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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs