Obama State of the Union Speech Transcript

The following is the transcript of President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union address January 26, 2009: Source: Fox News:

See my commentary here.

Madam Speaker, Vice President Biden, members of Congress,
distinguished guests, and fellow Americans, our Constitution declares
that from time to time the president shall give to Congress information
about the state of our union. For 220 years, our leaders have fulfilled
this duty. They’ve done so during periods of prosperity and
tranquility, and they’ve done so in the midst of war and depression, at
moments of great strife and great struggle.

It’s tempting to look back on these moments and assume that our
progress was inevitable, that America was always destined to succeed.

But when the Union was turned back at Bull Run and the Allies first
landed at Omaha Beach, victory was very much in doubt. When the market
crashed on Black Tuesday and civil rights marchers were beaten on
Bloody Sunday, the future was anything but certain.

These were the times that tested the courage of our convictions and the
strength of our union. And despite all our divisions and disagreements,
our hesitations and our fears, America prevailed because we chose to
move forward as one nation, as one people.

Again, we are tested. And again, we must answer history’s call.

One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economy rocked by a
severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse, and a
government deeply in debt. Experts from across the political spectrum
warned that if we did not act, we might face a second depression.

So we acted, immediately and aggressively. And one year later, the worst of the storm has passed.

But the devastation remains: One in ten Americans still can’t find
work. Many businesses have shuttered. Home values have declined. Small
towns and rural communities have been hit especially hard. And for
those who’d already known poverty, life has become that much harder.

This recession has also compounded the burdens that America’s families
have been dealing with for decades, the burden of working harder and
longer for less, of being unable to save enough to retire or help kids
with college.

So I know the anxieties that are out there right now. They’re not new.
These struggles are the reason I ran for president. These struggles are
what I’ve witnessed for years in places like Elkhart, Indiana,
Galesburg, Illinois.

I hear about them in the letters that I read each night. The toughest
to read are those written by children, asking why they have to move
from their home, asking when their mom or dad will be able to go back
to work.

For these Americans and so many others, change has not come fast
enough. Some are frustrated; some are angry. They don’t understand why
it seems like bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded, but hard work on
Main Street isn’t, or why Washington has been unable or unwilling to
solve any of our problems.

They’re tired of the partisanship and the shouting and the pettiness. They know we can’t afford it, not now.

So we face big and difficult challenges. And what the American people
hope — what they deserve — is for all of us, Democrats and
Republicans, to work through our differences, to overcome the numbing
weight of our politics, for while the people who sent us here have
different backgrounds, different stories, different beliefs, the
anxieties they face are the same, the aspirations they hold are shared:
a job that pays the bills, a chance to get ahead, most of all, the
ability to give their children a better life.

You know what else they share? They share a stubborn resilience in the
face of adversity. After one of the most difficult years in our
history, they remain busy building cars and teaching kids, starting
businesses and going back to school. They’re coaching little league and
helping their neighbors.

One woman wrote to me and said, “We are strained but hopeful, struggling but encouraged.”

It’s because of this spirit — this great decency and great strength —
that I have never been more hopeful about America’s future than I am


Despite — despite our hardships, our union is strong. We do not
give up. We do not quit. We do not allow fear or division to break our
spirit. In this new decade, it’s time the American people get a
government that matches their decency, that embodies their strength.


And tonight — tonight, I’d like to talk about how together we can deliver on that promise.
It begins with our economy.

Our most urgent — our most urgent task upon taking office was to
shore up the same banks that helped cause this crisis. It was not easy
to do. And if there’s one thing that has unified Democrats and
Republicans — and everybody in between — it’s that we all hated the
bank bailout. I hated it.


I hated it. I hated it. You hated it. It was about as popular as a root canal.


But when I ran for president, I promised I wouldn’t just do what was
popular, I would do what was necessary. And if we had allowed the
meltdown of the financial system, unemployment might be double what it
is today. More businesses would certainly have closed; more homes would
have surely been lost.

So I supported the last administration’s efforts to create the
financial rescue program. And when we took that program over, we made
it more transparent and more accountable. And as a result, the markets
are now stabilized, and we’ve recovered most of the money we spent on
the banks.


Most, but not all. To recover the rest, I’ve proposed a fee on the biggest banks. Now…


Now, I know Wall Street isn’t keen on this idea, but if these firms
can afford to hand out big bonuses again, they can afford a modest fee
to pay back the taxpayers who rescued them in their time of need.

Now, as we stabilized the financial system, we also took steps to
get our economy growing again, save as many jobs as possible, and help
Americans who’d become unemployed.

That’s why we extended or increased unemployment benefits for more
than 18 million Americans, made health insurance 65 percent cheaper for
families who get their coverage through COBRA, and passed 25 different
tax cuts.

Now, let me repeat: We cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families. We cut taxes for small businesses.


We cut taxes for first-time homebuyers. We cut taxes for parents
trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for 8 million Americans
paying for college.


I thought I’d get some applause on that one.


As a result…


As a result, millions of Americans had more to spend on gas and food
and other necessities, all of which helped businesses keep more
workers. And we haven’t raised income taxes by a single dime on a
single person, not a single dime.


Now, because of the steps we took, there are about 2 million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed.


Two hundred thousand work in construction and clean energy. Three
hundred thousand are teachers and other education workers. Tens of
thousands are cops, firefighters, correctional officers, first


And we’re on track to add another 1.5 million jobs to this total by the end of the year.
The plan that has made all of this possible, from the tax cuts to the jobs, is the Recovery Act.


That’s right, the Recovery Act, also known as the stimulus bill.


Economists on the left and the right say this bill has helped saved
jobs and avert disaster, but you don’t have to take their word for it.

Talk to the small business in Phoenix that will triple its workforce because of the Recovery Act.

Talk to the window manufacturer in Philadelphia who said he used to
be skeptical about the Recovery Act, until he had to add two more work
shifts just because of the business it created.

Talk to the single teacher raising two kids who was told by her
principal in the last week of school that, because of the Recovery Act,
she wouldn’t be laid off after all.

There are stories like this all across America. And after two years
of recession, the economy is growing again. Retirement funds have
started to gain back some of their value. Businesses are beginning to
invest again, and slowly, some are starting to hire again.

But I realize that, for every success story, there are other
stories, of men and women who wake up with the anguish of not knowing
where their next paycheck will come from, who send out resumes week
after week and hear nothing in response.

That is why jobs must be our number-one focus in 2010, and that’s why I’m calling for a new jobs bill tonight.

Now, the true engine of job creation in this country will always be America’s businesses…


… but government can create the conditions necessary for businesses to expand and hire more workers.

We should start where most new jobs do, in small businesses, companies that begin when…


… companies that begin when an entrepreneur — when an
entrepreneur takes a chance on a dream or a worker decides it’s time
she became her own boss.

Through sheer grit and determination, these companies have weathered
the recession and are ready to grow. But when you talk to
small-business owners in places like Allentown, Pennsylvania, or
Elyria, Ohio, you find out that even though banks on Wall Street are
lending again, they’re mostly lending to bigger companies. Financing
remains difficult for small-business owners across the country, even
though they’re making a profit.

So tonight, I’m proposing that we take $30 billion of the money Wall
Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks give small
businesses the credit they need to stay afloat.


I’m also proposing a new small-business tax credit, one that will go
to over 1 million small businesses who hire new workers or raise wages.


While we’re at it, let’s also eliminate all capital gains taxes on
small-business investment and provide a tax incentive for all large
businesses and all small businesses to invest in new plants and


Next, we can put Americans to work today building the infrastructure of tomorrow.


From — from the first railroads to the Interstate Highway System,
our nation has always been built to compete. There’s no reason Europe
or China should have the fastest trains or the new factories that
manufacture clean-energy products.

Tomorrow, I’ll visit Tampa, Florida, where workers will soon break
ground on a new high-speed railroad funded by the Recovery Act. There
are projects like that all across this country that will create jobs
and help move our nation’s goods, services and information.


We should put more Americans to work building clean-energy facilities and give…


… and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy efficient, which supports clean-energy jobs.


And to encourage these and other businesses to stay within our
borders, it is time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that
ship our jobs overseas and give those tax breaks to companies that
create jobs right here in the United States of America.

Now, the House has passed a jobs bill that includes some of these steps.


As the first order of business this year, I urge the Senate to do the same, and I know they will. They will.


People are out of work. They’re hurting. They need our help. And I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay.

But — but the truth is, these steps won’t make up for the 7 million
jobs that we’ve lost over the last two years. The only way to move to
full employment is to lay a new foundation for long- term economic
growth and finally address the problems that America’s families have
confronted for years.

We can’t afford another so-called economic “expansion” like the one
from last decade, what some call the “lost decade,” where jobs grew
more slowly than during any prior expansion, where the income of the
average American household declined while the cost of health care and
tuition reached record highs, where prosperity was built on a housing
bubble and financial speculation.

From the day I took office, I’ve been told that addressing our
larger challenges is too ambitious, such effort would be too
contentious. I’ve been told that our political system is too gridlocked
and that we should just put things on hold for a while.

For those who make these claims, I have one simple question: How
long should we wait? How long should America put its future on hold?
You see…


You see, Washington has been telling us to wait for decades, even as
the problems have grown worse. Meanwhile, China’s not waiting to revamp
its economy; Germany’s not waiting; India’s not waiting.

These nations, they’re not standing still. These nations aren’t
playing for second place. They’re putting more emphasis on math and
science. They’re rebuilding their infrastructure. They’re making
serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs.

Well, I do not accept second place for the United States of America.


As hard as it may be, as uncomfortable and contentious as the
debates may become, it’s time to get serious about fixing the problems
that are hampering our growth.

Now, one place to start is serious financial reform. Look, I’m not
interested in punishing banks. I’m interested in protecting our
economy. A strong, healthy financial market makes it possible for
businesses to access credit and create new jobs. It channels the
savings of families into investments that raise incomes. But that can
only happen if we guard against the same recklessness that nearly
brought down our entire economy.

We need to make sure consumers and middle-class families have the
information they need to make financial decisions. We can’t allow
financial institutions, including those that take your deposits, to
take risks that threaten the whole economy.

Now, the House has already passed financial reform with many of
these changes. And — and the lobbyists are trying to kill it. Well, we
cannot let them win this fight. And if the bill that ends up on my desk
does not meet the test of real reform, I will send it back until we get
it right.

We’ve got to get it right.


Next, we need to encourage American innovation. Last year, we made
the largest investment in basic research funding in history, an
investment — an investment that could lead to the world’s cheapest
solar cells or treatment that kills cancer cells but leaves healthy
ones untouched.

And no area is more ripe for such innovation than energy. You can
see the results of last year’s investments in clean energy in the North
Carolina company that will create 1,200 jobs nationwide, helping to
make advanced batteries, or in the California business that will put
1,000 people to work making solar panels.

But to create more of these clean-energy jobs, we need more
production, more efficiency, more incentives, and that means building a
new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country.


It means making tough decisions about opening new off-shore areas for oil and gas development.

It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean-coal technologies.


And, yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill
with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind
of energy in America.


I’m grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year.


And this year — this year, I’m eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate.
I know there have been questions about whether we can afford such
changes in a tough economy. I know that there are those who disagree
with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change.

But — but here’s the thing. Even if you doubt the evidence,
providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy are the
right thing to do for our future, because the nation that leads the
clean-energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy,
and America must be that nation.


Third, we need to export more of our goods.


Because the more products we make and sell to other countries, the more jobs we support right here in America. So…


So tonight, we set a new goal: We will double our exports over the
next five years, an increase that will support 2 million jobs in


To help meet this goal, we’re launching a National Export Initiative
that will help farmers and small businesses increase their exports and
reform export controls consistent with national security.

We have to seek new markets aggressively, just as our competitors
are. If America sits on the sidelines while other nations sign trade
deals, we will lose the chance to create jobs on our shores.


But realizing those benefits also means enforcing those agreements so our trading partners play by the rules.


And that’s why we’ll continue to shape a Doha trade agreement that
opens global markets and why we will strengthen our trade relations in
Asia and with key partners like South Korea, and Panama, and Colombia.


Fourth, we need to invest in the skills and education of our people.
Now, this year — this year, we’ve broken through the stalemate between
left and right by launching a national competition to improve our

And the idea here is simple: Instead of rewarding failure, we only
reward success. Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in
reform, reform that raises student achievement, inspires students to
excel in math and science, and turns around failing schools that steal
the future of too many young Americans, from rural communities to the
inner city.

In the 21st century, the best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education.


And in this country, the success of our children cannot depend more
on where they live than on their potential. When we renew the
Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we will work with Congress to
expand these reforms to all 50 states.

Still, in this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a
good job. That’s why I urge the Senate to follow the House and pass a
bill that will revitalize our community colleges, which are a career
pathway to the children of so many working families.


To make college more affordable, this bill will finally end the
unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that go to banks for student loans.
Instead, let’s take that money and give families a $10,000 tax credit
for four years of college and increase Pell Grants.


And let’s tell another 1 million students that, when they graduate,
they will be required to pay only 10 percent of their income on student
loans, and all of their debt will be forgiven after 20 years, and
forgiven after 10 years if they choose a career in public service,
because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because
they chose to go to college.


And, by the way, it’s time for colleges and universities to get
serious about cutting their own costs, because they, too, have a
responsibility to help solve this problem.

Now, the price of college tuition is just one of the burdens facing
the middle class. That’s why last year I asked Vice President Biden to
chair a task force on middle-class families.
That’s why we’re nearly doubling the childcare tax credit and making
it easier to save for retirement by giving access to every worker a
retirement account and expanding the tax credit for those who start a
nest egg. That’s why we’re working to lift the value of a family’s
single largest investment, their home.

The steps we took last year to shore up the housing market have
allowed millions of Americans to take out new loans and save an average
of $1,500 on mortgage payments. This year, we will step up refinancing
so that homeowners can move into more affordable mortgages. And…


And it is precisely to relieve the burden on middle-class families that we still need health insurance reform.
We do.


Now, let’s clear a few things up.


I didn’t choose to tackle this issue to get some legislative victory
under my belt. And by now, it should be fairly obvious that I didn’t
take on health care because it was good politics.


I took on health care because of the stories I’ve heard, from
Americans with pre-existing conditions whose lives depend on getting
coverage, patients who’ve been denied coverage, families, even those
with insurance, who are just one illness away from financial ruin.

After nearly a century of trying — Democratic administrations,
Republican administrations — we are closer than ever to bringing more
security to the lives of so many Americans.

The approach we’ve taken would protect every American from the worst
practices of the insurance industry. It would give small businesses and
uninsured Americans a chance to choose an affordable health care plan
in a competitive market.

It would require every insurance plan to cover preventive care. And
by the way, I want to acknowledge our first lady, Michelle Obama, who
this year is creating a national movement to tackle the epidemic of
childhood obesity and make kids healthier.
Thank you, honey.


She gets embarrassed.

Our approach would preserve the right of Americans who have
insurance to keep their doctor and their plan. It would reduce costs
and premiums for millions of families and businesses.

And according to the Congressional Budget Office, the independent
organization that both parties have cited as the official scorekeeper
for Congress, our approach would bring down the deficit by as much as
$1 trillion over the next two decades.


Still, this is a complex issue. And the longer it was debated, the
more skeptical people became. I take my share of the blame for not
explaining it more clearly to the American people. And I know that with
all the lobbying and horse-trading, this process left most Americans
wondering, “What’s in it for me?”

But I also know this problem is not going away. By the time I’m
finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health
insurance. Millions will lose it this year. Our deficit will grow.
Premiums will go up. Patients will be denied the care they need.
Small-business owners will continue to drop coverage altogether.

I will not walk away from these Americans, and neither should the people in this chamber.


As temperatures cool, I want everyone to take another look at the
plan we’ve proposed. There’s a reason why many doctors, nurses, and
health care experts who know our system best consider this approach a
vast improvement over the status quo.

But if anyone from either party has a better approach that will
bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured,
strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let
me know.


Let me know. Let me know.


I’m eager to see it.

Here’s what I ask Congress, though: Don’t walk away from reform, not
now, not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and
finish the job for the American people. Let’s get it done.


Let’s get it done.

Now, even as health care reform would reduce our deficit, it’s not
enough to dig us out of a massive fiscal hole in which we find
ourselves. It’s a challenge that makes all others that much harder to
solve and one that’s been subject to a lot of political posturing.

So let me start the discussion of government spending by setting the
record straight. At the beginning of the last decade, the year 2000,
America had a budget surplus of over $200 billion.

By — by the time I took office, we had a one-year deficit of over
$1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade.
Most of this was the result of not paying for two wars, two tax cuts,
and an expensive prescription drug program.

On top of that, the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion hole in our budget. All this was before I walked in the door.




Now — just stating the facts. Now, if we had taken office in
ordinary times, I would have liked nothing more than to start bringing
down the deficit. But we took office amid a crisis, and our efforts to
prevent a second depression have added another $1 trillion to our
national debt. That, too, is a fact.

I’m absolutely convinced that was the right thing to do, but
families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough
decisions. The federal government should do the same.

So tonight, I’m proposing specific steps to pay for the $1 trillion that it took to rescue the economy last year.

Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for
three years. Spending related to our national security, Medicare,
Medicaid, and Social Security will not be affected, but all other
discretionary government programs will.

Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to
invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don’t. And if I have to
enforce this discipline by veto, I will.


We will continue to go through the budget line by line, page by
page, to eliminate programs that we can’t afford and don’t work. We’ve
already identified $20 billion in savings for next year.

To help working families, we’ll extend our middle-class tax cuts.
But at a time of record deficits, we will not continue tax cuts for oil
companies, for investment fund managers, and for those making over
$250,000 a year. We just can’t afford it.


Now, even after paying for what we spent on my watch, we’ll still
face the massive deficit we had when I took office. More importantly,
the cost of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will continue to

That’s why I’ve called for a bipartisan Fiscal Commission, modeled
on a proposal by Republican Judd Gregg and Democrat Kent Conrad.


This can’t be one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend
we solved a problem. The commission will have to provide a specific set
of solutions by a certain deadline.

Now, yesterday, the Senate blocked a bill that would have created
this commission. So I’ll issue an executive order that will allow us to
go forward, because I refuse to pass this problem on to another
generation of Americans.


And when the vote comes tomorrow, the Senate should restore the
pay-as-you-go law that was a big reason for why we had record surpluses
in the 1990s.


Now, I know that some in my own party will argue that we can’t
address the deficit or freeze government spending when so many are
still hurting. And I agree, which is why this freeze won’t take effect
until next year, when the economy is stronger. That’s how budgeting

And in the last year, hundreds of Al Qaida’s fighters and
affiliates, including many senior leaders, have been captured or
killed, far more than in 2008.

And in Afghanistan, we’re increasing our troops and training Afghan
security forces so they can begin to take the lead in July of 2011 and
our troops can begin to come home.


We will reward good governance, work to reduce corruption, and
support the rights of all Afghans, men and women alike. We’re joined by
allies and partners who have increased their own commitment and who’ll
come together tomorrow in London to reaffirm our common purpose. There
will be difficult days ahead, but I am absolutely confident we will

As we take the fight to Al Qaida, we are responsibly leaving Iraq to
its people. As a candidate, I promised that I would end this war, and
that is what I am doing as president.

We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this August.


We will support — we will support the Iraqi government — we will
support the Iraqi government as they hold elections, and we will
continue to partner with the Iraqi people to promote regional peace and

But make no mistake: This war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home.


Tonight, all of our men and women in uniform — in Iraq, in
Afghanistan, and around the world — they have to know that we — that
they have our respect, our gratitude, our full support. And just as
they must have the resources they need in war, we all have a
responsibility to support them when they come home.


That’s why we made the largest increase in investments for veterans in decades last year.


That’s why we’re building a 21st-century V.A. And that’s why
Michelle has joined with Jill Biden to forge a national commitment to
support military families.


Now, even as we prosecute two wars, we’re also confronting perhaps
the greatest danger to the American people, the threat of nuclear
weapons. I’ve embraced the vision of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan
through a strategy that reverses the spread of these weapons and seeks
a world without them.

To reduce our stockpiles and launchers, while ensuring our
deterrent, the United States and Russia are completing negotiations on
the farthest-reaching arms control treaty in nearly two decades.


And at April’s Nuclear Security Summit, we will bring 44 nations
together here in Washington, D.C., behind a clear goal: securing all
vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years so that
they never fall into the hands of terrorists.


Now, these diplomatic efforts have also strengthened our hand in
dealing with those nations that insist on violating international
agreements in pursuit of nuclear weapons. That’s why North Korea now
faces increased isolation and stronger sanctions, sanctions that are
being vigorously enforced.

That’s why the international community is more united and the
Islamic Republic of Iran is more isolated. And as Iran’s leaders
continue to ignore their obligations, there should be no doubt: They,
too, will face growing consequences. That is a promise.


That’s the leadership we are providing: engagement that advances the
common security and prosperity of all people. We’re working through the
G-20 to sustain a lasting global recovery. We’re working with Muslim
communities around the world to promote science and education and

We have gone from a bystander to a leader in the fight against
climate change. We’re helping developing countries to feed themselves
and continuing the fight against HIV/AIDS.
And we are launching a new initiative that will give us the capacity
to respond faster and more effectively to bioterrorism or an infectious
disease, a plan that will counter threats at home and strengthen public
health abroad.

As we have for over 60 years, America takes these actions because
our destiny is connected to those beyond our shores. But we also do it
because it is right.

That’s why, as we meet here tonight, over 10,000 Americans are
working with many nations to help the people of Haiti recover and


That’s why we stand with the girl who yearns to go to school in
Afghanistan, why we support the human rights of the women marching
through the streets of Iran, why we advocate for the young man denied a
job by corruption in Guinea, for America must always stand on the side
of freedom and human dignity, always.


Abroad, America’s greatest source of strength has always been our
ideals. The same is true at home. We find unity in our incredible
diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution, the
notion that we’re all created equal, that no matter who you are or what
you look like, if you abide by the law, you should be protected by it,
if you adhere to our common values, you should be treated no different
than anyone else.

We must continually renew this promise. My administration has a
Civil Rights Division that is once again prosecuting civil rights
violations and employment discrimination. We finally strengthened…


We finally strengthened our laws to protect against crimes driven by hate.


This year — this year, I will work with Congress and our military
to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve
the country they love because of who they are. It’s the right thing to


We’re going to crack down on violations of equal pay laws, so that women get equal pay for an equal day’s work.


And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration
system, to secure our borders, and enforce our laws, and ensure that
everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and
enrich our nations.


In the end, it’s our ideals, our values that built America, values
that allowed us to forge a nation made up of immigrants from every
corner of the globe, values that drive our citizens still.

Every day, Americans meet their responsibilities to their families
and their employers. Time and again, they lend a hand to their
neighbors and give back to their country. They take pride in their
labor and are generous in spirit.

These aren’t Republican values or Democratic values that they’re
living by, business values or labor values. They’re American values.

Unfortunately, too many of our citizens have lost faith that our
biggest institutions — our corporations, our media, and, yes, our
government — still reflect these same values.

Each of these institutions are full of honorable men and women doing
important work that helps our country prosper. But each time a CEO
rewards himself for failure or a banker puts the rest of us at risk for
his own selfish gain, people’s doubts grow. Each time lobbyists game
the system or politicians tear each other down instead of lifting this
country up, we lose faith.

The more that TV pundits reduce serious debates to silly arguments, big issues into sound bites, our citizens turn away.

No wonder there’s so much cynicism out there. No wonder there’s so much disappointment.
I campaigned on the promise of change, change we can believe in, the
slogan went. And right now, I know there are many Americans who aren’t
sure if they still believe we can change, or that I can deliver it.

But remember this: I never suggested that change would be easy or
that I could do it alone. Democracy in a nation of 300 million people
can be noisy and messy and complicated. And when you try to do big
things and make big changes, it stirs passions and controversy. That’s
just how it is.

Those of us in public office can respond to this reality by playing
it safe and avoid telling hard truths and pointing fingers. We can do
what’s necessary to keep our poll numbers high and get through the next
election instead of doing what’s best for the next generation.

But I also know this: If people had made that decision 50 years ago
or 100 years ago or 200 years ago, we wouldn’t be here tonight. The
only reason we are here is because generations of Americans were
unafraid to do what was hard, to do what was needed even when success
was uncertain, to do what it took to keep the dream of this nation
alive for their children and their grandchildren.

Our administration has had some political setbacks this year, and
some of them were deserved. But I wake up every day knowing that they
are nothing compared to the setbacks that families all across this
country have faced this year.

And what keeps me going, what keeps me fighting, is that despite all
these setbacks, that spirit of determination and optimism, that
fundamental decency that has always been at the core of the American
people, that lives on.

It lives on in the struggling small-business owner who wrote to me
of his company, “None of us,” he said, “are willing to consider, even
slightly, that we might fail.”

It lives on in the woman who said that, even though she and her
neighbors have felt the pain of recession, “We are strong, we are
resilient, we are American.”

It lives on in the 8-year-old boy in Louisiana who just sent me his
allowance and asked if I would give it to the people of Haiti.

And it lives on in all the Americans who’ve dropped everything to go
some place they’ve never been and pull people they’ve never known from
the rubble, prompting chants of “USA! USA! USA!” when another life was

The spirit that has sustained this nation for more than two centuries lives on in you, its people.

We have finished a difficult year. We have come through a difficult
decade. But a new year has come. A new decade stretches before us.

We don’t quit. I don’t quit. Let’s seize this moment, to start anew,
to carry the dream forward, and to strengthen our union once more.


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