“It is my task to report the state of the union,” President Barack Obama said in an address to Congress on February 12. “To improve it is the task of us all.” Obama was repeating the words of another President, John F. Kennedy, from a speech made 51 years ago.
Delivering his annual State of the Union speech, Obama spoke to Americans watching on television, members of Congress and the Cabinet, U.S. Supreme Court Justices and guests who filled the chamber of the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.
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. Obama spoke for about one hour. He announced that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops would come home from Afghanistan. By the end of next year, he said, the war in Afghanistan will be over.
A Call for Cooperation
Obama urged Republicans and Democrats to work together to find solutions to the biggest problems facing our nation. “[Americans] expect us to put the nation's interests before party,” he said. “They . . . expect us to forge reasonable compromises where we can."
Obama talked about the importance of building “new ladders of opportunity" for Americans. He emphasized that citizens should have access to education and training for today’s jobs and asked Congress to change a law called the Higher Education Act so more students can get help paying for college. A new “College Scorecard” will help parents and students decide where to get the best education for their budget, Obama said.
In a continued push for education, the President proposed that the government work with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. Today, fewer than 3 in 10 four-year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Quality early education, said Obama, will ensure that “none of our children start the race of life already behind.”
In his speech, Obama also proposed raising the pay for minimum wage workers from $7.25 an hour to $9.00 an hour. “In the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty,” he said.
Obama ended his speech with a strong call for gun control. He called on Congress to vote on laws to ban certain types of guns and expand background checks for people trying to purchase guns.
Following the President’s speech, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, spoke for Republicans. “Despite our differences, I know that both Republicans and Democrats love America,” he said. “I pray we can come together to solve our problems.”