace Hopper and Katherine Johnson and Sally Ride. America is every immigrant and entrepreneur from Boston to Austin to Silicon Valley, racing to shape a better world. (Applause.) That's who we are.

And over the past seven years, we’ve nurtured that spirit. We’ve protected an open Internet, and taken bold new steps to get more students and low-income Americans online. (Applause.) We’ve launched next-generation manufacturing hubs, and online tools that give an entrepreneur everything he or she needs to start a business in a single day. But we can do so much more.

Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer. Last month, he worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources that they’ve had in over a decade. (Applause.) So tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done. And because he’s gone to the mat for all of us on so many issues over the past 40 years, I’m putting Joe in charge of Mission Control. (Applause.) For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the families that we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all. (Applause.)

Medical research is critical. We need the same level of commitment when it comes to developing clean energy sources. (Applause.) Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. You will be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it. (Applause.)

But even if -- even if the planet wasn’t at stake, even if 2014 wasn’t the warmest year on record -- until 2015 turned out to be even hotter -- why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future? (Applause.)

Listen, seven years ago, we made the single biggest investment in clean energy in our history. Here are the results. In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power. On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills, and employs more Americans than coal -- in jobs that pay better than average. We’re taking steps to give homeowners the freedom to generate and store their own energy -- something, by the way, that environmentalists and Tea Partiers have teamed up to support. And meanwhile, we’ve cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly 60 percent, and cut carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth. (Applause.)

Gas under two bucks a gallon ain’t bad, either. (Applause.)

Now we’ve got to accelerate the transition away from old, dirtier energy sources. Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future -- especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels. We do them no favor when we don't show them where the trends are going. That’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet. And that way, we put money back into those communities, and put tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st century transportation system. (Applause.)

Now, none of this is going to happen overnight. And, yes, there are plenty of entrenched interests who want to protect the status quo. But the jobs we’ll create, the money we’ll save, the planet we’ll preserve -- that is the kind of future our kids and our grandkids deserve. And it's within our grasp.
Climate change is just one of many issues where our security is linked to the rest of the world. And that’s why the third big question that we have to answer together is how to keep America safe and strong without either isolating ourselves or trying to nation-build everywhere there’s a problem.
I told you earlier all the talk of America’s economic decline is political hot air. Well, so is all the rhetoric you hear about our enemies getting stronger and America getting weaker. Let me tell you something. The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period. (Applause.)

Period. It’s not even close. It's not even close. (Applause.) It's not even close. We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined. Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world. (Applause.) No nation attacks us directly, or our allies, because they know that’s the path to ruin. Surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office, and when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead -- they call us. (Applause.)

I mean, it's useful to level the set here, because when we don't, we don't make good decisions.
Now, as someone who begins every day with an intelligence briefing, I know this is a dangerous time. But that’s not primarily because of some looming superpower out there, and certainly not because of diminished American strength. In today’s world, we’re threatened less by evil empires and more by failing states.

The Middle East is going through a transformation that will play out for a generation, rooted in conflicts that date back millennia. Economic headwinds are blowing in from a Chinese economy that is in significant transition. Even as their economy severely contracts, Russia is pouring resources in to prop up Ukraine and Syria -- client states that they saw slipping away from their orbit. And the international system we built after World War II is now struggling to keep pace with this new reality.
It’s up to us, the United States of America, to help remake that system. And to do that well it means that we’ve got to set priorities.

Priority number one is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks. (Applause.) Both al Qaeda and now ISIL pose a direct threat to our people, because in today’s world, even a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life, including their own, can do a lot of damage. They use the Internet to poison the minds of individuals inside our country. Their actions undermine and destabilize our allies. We have to take them out.

But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands. Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks, twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages -- they pose an enormous danger to civilians; they have to be stopped. But they do not threaten our national existence. (Applause.) That is the story ISIL wants to tell. That’s the kind of propaganda they use to recruit. We don’t need to build them up to show that we’re serious, and we sure don't need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie that ISIL is somehow representative of one of the world’s largest religions. (Applause.) We just need to call them what they are -- killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed. (Applause.)

And that’s exactly what we’re doing. For more than a year, America has led a coalition of more than 60 countries to cut off ISIL’s financing, disrupt their plots, stop the flow of terrorist fighters, and stamp out their vicious ideology. With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we’re taking out their leadership, their oil, their training camps, their weapons. We’re training, arming, and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and Syria.

If this Congress is serious about winning this war, and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, authorize the use of military force against ISIL. Take a vote. (Applause.) Take a vote. But the American people should know that with or without congressional action, ISIL will learn the same lessons as terrorists before them. If you doubt America’s commitment -- or mine -- to see that justice is done, just ask Osama bin Laden. (Applause.) Ask the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, who was taken out last year, or the perpetrator of the Benghazi attacks, who sits in a prison cell. When you come after Americans, we go after you. (Applause.) And it may take time, but we have long memories, and our reach has no limits. (Applause.)

Our foreign policy hast to be focused on the threat from ISIL and al Qaeda, but it can’t stop there. For even without ISIL, even without al Qaeda, instability will continue for decades in many parts of the world -- in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, parts of Pakistan, in parts of Central America, in Africa, and Asia. Some of these places may become safe havens for new terrorist networks. Others will just fall victim to ethnic conflict, or famine, feeding the next wave of refugees. The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet-bomb civilians. That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage.

We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis, even if it's done with the best of intentions. (Applause.) That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately will weaken us. It’s the lesson of Vietnam; it's the lesson of Iraq -- and we should have learned it by now. (Applause.)

Fortunately, there is a smarter approach, a patient and disciplined strategy that uses every element of our national power. It says America will always act, alone if necessary, to protect our people and our allies; but on issues of global concern, we will mobilize the world to work with us, and make sure other countries pull their own weight.

That’s our approach to conflicts like Syria, where we’re partnering with local forces and leading international efforts to help that broken society pursue a lasting peace.

That’s why we built a global coalition, with sanctions and principled diplomacy, to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. And as we speak, Iran has rolled back its nuclear program, shipped out its uranium stockpile, and the world has avoided another war. (Applause.)

That’s how we stopped the spread of Ebola in West Africa. (Applause.) Our military, our doctors, our development workers -- they were heroic; they set up the platform that then allowed other countries to join in behind us and stamp out that epidemic. Hundreds of thousands, maybe a couple million lives were saved.

That’s how we forged a Trans-Pacific Partnership to open markets, and protect workers and the environment, and advance American leadership in Asia. It cuts 18,000 taxes on products made in America, which will then support more good jobs here in America. With TPP, China does not set the rules in that region; we do. You want to show our strength in this new century? Approve this agreement. Give us the tools to enforce it. It's the right thing to do. (Applause.)

Let me give you another example. Fifty years of isolating Cuba had failed to promote democracy, and set us back in Latin America. That’s why we restored diplomatic relations -- (applause) -- opened the door to travel and commerce, positioned ourselves to improve the lives of the Cuban people. (Applause.) So if you want to consolidate our leadership and credibility in the hemisphere, recognize that the Cold War is over -- lift the embargo. (Applause.)

The point is American leadership in the 21st century is not a choice between ignoring the rest of the world -- except when we kill terrorists -- or occupying and rebuilding whatever society is unraveling. Leadership means a wise application of military power, and rallying the world behind causes that are right. It means seeing our foreign assistance as a part of our national security, not something separate, not charity.

When we lead nearly 200 nations to the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change, yes, that helps vulnerable countries, but it also protects our kids. When we help Ukraine defend its democracy, or Colombia resolve a decades-long war, that strengthens the international order we depend on. When we help African countries feed their people and care for the sick -- (applause) -- it's the right thing to do, and it prevents the next pandemic from reaching our shores. Right now, we’re on track to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS. That's within our grasp. (Applause.) And we have the chance to accomplish the same thing with malaria -- something I’ll be pushing this Congress to fund this year. (Applause.)

That's American strength. That's American leadership. And that kind of leadership depends on the power of our example. That’s why I will keep working to shut down the prison at Guantanamo. (Applause.) It is expensive, it is unnecessary, and it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies. (Applause.) There’s a better way. (Applause.)

And that’s why we need to reject any politics -- any politics -- that targets people because of race or religion. (Applause.) Let me just say this. This is not a matter of political correctness. This is a matter of understanding just what it is that makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity, and our openness, and the way we respect every faith.

His Holiness, Pope Francis, told this body from the very spot that I'm standing on tonight that “to imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place.” When politicians insult Muslims, whether abroad or our fellow citizens, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid is called names, that doesn’t make us safer. That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong. (Applause.) It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. It betrays who we are as a country. (Applause.)

“We the People.” Our Constitution begins with those three simple words, words we’ve come to recognize mean all the people, not just some; words that insist we rise and fall together, and that's how we might perfect our Union. And that brings me to the fourth, and maybe the most important thing that I want to say tonight.

The future we want -- all of us want -- opportunity and security for our families, a rising standard of living, a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids -- all that is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates. It will only happen if we fix our politics.

A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country -- different regions, different attitudes, different interests. That’s one of our strengths, too. Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, fiercely, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.

But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice. It doesn’t work if we think that our political opponents are unpatriotic or trying to weaken America. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise, or when even basic facts are contested, or when we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get all the attention. And most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some special interest.

Too many Americans feel that way right now. It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency -- that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. I have no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.

But, my fellow Americans, this cannot be my task -- or any President’s -- alone. There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber, good people who would like to see more cooperation, would like to see a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the imperatives of getting elected, by the noise coming out of your base. I know; you’ve told me. It's the worst-kept secret in Washington. And a lot of you aren't enjoying being trapped in that kind of rancor.

But that means if we want a better politics -- and I'm addressing the American people now -- if we want a better politics, it’s not enough just to change a congressman or change a senator or even change a President. We have to change the system to reflect our better selves. I think we've got to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around. (Applause.) Let a bipartisan group do it. (Applause.)

We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families or hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections. (Applause.) And if our existing approach to campaign finance reform can’t pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a real solution -- because it's a problem. And most of you don't like raising money. I know; I've done it. (Applause.) We’ve got to make it easier to vote, not harder. (Applause.) We need to modernize it for the way we live now. (Applause.) This is America: We want to make it easier for people to participate. And over the course of this year, I intend to travel the country to push for reforms that do just that.

But I can’t do these things on my own. (Applause.) Changes in our political process -- in not just who gets elected, but how they get elected -- that will only happen when the American people demand it. It depends on you. That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people.

What I’m suggesting is hard. It’s a lot easier to be cynical; to accept that change is not possible, and politics is hopeless, and the problem is all the folks who are elected don't care, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter. But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future. Those with money and power will gain greater control over the decisions that could send a young soldier to war, or allow another economic disaster, or roll back the equal rights and voting rights that generations of Americans have fought, even died, to secure. And then, as frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into our respective tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background.

We can’t afford to go down that path. It won’t deliver the economy we want. It will not produce the security we want. But most of all, it contradicts everything that makes us the envy of the world.
So, my fellow Americans, whatever you may believe, whether you prefer one party or no party, whether you supported my agenda or fought as hard as you could against it -- our collective futures depends on your willingness to uphold your duties as a citizen. To vote. To speak out. To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us. (Applause.) We need every American to stay active in our public life -- and not just during election time -- so that our public life reflects the goodness and the decency that I see in the American people every single day.

It is not easy. Our brand of democracy is hard. But I can promise that a little over a year from now, when I no longer hold this office, I will be right there with you as a citizen, inspired by those voices of fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness that helped America travel so far. Voices that help us see ourselves not, first and foremost, as black or white, or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born, not as Democrat or Republican, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed. Voices Dr. King believed would have the final word -- voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love.

And they’re out there, those voices. They don’t get a lot of attention; they don't seek a lot of fanfare; but they’re busy doing the work this country needs doing. I see them everywhere I travel in this incredible country of ours. I see you, the American people. And in your daily acts of citizenship, I see our future unfolding.

I see it in the worker on the assembly line who clocked extra shifts to keep his company open, and the boss who pays him higher wages instead of laying him off.

I see it in the Dreamer who stays up late at night to finish her science project, and the teacher who comes in early, and maybe with some extra supplies that she bought because she knows that that young girl might someday cure a disease.

I see it in the Dreamer who stays up late to finish her science project, and the teacher who comes in early because he knows she might someday cure a disease.

I see it in the American who served his time, and bad mistakes as a child but now is dreaming of starting over -- and I see it in the business owner who gives him that second chance. The protester determined to prove that justice matters -- and the young cop walking the beat, treating everybody with respect, doing the brave, quiet work of keeping us safe. (Applause.)

I see it in the soldier who gives almost everything to save his brothers, the nurse who tends to him till he can run a marathon, the community that lines up to cheer him on.

It’s the son who finds the courage to come out as who he is, and the father whose love for that son overrides everything he’s been taught. (Applause.)

I see it in the elderly woman who will wait in line to cast her vote as long as she has to; the new citizen who casts his vote for the first time; the volunteers at the polls who believe every vote should count -- because each of them in different ways know how much that precious right is worth.
That's the America I know. That’s the country we love. Clear-eyed. Big-hearted. Undaunted by challenge. Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. (Applause.)

That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future. I believe in change because I believe in you, the American people.

And that’s why I stand here confident as I have ever been that the State of our Union is strong. (Applause.)

Thank you, God bless you. God bless the United States of America.