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Obama Delivers State of the Union Address

Obama Delivers State of the Union Addressi
January 29, 2014 7:47 AM
President Barack Obama delivered his annual State of the Union speech to the American public Tuesday night. In it, he laid out a plan for this midway year of his second term. The president touts what he says is an improving economy but he battles poor approval ratings and a divided Congress which has often stymied his initiatives. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti reports.
Watch related video from VOA's Carolyn Presutti.
President Barack Obama gave credit to the American people for making the country strong in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.  As expected, he focused on the nation's economy, and called for making this year "a year of action." 
President Obama's Previous State of the Union Addresses

2009:  Not technically a State of the Union, Obama said years of irresponsibility and short-term thinking had brought a "day of reckoning."  
2010:  Obama urged Americans to work together to solve the damaged economy and pledged to remove U.S. combat troops from Iraq.
2011:  Obama proposed a partial government spending freeze and said the U.S. stands with the people of Tunisia, whose protests drove their president out of the country at the start of the Arab Spring.
2012:  Obama outlined a new economic blueprint and highlighted progress in Afghanistan and the killing of Osama bin Laden.
2013:  Obama detailed the drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

The president received a warm welcome, despite months of bitter political bickering in Washington.  And the president wasted no time in thanking the country for its patience.
"Tonight, this chamber speaks with one voice to the people we represent: it is you, our citizens, who make the state of our union strong," he said.
Obama used most of his speech to focus on the U.S. economy and issues facing the middle class, assuring voters that things are getting better.
"For the first time in over a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that China is no longer the world’s number one place to invest; America is," he said, but added that improvement is not coming fast enough.
"The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by - let alone get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all."
Part of his prescription - proposals to raise the minimum wage, expanded educational opportunities and fixing “our broken immigration system."
White House Guests for the State of the Union Address:

The White House is continuing the long tradition of having special guests sit with the first lady during the president's State of the Union address.

This year's guest list includes two survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing, the fire chief of the tornado-ravaged Oklahoma town of Moore and basketball player Jason Collins - the first openly gay athlete in a major U.S. sport.

Also on the list of White House invitees are an unemployed mother of two, a war veteran wounded in Afghanistan, and a young immigration reform advocate brought to the United States illegally as a child.

In total, more than 20 guests are joining Michelle Obama in her box at the Capitol.  Vice President Joe Biden's wife, Jill, and senior adviser to President Barack Obama, Valerie Jarrett, also have seats there.

Other guests, invited by members of Congress, include the mother and sister of Kenneth Bae - the U.S. missionary imprisoned in North Korea.  Also attending is the father of Navy SEAL Ty Woods, who was killed during the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012.

The president also launched a passionate defense of his health care reform law, known as "Obamacare," saying he would work with Congress when possible, but would act alone if necessary. 
In the Republican response Tuesday night, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers said Obama’s policies “are making people’s lives harder" and laid out this challenge for the president.
"We hope the president will join us in a year of real action - by empowering people - not making their lives harder with unprecedented spending, higher taxes and fewer jobs," she said.
Differences between lawmakers and Obama also remain in key areas of foreign policy.  The president promised to continue to pursue al-Qaida and other terrorists, but said the U.S. needs to take a different approach in places like Iran.
"For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed," the president said, and vowed to veto any sanctions bill that threatens to derail the Iran talks.

Jeff Seldin

Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is national security correspondent. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

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