News / USA

    Obama Delivers State of the Union Address

    Obama Delivers State of the Union Addressi
    X
    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.

    You May Like

    US Watching as North Korea Opens Biggest Political Meeting in Decades

    As Workers' Party Congress opens, Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora