The President’s Speech

President Barack Obama addresses Congress in his State of the Union speech

Jan 25, 2012 | By Kelli Plasket
SAUL LOEB—AFP/GETTY IMAGES

“The state of our union is getting stronger,” President Barack Obama said in an address to Congress on January 24. “We’ve come too far to turn back now.” In his annual State of the Union speech, Obama spoke to Americans watching on television and the members of Congress and the Cabinet, U.S. Supreme Court Justices and guests who filled the chamber of the House of Representatives..

The U.S. Constitution requires the President to report regularly to Congress. Presidents see the speech as an opportunity to set their goals and inspire the nation.

Planning for the Future

Obama’s speech focused on improving the economy and creating more jobs, especially in manufacturing. Obama called for higher taxes for the wealthy and for training programs to help jobless Americans. He also asked lawmakers to create legislation dealing with immigration, clean energy and housing. “We can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules,” Obama said.

President Barack Obama shares a hug with Arizona Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords.
PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS—AP
President Barack Obama shares a hug with Arizona Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords.

After the President’s speech, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels gave the official Republican response. (Obama is a Democrat.) He praised some of the President’s work, but called for policies that would lead to a simpler tax systems and smaller government. “There is nothing wrong with the state of our union that the American people cannot set right,” Daniels said.

With the parties divided on how to grow the economy, legislators face a challenging election year. Obama hopes Congress will follow the lead of the U.S. military. “They work together,” he said. “Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example.”

A Very Special Guest

Before the speech, the divided Congress came together to applaud as Arizona Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords entered the room. On January 8, 2011, Giffords was injured in a shooting rampage in Tucson, Arizona. The Democratic congresswoman and 18 others were shot. Six of the victims died. Giffords, who was shot in the head, went from being unable to speak at all to giving a television interview in just 10 months. Her ongoing recovery has inspired many.

January 24 was her last full day in Congress. Giffords resigned on January 25 to focus on her recovery. As the President made his way to the podium before his big speech, Obama and Giffords shared a hug.