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This year, I want to work with both parties in Congress to replace No Child Left Behind with a smarter law that addresses the overuse of standardized tests, makes a real investment in preschool, and gives every kid a fair shot in the new economy.
President Obama focused in this morning's weekly address on progress made in education, and the steps we need to take as a nation to ensure a better future for our children:
Over the past few years, we’ve seen signs that our elementary and secondary school students are doing better. Last year, our younger students earned the highest math and reading scores on record. Last week, we learned that our high school graduation rate hit a new all-time high.

This is progress. But in a 21st century economy, our kids will only do better than we did if we educate them better than we were educated. So we have to do more to make sure they graduate from school fully prepared for college and a career.

Besides challenging Congress to replace No Child Left Behind, he took aim at the bill Republicans have introduced in Congress, which would "lock in cuts to schools," allow local and state school authorities to deplete the education budget for tax cuts to the wealthy, and would "send even more money to some of the wealthiest school districts in America."
Denying a quality education to the children of working families is as wrong as denying health care or child care to working families. We are better than this.
His solution? Less testing, more teacher resources. For starters.

To read the transcript in full, check below the fold or visit the White House website.

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We have to choose – will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well, or will we build an economy where everyone who works hard can get ahead?
Coming fresh off a positive jobs report, President Barack Obama this morning continued the theme in his weekly address that he's hit repeatedly in the past month: America needs to shore up the middle class and ensure a wider prosperity for all.
Because while we’ve come a long way, we’ve got more work to do to make sure that our recovery reaches more Americans, not just those at the top. That’s what middle-class economics is all about – the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.
He outlined the specific proposals in the budget that he sent to Congress this week that he believes will be instrumental in rebuilding a robust middle class: affordable "childcare, health care, college, paid leave at work, homeownership, and saving for retirement." Oh, yeah, and there's the provision for free community college, investment in research and infrastructure, and the closing of tax loopholes for the rich. But the man knows what he's up against, and laid down a closing challenge for Republicans:
We won’t agree on everything, and that’s natural – but we should stop refighting old battles, and start working together to help you succeed in the new economy.

That’s what you elected us to do – not to turn everything into another Washington food fight, but to have debates that are worthy of this country, and to build an economy not just where everyone can share in America’s success, but where everyone can contribute to America’s success.

To read the transcript in full, check below the fold or visit the White House website.
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Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we build an economy where everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead?
President Obama is not going to let up on his more recent populist message of focusing on the middle class, evidenced this morning by a weekly address that marks the third week in a row that he's hit this theme. This week he riffed on the budget he's going to send to Congress next week.
We’ll help working families’ paychecks go farther by treating things like paid leave and child care like the economic priorities that they are. We’ll offer Americans of every age the chance to upgrade their skills so they can earn higher wages, with plans like making two years of community college free for every responsible student. And we’ll keep building the world’s most attractive economy for high-wage jobs, with new investments in research, infrastructure, manufacturing, and expanded access to faster internet and new markets.
Of course, he knows Republicans won't like it. Of course.
Now, I know that there are Republicans in Congress who disagree with my approach. And like I said in my State of the Union Address, if they have ideas that will help middle-class families feel some economic security, I’m all in to work with them. But I will keep doing everything I can to help more working families make ends meet and get ahead. Not just because we want everyone to share in America’s success – but because we want everyone to contribute to America’s success.
To read the transcript in full, check below the fold or visit the White House website.
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Thanks to the hard work and resilience of Americans like you, we’ve risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth.

Now we have to choose what we want that future to look like. Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?  Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and rising chances for everyone who makes the effort?

President Obama underscored his State of the Union message of evening the playing field for the middle class in this morning's weekly address. First, he pointed to the nation's gains during his administration: job creation, shrinking deficits, troops home from the Middle East. Then he riffed on what his new favorite term—"middle-class economics"—looks like, in his view:
Middle-class economics means helping workers feel more secure in a world of constant change – making it easier to afford childcare, college, paid leave, health care, a home, and retirement.

Middle-class economics means doing more to help Americans upgrade their skills through opportunities like apprenticeships and two years of free community college, so we can keep earning higher wages down the road.

Middle-class economics means building the most competitive economy in the world, by building the best infrastructure, opening new markets so we can sell our products around the world, and investing in research – so that businesses keep creating good jobs right here.

He acknowledged the new Republican Congress doesn't share his views, but that he "look[s] forward to hearing their ideas for how we can pay for what the middle class needs to grow." (And almost certainly he'll be chuckling at those ideas, veto pen in hand.)

To read the transcript in full, check below the fold or visit the White House website.

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THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 20, 2015

Excerpts of the President’s State of the Union Address

As Prepared for Delivery

“We are fifteen years into this new century.  Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world.  It has been, and still is, a hard time for many.

But tonight, we turn the page.”

“At this moment – with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production – we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth.  It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come.

Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?  Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?”

“So the verdict is clear.  Middle-class economics works.  Expanding opportunity works.  And these policies will continue to work, as long as politics don’t get in the way.”

“In fact, at every moment of economic change throughout our history, this country has taken bold action to adapt to new circumstances, and to make sure everyone gets a fair shot. We set up worker protections, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to protect ourselves from the harshest adversity.  We gave our citizens schools and colleges, infrastructure and the internet – tools they needed to go as far as their effort will take them.

That’s what middle-class economics is – the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

“I believe in a smarter kind of American leadership.  We lead best when we combine military power with strong diplomacy; when we leverage our power with coalition building; when we don’t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents.  That’s exactly what we’re doing right now – and around the globe, it is making a difference.”

“In Iraq and Syria, American leadership – including our military power – is stopping ISIL’s advance.  Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group.  We’re also supporting a moderate opposition in Syria that can help us in this effort, and assisting people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism.  This effort will take time.  It will require focus.  But we will succeed.  And tonight, I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL.”

“No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids.  We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism.  And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information.  If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable.  If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe.”

###
Discuss
Our job now is to make sure that every American feels that they’re a part of our country’s comeback. That’s what I’ll focus on in my State of the Union – how to build on our momentum, with rising wages, growing incomes, and a stronger middle class. And I’ll call on this new Congress to join me in putting aside the political games and finding areas where we agree so we can deliver for the American people.
President Obama gave a preview to weekly address listeners this morning of the successes and challenges he will discuss in his State of the Union address on January 20, and of the guests he will invite to honor their stories of how the policies of his administration have helped them.

A small business owner helped by an SBA loan, an unemployed worker who earned his degree and found a full-time job thanks to a cap on student loans and the health insurance he received through the Affordable Care Act, a wounded vet who is healing thanks to the care he's received—these will be his guests and their success stories will be highlighted.

He closed with an invitation to listeners to tune in to the address and hear about the progress the country has made and how America can expand on that progress:

The last six years have demanded resilience and sacrifice from all of us. All of us have a right to be proud of the progress America has made. And I hope you’ll tune in on Tuesday to hear about the steps we can take to build on this progress, and to seize this moment together.
To read the transcript in full, check below the fold or visit the White House website.
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Making homeownership easier. Bringing a higher education within reach. Creating more good jobs that pay good wages. These are just some of the ways we can help every American get ahead in the new economy. And there’s more to come. Because America is coming back. And I want to go full speed ahead.
President Obama took something of a victory lap in this morning's weekly address, hitting a theme he hit a few weeks ago: America's  making a comeback after a long, dark spell.

Jobs?

In December, our businesses created 240,000 new jobs. The unemployment rate fell to 5.6%. That means that 2014 was the strongest year for job growth since the 1990s. In 2014, unemployment fell faster than it has in three decades.

Over a 58-month streak, our businesses have created 11.2 million new jobs.

Health insurance?
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, about 10 million Americans have gained health insurance in the past year alone.
Deficits?
We have cut our deficits by about two-thirds.
Afghanistan?
And after 13 long years, our war in Afghanistan has come to a responsible end, and more of our brave troops have come home.
Falling gas prices, a resurgent auto industry, a new plan to help first-time homeowners, free community college.

One thing not mentioned: the historic climate accord with China. Sometimes, I guess, the weekly address just doesn't give you enough time ....

To read the transcript in full, check below the fold or visit the White House website.

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Anticipating the Holiday Season

Family, friends and food top the list. As they should!

And it seems to be the time of year when carols are appreciated in public, and decorating is considered fun.

Do you fall in line with the rest of America on these choices? What else do you enjoy in the days leading up to the holidays?

I would add ... watching Christmas movies! With family, friends and food, of course.

Discuss
The six years since the financial crisis have demanded hard work and sacrifice on everyone’s part. But as a country, we have every right to be proud of what we’ve got to show for it. More jobs. More insured. A growing economy. Shrinking deficits. Bustling industry. Booming energy.

Pick any metric you want – America’s resurgence is real.

President Obama struck a near-jubilant note in this morning's weekly address, pointing to numerous successes in the past year—and since his first term began—from the economy to diplomacy to ending the war in Afghanistan.

On his lengthy list: deficit cut by two-thirds, affordable health care for millions of Americans, a rescued auto industry, job growth, rising wages, lower gas prices.

World leadership roles were on his mind as well:

Meanwhile, around the world, America is leading. We’re leading the coalition to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL. We’re leading the global fight to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. We’re leading global efforts to address climate change, including last month’s joint announcement with China. We’re turning a new page in our relationship with the Cuban people.
He looked ahead, too, vowing to work to "reverse the decades-long erosion of middle-class jobs and income," and making sure "our economy, our justice system, and our government work not only for a few, but for all of us." He closed with a declaration:
We have set the stage for a new American moment, and I’m going to spend every minute of my last two years making sure we seize it.
To read the transcript in full, check below the fold or visit the White House website.
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As we go about our days, as we gather with loved ones and friends, it’s important to remember: our way of life—the freedom, prosperity and security that we enjoy as Americans—is not a gift that is simply handed to us. It has to be earned—by every generation. And no one sacrifices more to preserve our blessings than our extraordinary men and women in uniform.
In a week filled with a Senate torture report, demonstrations across the country proclaiming Black Lives Matter, and a contentious CRomnibus bill, it appears President Barack Obama took the anodyne route in this morning's weekly address, thanking the country's military troops for their service.

He told listeners he planned to visit troops in New Jersey Monday "to salute them for their service and thank them for their sacrifices."

Now, many of our troops are returning from Afghanistan, and on Monday, I’ll be proud to help welcome them home. That’s because, this month, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over. Our war in Afghanistan is coming to a responsible end.
Of course, he cautions, that's the end of our commitment to Afghanistan. "We’ll continue to work with Afghans to make sure their country is stable and secure and is never again used to launch attacks against America," he said.

He urged listeners to remember troops and their families in the holiday season and to visit JoiningForces.gov to see how Americans can express gratitude to those in military service, their families and veterans during the holidays.

To read the transcript in full, check below the fold or visit the White House website.

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Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because, more than any other, it is uniquely American. Each of us brings our own traditions and cultures and recipes to the table – but we all share this day, united by the gratitude for the bounty of this nation. And we welcome the contributions of all people – no matter their origin or color or beliefs – who call America home, and who enrich the life of our nation.  It is a creed as old as our founding: “E pluribus unum” – that out of many, we are one.

We are reminded that this creed, and America itself, was never an inevitability, but the result of ordinary people in every generation doing their part to uphold our founding ideals – by taking the blessings of freedom, and multiplying them for those who would follow. As President Kennedy once wrote, even as we give thanks for all that we’ve inherited from those who came before us—“the decency of purpose, steadfastness of resolve and strength of will, for the courage and the humility, which they possessed,” we must also remember that “the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.”

As is traditional, President Obama scheduled his weekly address early this week to bring a Thanksgiving message to America, one that reflected his belief in the country's unity and the "decency of purpose" in its citizens. After thanking those who serve in the military and those who volunteer across America, he seemed to obliquely address the conflicts aroused by the events in Ferguson, Missouri:
It’s easy to focus on what separates us. But as we gather with loved ones on this Thanksgiving, let’s remember and be grateful for what binds us together. Our love of country. Our commitment to justice and equality. Our belief that America’s best days are ahead, and that her destiny is ours to shape – and that our inherited ideals must be the birthright of all of our children.

That’s what today is all about: that out of many, we are one.

To read the transcript in full, check below the fold or visit the White House website.
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We are a nation of immigrants. It has always given America a big advantage over other nations. It keeps our country young, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. But today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it.
Unsurprisingly, President Obama fiercely defended his decision to move ahead on immigration reform in this morning's weekly address, citing America's history as a nation built by immigrants and his belief that America cannot move ahead until the broken system is fixed. After discussing the Senate's passage of a compromise bill nearly two years ago, he pointed directly at the obstructionists who were holding up a fix:
... for a year and a half, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote. Now, I still believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together – both parties – to pass that kind of bipartisan law. But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as President – the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican Presidents before me – that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just.
After outlining the provisions of the bill—detailed here—he issued a challenge to the right-wing critics who are losing their ever-loving minds over his action:
As you might have heard, there are Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better. Well, I have one answer for that: Pass a bill. The day I sign it into law, the actions I’ve taken to help solve this problem will no longer be necessary.
Don't like it, whiners? Fix it. Pretty simple message.

To read the transcript in full, check below the fold or visit the White House website.

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