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THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                                           February 18, 2015

CLOSING REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT SUMMIT ON COUNTERING VIOLENT EXTREMISM

South Court Auditorium

4:20 P.M. EST

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much. Everybody, please have a seat.

Well, thank you, Lisa, for the introduction.  Lisa is an example of the countless dedicated public servants across our government, a number of who are here today, who are working tirelessly every single day on behalf of the security and safety of the American people.  So we very much appreciate her.  And thanks to all of you for your attendance and participation in this important summit.

For more than 238 years, the United States of America has not just endured, but we have thrived and surmounted challenges that might have broken a lesser nation.  After a terrible civil war, we repaired our union.  We weathered a Great Depression, became the world’s most dynamic economy.  We fought fascism, liberated Europe.  We faced down communism -- and won.  American communities have been destroyed by earthquakes and tornadoes and fires and floods -- and each time we rebuild.        

The bombing that killed 168 people could not break Oklahoma City.  On 9/11, terrorists tried to bring us to our knees; today a new tower soars above New York City, and America continues to lead throughout the world.  After Americans were killed at Fort Hood and the Boston Marathon, it didn’t divide us; we came together as one American family.

In the face of horrific acts of violence -- at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee, or at a Jewish community center outside Kansas City -- we reaffirmed our commitment to pluralism and to freedom, repulsed by the notion that anyone should ever be targeted because of who they are, or what they look like, or how they worship.

Most recently, with the brutal murders in Chapel Hill of three young Muslim Americans, many Muslim Americans are worried and afraid.  And I want to be as clear as I can be:  As Americans, all faiths and backgrounds, we stand with you in your grief and we offer our love and we offer our support.

My point is this:  As Americans, we are strong and we are resilient.  And when tragedy strikes, when we take a hit, we pull together, and we draw on what’s best in our character -- our optimism, our commitment to each other, our commitment to our values, our respect for one another.  We stand up, and we rebuild, and we recover, and we emerge stronger than before.  That’s who we are.  (Applause.)    

And I say all this because we face genuine challenges to our security today, just as we have throughout our history.  Challenges to our security are not new.  They didn’t happen yesterday or a week ago or a year ago.  We've always faced challenges.  One of those challenges is the terrorist threat from groups like al Qaeda and ISIL.  But this isn't our challenge alone.  It's a challenge for the world.  ISIL is terrorizing the people of Syria and Iraq, beheads and burns human beings in unfathomable acts of cruelty.  We’ve seen deadly attacks in Ottawa and Sydney and, Paris, and now Copenhagen.

So, in the face of this challenge, we have marshalled the full force of the United States government, and we’re working with allies and partners to dismantle terrorist organizations and protect the American people.  Given the complexities of the challenge and the nature of the enemy -- which is not a traditional army -- this work takes time, and will require vigilance and resilience and perspective.  But I'm confident that, just as we have for more than two centuries, we will ultimately prevail.    

And part of what gives me that confidence is the overwhelming response of the world community to the savagery of these terrorists -- not just revulsion, but a concrete commitment to work together to vanquish these organizations.

At the United Nations in September, I called on the international community to come together and eradicate this scourge of violent extremism.  And I want to thank all of you -- from across America and around the world -- for answering this call.  Tomorrow at the State Department, governments and civil society groups from more than 60 countries will focus on the steps that we can take as governments.  And I’ll also speak about how our nations have to remain relentless in our fight -- our counterterrorism efforts -- against groups that are plotting against our counties.      

But we are here today because of a very specific challenge  -- and that’s countering violent extremism, something that is not just a matter of military affairs.  By “violent extremism,” we don’t just mean the terrorists who are killing innocent people.  We also mean the ideologies, the infrastructure of extremists --the propagandists, the recruiters, the funders who radicalize and recruit or incite people to violence.  We all know there is no one profile of a violent extremist or terrorist, so there’s no way to predict who will become radicalized.  Around the world, and here in the United States, inexcusable acts of violence have been committed against people of different faiths, by people of different faiths -- which is, of course, a betrayal of all our faiths.  It's not unique to one group, or to one geography, or one period of time.

But we are here at this summit because of the urgent threat from groups like al Qaeda and ISIL.  And this week we are focused on prevention -- preventing these groups from radicalizing, recruiting or inspiring others to violence in the first place.  I’ve called upon governments to come to the United Nations this fall with concrete steps that we can take together.  And today, what I want to do is suggest several areas where I believe we can concentrate our efforts.

First, we have to confront squarely and honestly the twisted ideologies that these terrorist groups use to incite people to violence.  Leading up to this summit, there’s been a fair amount of debate in the press and among pundits about the words we use to describe and frame this challenge.  So I want to be very clear about how I see it.

Al Qaeda and ISIL and groups like it are desperate for legitimacy.  They try to portray themselves as religious leaders -- holy warriors in defense of Islam.  That’s why ISIL presumes to declare itself the “Islamic State.”  And they propagate the notion that America -- and the West, generally -- is at war with Islam.  That’s how they recruit.  That’s how they try to radicalize young people.  We must never accept the premise that they put forward, because it is a lie.  Nor should we grant these terrorists the religious legitimacy that they seek.  They are not religious leaders -- they’re terrorists.  (Applause.)  And we are not at war with Islam.  We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.  (Applause.)  

Now, just as those of us outside Muslim communities need to reject the terrorist narrative that the West and Islam are in conflict, or modern life and Islam are in conflict, I also believe that Muslim communities have a responsibility as well.  Al Qaeda and ISIL do draw, selectively, from the Islamic texts.  They do depend upon the misperception around the world that they speak in some fashion for people of the Muslim faith, that Islam is somehow inherently violent, that there is some sort of clash of civilizations.

Of course, the terrorists do not speak for over a billion Muslims who reject their hateful ideology.  They no more represent Islam than any madman who kills innocents in the name of God represents Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism or Hinduism.  No religion is responsible for terrorism.  People are responsible for violence and terrorism.  (Applause.)  

And to their credit, there are respected Muslim clerics and scholars not just here in the United States but around the world who push back on this twisted interpretation of their faith.  They want to make very clear what Islam stands for.  And we’re joined by some of these leaders today.  These religious leaders and scholars preach that Islam calls for peace and for justice, and tolerance toward others; that terrorism is prohibited; that the Koran says whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind.  Those are the voices that represent over a billion people around the world.

But if we are going to effectively isolate terrorists, if we're going to address the challenge of their efforts to recruit our young people, if we're going to lift up the voices of tolerance and pluralism within the Muslim community, then we've got to acknowledge that their job is made harder by a broader narrative that does exist in many Muslim communities around the world that suggests the West is at odds with Islam in some fashion.

The reality -- which, again, many Muslim leaders have spoken to -- is that there’s a strain of thought that doesn’t embrace ISIL’s tactics, doesn’t embrace violence, but does buy into the notion that the Muslim world has suffered historical grievances  -- sometimes that's accurate -- does buy into the belief that so many of the ills in the Middle East flow from a history of colonialism or conspiracy; does buy into the idea that Islam is incompatible with modernity or tolerance, or that it's been polluted by Western values.

So those beliefs exist.  In some communities around the world they are widespread.  And so it makes individuals -- especially young people who already may be disaffected or alienated -- more ripe for radicalization.  And so we've got to be able to talk honestly about those issues.  We've got to be much more clear about how we're rejecting certain ideas.

So just as leaders like myself reject the notion that terrorists like ISIL genuinely represent Islam, Muslim leaders need to do more to discredit the notion that our nations are determined to suppress Islam, that there’s an inherent clash in civilizations.  Everybody has to speak up very clearly that no matter what the grievance, violence against innocents doesn't defend Islam or Muslims, it damages Islam and Muslims.  (Applause.)

And when all of us, together, are doing our part to reject the narratives of violent extremists, when all of us are doing our part to be very clear about the fact that there are certain universal precepts and values that need to be respected in this interconnected world, that’s the beginnings of a partnership.

As we go forward, we need to find new ways to amplify the voices of peace and tolerance and inclusion -- and we especially need to do it online.  We also need to lift up the voices of those who know the hypocrisy of groups like ISIL firsthand, including former extremists.  Their words speak to us today.  And I know in some of the discussions these voices have been raised: “I witnessed horrible crimes committed by ISIS.”  “It’s not a revolution or jihad…it’s a slaughter…I was shocked by what I did.”  “This isn’t what we came for, to kill other Muslims.”  “I’m 28 -- is this the only future I’m able to imagine?”  That's the voice of so many who were temporarily radicalized and then saw the truth.  And they’ve warned other young people not to make the same mistakes as they did.  “Do not run after illusions.”  “Do not be deceived.”  “Do not give up your life for nothing.”  We need to lift up those voices.      

And in all this work, the greatest resource are communities themselves, especially like those young people who are here today.  We are joined by talented young men and women who are pioneering new innovations, and new social media tools, and new ways to reach young people.  We’re joined by leaders from the private sector, including high-tech companies, who want to support your efforts.  And I want to challenge all of us to build new partnerships that unleash the talents and creativity of young people -- young Muslims -- not just to expose the lies of extremists but to empower youth to service, and to lift up people’s lives here in America and around the world.  And that can be a calling for your generation.    

So that’s the first challenge -- we've got to discredit these ideologies.  We have to tackle them head on.  And we can't shy away from these discussions.  And too often, folks are, understandably, sensitive about addressing some of these root issues, but we have to talk about them, honestly and clearly.  (Applause.)  And the reason I believe we have to do so is because I'm so confident that when the truth is out we'll be successful.     Now, a second challenge is we do have to address the grievances that terrorists exploit, including economic grievances.  Poverty alone does not cause a person to become a terrorist, any more than poverty alone causes somebody to become a criminal.  There are millions of people -- billions of people  -- in the world who live in abject poverty and are focused on what they can do to build up their own lives, and never embrace violent ideologies.

Conversely, there are terrorists who’ve come from extraordinarily wealthy backgrounds, like Osama bin Laden.  What’s true, though, is that when millions of people -- especially youth -- are impoverished and have no hope for the future, when corruption inflicts daily humiliations on people, when there are no outlets by which people can express their concerns, resentments fester.  The risk of instability and extremism grow.  Where young people have no education, they are more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and radical ideas, because it's not tested against anything else, they’ve got nothing to weigh.  And we've seen this across the Middle East and North Africa.

And terrorist groups are all too happy to step into a void. They offer salaries to their foot soldiers so they can support their families.  Sometimes they offer social services -- schools, health clinics -- to do what local governments cannot or will not do.  They try to justify their violence in the name of fighting the injustice of corruption that steals from the people -- even while those terrorist groups end up committing even worse abuses, like kidnapping and human trafficking.

So if we’re going to prevent people from being susceptible to the false promises of extremism, then the international community has to offer something better.  And the United States intends to do its part.  We will keep promoting development and growth that is broadly shared, so more people can provide for their families.  We’ll keep leading a global effort against corruption, because the culture of the bribe has to be replaced by good governance that doesn’t favor certain groups over others.
Countries have to truly invest in the education and skills and job training that our extraordinary young people need.  And by the way, that's boys and girls, and men and women, because countries will not be truly successful if half their populations -- if their girls and their women are denied opportunity.  (Applause.)  And America will continue to forge new partnerships in entrepreneurship and innovation, and science and technology, so young people from Morocco to Malaysia can start new businesses and create more prosperity.  

Just as we address economic grievances, we need to face a third challenge -- and that's addressing the political grievances that are exploited by terrorists.  When governments oppress their people, deny human rights, stifle dissent, or marginalize ethnic and religious groups, or favor certain religious groups over others, it sows the seeds of extremism and violence.  It makes those communities more vulnerable to recruitment.  Terrorist groups claim that change can only come through violence.  And if peaceful change is impossible, that plays into extremist propaganda.

So the essential ingredient to real and lasting stability and progress is not less democracy; it’s more democracy.  (Applause.)  It’s institutions that uphold the rule of law and apply justice equally.  It’s security forces and police that respect human rights and treat people with dignity.  It’s free speech and strong civil societies where people can organize and assemble and advocate for peaceful change.  It’s freedom of religion where all people can practice their faith without fear and intimidation.  (Applause.)  All of this is part of countering violent extremism.

Fourth, we have to recognize that our best partners in all these efforts, the best people to help protect individuals from falling victim to extremist ideologies are their own communities, their own family members.  We have to be honest with ourselves.  Terrorist groups like al Qaeda and ISIL deliberately target their propaganda in the hopes of reaching and brainwashing young Muslims, especially those who may be disillusioned or wrestling with their identity.  That’s the truth.  The high-quality videos, the online magazines, the use of social media, terrorist Twitter accounts -- it’s all designed to target today’s young people online, in cyberspace.  

And by the way, the older people here, as wise and respected as you may be, your stuff is often boring -- (laughter) -- compared to what they’re doing.  (Applause.)  You're not connected.  And as a consequence, you are not connecting.

So these terrorists are a threat, first and foremost, to the communities that they target, which means communities have to take the lead in protecting themselves.  And that is true here in America, as it's true anywhere else.  When someone starts getting radicalized, family and friends are often the first to see that something has changed in their personality.  Teachers may notice a student becoming withdrawn or struggling with his or her identity, and if they intervene at that moment and offer support, that may make a difference.

Faith leaders may notice that someone is beginning to espouse violent interpretations of religion, and that’s a moment for possible intervention that allows them to think about their actions and reflect on the meaning of their faith in a way that’s more consistent with peace and justice.  Families and friends, coworkers, neighbors, faith leaders -- they want to reach out; they want to help save their loved ones and friends, and prevent them from taking a wrong turn.

But communities don’t always know the signs to look for, or have the tools to intervene, or know what works best.  And that’s where government can play a role -- if government is serving as a trusted partner.  And that’s where we also need to be honest.  I know some Muslim Americans have concerns about working with government, particularly law enforcement.  And their reluctance is rooted in the objection to certain practices where Muslim Americans feel they’ve been unfairly targeted.

So, in our work, we have to make sure that abuses stop, are not repeated, that we do not stigmatize entire communities.  Nobody should be profiled or put under a cloud of suspicion simply because of their faith.  (Applause.)  Engagement with communities can’t be a cover for surveillance.  We can’t “securitize” our relationship with Muslim Americans -- (applause) -- dealing with them solely through the prism of law enforcement. Because when we do, that only reinforces suspicions, makes it harder for us to build the trust that we need to work together.

As part of this summit, we’re announcing that we’re going to increase our outreach to communities, including Muslim Americans. We’re going to step up our efforts to engage with partners and raise awareness so more communities understand how to protect their loved ones from becoming radicalized.  We’ve got to devote more resources to these efforts.  (Applause.)

And as government does more, communities are going to have to step up as well.  We need to build on the pilot programs that have been discussed at this summit already -- in Los Angeles, in Minneapolis, in Boston.  These are partnerships that bring people together in a spirit of mutual respect and create more dialogue and more trust and more cooperation.  If we’re going to solve these issues, then the people who are most targeted and potentially most affected -- Muslim Americans -- have to have a seat at the table where they can help shape and strengthen these partnerships so that we’re all working together to help communities stay safe and strong and resilient.  (Applause.)  

And finally, we need to do what extremists and terrorists hope we will not do, and that is stay true to the values that define us as free and diverse societies.  If extremists are peddling the notion that Western countries are hostile to Muslims, then we need to show that we welcome people of all faiths.

Here in America, Islam has been woven into the fabric of our country since its founding.  (Applause.)  Generations of Muslim immigrants came here and went to work as farmers and merchants and factory workers, helped to lay railroads and build up America.  The first Islamic center in New York City was founded in the 1890s.  America’s first mosque -- this was an interesting fact -- was in North Dakota.  (Laughter.)  

Muslim Americans protect our communities as police officers and firefighters and first responders, and protect our nation by serving in uniform, and in our intelligence communities, and in homeland security.  And in cemeteries across our country, including at Arlington, Muslim American heroes rest in peace having given their lives in defense of all of us.  (Applause.)  

And of course that’s the story extremists and terrorists don’t want the world to know -- Muslims succeeding and thriving in America.  Because when that truth is known, it exposes their propaganda as the lie that it is.  It’s also a story that every American must never forget, because it reminds us all that hatred and bigotry and prejudice have no place in our country.  It’s not just counterproductive; it doesn’t just aid terrorists; it’s wrong.  It’s contrary to who we are.  

I’m thinking of a little girl named Sabrina who last month sent me a Valentine’s Day card in the shape of a heart.  It was the first Valentine I got.  (Laughter.)  I got it from Sabrina before Malia and Sasha and Michelle gave me one.  (Laughter.)  So she’s 11 years old.  She’s in the 5th grade.  She’s a young Muslim American.  And she said in her Valentine, “I enjoy being an American.”  And when she grows up, she wants to be an engineer -- or a basketball player.  (Laughter.)  Which are good choices. (Laughter.)  But she wrote, “I am worried about people hating Muslims…If some Muslims do bad things, that doesn’t mean all of them do.”  And she asked, “Please tell everyone that we are good people and we’re just like everyone else.”  (Applause.)  Now, those are the words -- and the wisdom -- of a little girl growing up here in America, just like my daughters are growing up here in America.  “We’re just like everybody else.”  And everybody needs to remember that during the course of this debate.

As we move forward with these challenges, we all have responsibilities, we all have hard work ahead of us on this issue.  We can’t paper over problems, and we’re not going to solve this if we’re always just trying to be politically correct. But we do have to remember that 11-year-old girl.  That’s our hope.  That’s our future.  That’s how we discredit violent ideologies, by making sure her voice is lifted up; making sure she’s nurtured; making sure that she’s supported -- and then, recognizing there are little girls and boys like that all around the world, and us helping to address economic and political grievances that can be exploited by extremists, and empowering local communities, and us staying true to our values as a diverse and tolerant society even when we’re threatened -- especially when we’re threatened.

There will be a military component to this.  There are savage cruelties going on out there that have to be stopped.  ISIL is killing Muslims at a rate that is many multiples the rate that they’re killing non-Muslims.  Everybody has a stake in stopping them, and there will be an element of us just stopping them in their tracks with force.  But to eliminate the soil out of which they grew, to make sure that we are giving a brighter future to everyone and a lasting sense of security, then we're going to have to make it clear to all of our children -- including that little girl in 5th grade -- that you have a place. You have a place here in America.  You have a place in those countries where you live.  You have a future.

Ultimately, those are the antidotes to violent extremism.  And that's work that we're going to have to do together.  It will take time.  This is a generational challenge.  But after 238 years, it should be obvious -- America has overcome much bigger challenges, and we’ll overcome the ones that we face today.  We will stay united and committed to the ideals that have shaped us for more than two centuries, including the opportunity and justice and dignity of every single human being.

Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

                           END              4:54 P.M. EST

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THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 17, 2015

Statement by the Press Secretary on State of Texas v. United States of America

The Supreme Court and Congress have made clear that the federal government can set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws—which is exactly what the President did when he announced commonsense policies to help fix our broken immigration system. Those policies are consistent with the laws passed by Congress and decisions of the Supreme Court, as well as five decades of precedent by presidents of both parties who have used their authority to set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws.

The Department of Justice, legal scholars, immigration experts, and the district court in Washington, D.C. have determined that the President’s actions are well within his legal authority. Top law enforcement officials, along with state and local leaders across the country, have emphasized that these policies will also benefit the economy and help keep communities safe. The district court’s decision wrongly prevents these lawful, commonsense policies from taking effect and the Department of Justice has indicated that it will appeal that decision.

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THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 13, 2015

Statement by the President

Yesterday, the FBI opened an inquiry into the brutal and outrageous murders of Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, Deah Shaddy Barakat, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  In addition to the ongoing investigation by local authorities, the FBI is taking steps to determine whether federal laws were violated.  No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship.  Michelle and I offer our condolences to the victims’ loved ones.  As we saw with the overwhelming presence at the funeral of these young Americans, we are all one American family.  Whenever anyone is taken from us before their time, we remember how they lived their lives – and the words of one of the victims should inspire the way we live ours.

“Growing up in America has been such a blessing,” Yusor said recently.  “It doesn’t matter where you come from.  There’s so many different people from so many different places, of different backgrounds and religions – but here, we’re all one.”

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JOINT RESOLUTION

To authorize the limited use of the United States Armed Forces against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

*

Whereas the terrorist organization that has referred to itself as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and various other names (in this resolution referred to as ‘‘ISIL’’) poses a grave threat to the people and territorial integrity of Iraq and Syria, regional stability, and the national security interests of the United States and its allies and partners;

Whereas ISIL holds significant territory in Iraq and Syria and has stated its intention to seize more territory and demonstrated the capability to do so;

Whereas ISIL leaders have stated that they intend to conduct terrorist attacks internationally, including against the United States, its citizens, and interests;

Whereas ISIL has committed despicable acts of violence and mass executions against Muslims, regardless of sect, who do not subscribe to ISIL’s depraved, violent, and oppressive ideology;

Whereas ISIL has threatened genocide and committed vicious acts of violence against religious and ethnic minority groups, including Iraqi Christian, Yezidi, and Turkmen populations;

Whereas ISIL has targeted innocent women and girls with horrific acts of violence, including abduction, enslavement, torture, rape, and forced marriage;

Whereas ISIL is responsible for the deaths of innocent United States citizens, including James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig, and Kayla Mueller;

Whereas the United States is working with regional and global allies and partners to degrade and defeat ISIL, to cut off its funding, to stop the flow of foreign fighters to its ranks, and to support local communities as they reject ISIL;

Whereas the announcement of the anti-ISIL Coalition on September 5, 2014, during the NATO Summit in Wales, stated that ISIL poses a serious threat and should be countered by a broad international coalition;

Whereas the United States calls on its allies and partners, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, that have not already done so to join and participate in the anti-ISIL Coalition;

Whereas the United States has taken military action against ISIL in accordance with its inherent right of individual and collective self-defense;2

Whereas President Obama has repeatedly expressed his commitment to working with Congress to pass a bipartisan authorization for the use of military force for the anti-ISIL military campaign; and

Whereas President Obama has made clear that in this campaign it is more effective to use our unique capabilities in support of partners on the ground instead of large-scale deployments of U.S. ground forces: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This joint resolution may be cited as the “Authorization for Use of Military Force against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.”

SEC. 2. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.

(a) AUTHORIZATION.—The President is authorized, subject to the limitations in subsection (c), to use the Armed Forces of the United States as the President determines to be necessary and appropriate against ISIL or associated persons or forces as defined in section 5.

(b) WAR POWERS RESOLUTION REQUIREMENTS.—

(1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION.—Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War

Powers Resolution (50 U.S.C. 1547(a)(1)), Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution (50 U.S.C. 1544(b)).

(2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS.—Nothing in this resolution supersedes
any requirement of the War Powers Resolution (50 U.S.C. 1541 et seq.).

(c) LIMITATIONS.—
The authority granted in subsection (a) does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations.

SEC. 3. DURATION OF THIS AUTHORIZATION.

This authorization for the use of military force shall terminate three years after the date of the enactment of this joint resolution, unless reauthorized.

SEC. 4. REPORTS.3

The President shall report to Congress at least once every six months on specific actions taken pursuant to this authorization.

SEC. 5. ASSOCIATED PERSONS OR FORCES DEFINED.

In this joint resolution, the term ‘‘associated persons or forces’’ means individuals and
organizations fighting for, on behalf of, or alongside ISIL or any closely-related successor entity in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.

SEC. 6. REPEAL OF AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE AGAINST IRAQ.

The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public Law 107–243; 116 Stat. 1498; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note) is hereby repealed.

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THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
________________________________________
For Immediate Release                                                                                  January 29, 2015

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT HOUSE DEMOCRATIC ISSUES CONFERENCE

Sheraton Philadelphia Society Hill Hotel
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

7:34 P.M. EST

     THE PRESIDENT:  Hey!  (Applause.)  Hello, hello, hello!  (Applause.)  Hello, Democrats!  Thank you so much.  Everybody, sit down, sit down.  It’s good to be with you, Democrats.  (Applause.)  It’s good to be in Philadelphia.  (Applause.)  My understanding is we still have our host, Mayor Nutter, here.  Where’s Mayor Nutter?  (Applause.)  There he is right there.

I want to just remind the New England and Pacific Northwest contingents, this is the City of Brotherly Love.  So regardless of what you think about Sunday, I want you all to keep it clean. (Laughter.)  I am not taking sides on that one.  (Laughter.)  I want to begin by -- oh, bring your own football -- is that -- oooh.  (Laughter.)  Oooh.

AUDIENCE:  Ooooh --

THE PRESIDENT:  Wow.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Unless number one plays --

THE PRESIDENT:  And you're, what, a Giants fan?  See, that’s why he’s so resentful.  (Laughter.)

Let me begin by just acknowledging your outstanding leadership, starting with someone who, somehow, can travel for 17 hours, come off the plane perfectly coifed -- (laughter) -- not a wrinkle on her, happy as a clam -- (laughter) -- come back another 17 hours later, after two and a half, three days of programs, and go straight to a retreat of her caucus, and never miss a beat.  I don't know what she drinks along with that chocolate.  (Laughter.)  But I want some of it.  Your outstanding Leader, Nancy Pelosi.  Give Nancy a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

Joe Crowley also went on that trip, and didn’t look perfectly coifed when he got off the plane.  (Laughter.)  But give Joe Crowley a big round of applause also.  (Applause.)  I want to thank Steny for the gracious introduction; Xavier, who helped obviously make this happen and is just providing outstanding leadership all the time; Jim Clyburn, one of my favorite people, just an extraordinary gentleman and leader.  We love him.  And Debbie Wasserman Shultz, our Chairwoman at the DNC.  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)

And then the guy who I had a chance to see before I came out just to let him know that he should not feel overly disappointed when his hair gets grey, because in this job it will -- Ben Ray Luján.  (Applause.)  The DCCC chair.  I used to be youthful and attractive like him.  (Laughter.)  We’ll see how long that lasts, brother.  (Laughter.)  You're going to have hair like Steve Israel.  (Laughter.)

I'm not going to give a long speech because I just gave one, and I want to spend most of the time on questions.  Let me summarize then what I said last week.

We have been through an extraordinarily challenging journey -- worst financial crisis in our lifetimes.  We've seen the incredible courage and sacrifice, but also the costs of two difficult wars.  There’s been ups and downs in every region of the country, and people feeling as if the economy is churning in ways that defy their control.  And yet, despite all the challenges, despite all the fears, despite all the difficulties, over the last six years what we've seen is the American people fighting their way back.  And because of them, because of their resilience and their grit and their hard work, and because you and I, together, made some really choices -- some, sometimes, politically unpopular choices -- America has come back.

We've seen 11 million jobs created, best job growth since the ‘90s, best job growth in manufacturing since the ‘90s; steepest drop in the unemployment rate in 30 years; deficit cut by two-thirds; over 10 million people with health insurance that didn’t have it before.  (Applause.)  We've seen reading scores go up, high school graduation rates go up, more young people attending college than ever before.  We're number one in oil production; number one in natural gas production; doubled clean energy production; solar power up tenfold; wind power up threefold; carbon pollution down.

     There is no economic metric by which we are not better off than when I took office.  And that is because of the extraordinary will and dedication of the American people, but also because all of you have done a terrific job.  And I'm proud of you for that.  (Applause.)

     Now, what we also know is we've now got some choices to make.  Going forward, are we going to be an economy in which a few do spectacularly well, or are we going to be an economy in which everybody who’s willing to work hard is getting a fair shot and can succeed?  (Applause.)  Are we going to be an economy that continues to invest in innovation and infrastructure, all the ingredients that are necessary to power this economy through the 21st century -- or are we going to be neglectful of those very things that have made us an economic superpower?  Are we going to do what’s necessary to make sure that everybody gets the tools they need to succeed -- the education, the child care support, the help when it comes to minimum wages and paid sick leave -- that gives people a basic baseline of stability, but also allows them to constantly adapt to an ever-changing world?

     That's the set of choices that we now have to make.  And because the economy has gotten better, wages are beginning to tick up, people are starting to feel better about the economy.  But I think what everybody here understands is that the ground that middle-class families lost over the last 30 years still has to be made up, and the trends that have squeezed middle-class families and those striving to get into the middle class -- those trends have not been fully reversed.

     And so, as much as we should appreciate the progress that's been made, it shouldn’t be a cause for complacency, because we've got more work to do.  We've got a lot more work to do.  And in my State of the Union, I laid out a series of specific proposals that would allow us to continue to control our deficit, but would also ensure that we were investing in the kind of quality education -- including free community college that is so necessary for people to move forward.  (Applause.)  Specific proposals to make sure that we provided some relief to middle-class families in the form of a child care credit and additional higher education credits -- (applause) -- so that somebody who is working hard and doing their best can get a little bit of relief, a little bit of help.

     We talked about how important it is for us to rebuild our infrastructure in this country, and put people back to work all across the country -- something that everybody knows we need to do.  And we've got very specific ways of paying for it, by closing loopholes that send jobs overseas and rewarding companies who are investing right here in the United States of America.  (Applause.)

     So I summarized all this as middle-class economics.  And what we know is middle-class economics works.  That's been the history of this country.  That's been the history of the last six years when we've implemented middle-class economics.  And the other side was telling us this would be a disaster, and it would kill jobs and raise the deficit, health care costs would explode. And none of that happened.  That's pretty rare where you have two visions, a vigorous debate, and then you test who’s right -- and the record shows that we were right and middle-class economics does work.  (Applause.)

     So the bottom line is this:  We've got to make sure it continues to work.  We should protect the progress we're making.

I hear Republicans are holding their 50th or 60th vote next year [sic] to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act.  I've lost count at this point.  But here’s something easy to remember -- if that bill ever actually reached my desk, I would happily veto it. (Applause.)  If they try to unravel new rules that we put in place to make sure Wall Street recklessness doesn’t hurt American families again, I'll be happy to veto it.  (Applause.)  If, rather than try to solve the problem of a broken immigration system, they compound the problem, I'll veto it.  (Applause.)

But my hope is that they join us.  And one good piece of news is I noticed that even though their policies haven't quite caught up yet, their rhetoric is starting to sound pretty Democratic.  (Laughter.)  I heard -- Chris Van Hollen was telling me about one Republican senator who shall go unnamed, but generally doesn’t agree with me on much, and he was suddenly shocked, shocked that the top 1 percent is doing really well and everybody else is getting squeezed, and we need to do something about it.  And I welcome that.  I consider imitation the highest form of flattery.  Come on board.  Let’s go help out that middle-class family.  Let’s get something done.  (Applause.)

We've got a former presidential candidate on the other side who suddenly is just deeply concerned about poverty.  (Laughter.) That's great!  Let’s go!  Come on!  Let’s do something about it!

I am glad that their rhetoric at least has shifted, but let’s now make sure that the policies match up with the rhetoric. Let’s make sure Americans are able to upgrade their skills for higher wages.  Let’s build the world’s most competitive economy. Let’s make sure that we end this across-the-board sequester -- (applause) -- that doesn’t differentiate between smart government spending and dumb government spending.  Let’s take a scalpel and not a meat cleaver and let’s make sure that we're funding the things that we know help American families succeed.  That's the smart thing to do.  (Applause.)

I disagree with any Republican who says letting funding for the Department of Homeland Security lapse is “not the end of the world.”  That's a quote from one of them.  I tell you, these are the guys who are always saying they’re concerned about the borders.  These are the folks who say they’re concerned about terrorism.  Well, who do you think helps monitor our borders?  What do you mean, it's not the end of the world?  That's all you’ve been talking about.  And now, suddenly, because you want to make a political point, you think that we can afford to have the Department of Homeland Security not functioning -- because of political games in Washington?

We can pay for all of -- all of the proposals that I put forward in the State of the Union we can pay for by fixing a tax code that is riddled with loopholes for special interests. And if Republicans don't agree with my approach for paying for it, then they should put forward their own proposals.  And I'm happy to engage them on that.  I'm eager to engage with them on that.  I think it's entirely fair for them to say, that's not the right way to fund higher education; that's not the right way to help families with child care.  And we can have a good, healthy debate.  What we can't suggest is that child care is not important to American families, or that higher education costs are not relevant to folks who are currently in the middle class or trying to work their way into the middle class, or hoping their children will be able to get in the middle class.  Those things are important.  So put forward alternatives.

And the good news is, is that I think there are some who want to work with us.  And maybe the fact that I've now run my last election means that, instead of just blocking what we're trying to do, they may be interested in getting some stuff done. Of course, they’ll then spend all their time attacking the next Democrat coming down the pike, but that's okay.

Because, ultimately, what this is about, the reason we are here, the reason so many of you make such extraordinary sacrifices and your families make sacrifices to be here, is because the story of the people that I mentioned in the State of the Union -- people like Rebecca, who I talked about, from Minnesota -- those people are us.  They’re our moms and our dads, and our aunts and our uncles, and our nephews and our cousins, and our neighbors and our coworkers, and our friends.  And we remember some point in time where somebody gave us a little bit of a hand up.  And we remember that scholarship that allowed us to go to school when it wasn’t clear that our family might be able to afford it.  And we remember what it was like to try to find child care when you got two folks working and trying to pay the mortgage at the same time, just like Michelle and I had to do.  We remember those things.

And the reason that we do this is so that those folks have the same extraordinary opportunities in the same extraordinary country as we did.  And more importantly, so that our children and our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren have those same opportunities.  (Applause.)  And it is our obligation to make sure that we are crystal-clear about what we stand for and who we are fighting for.

And I will just say, obviously we were all disappointed with the outcome of the last election, and there are a lot of reasons for it and I'm happy to take on some of the blame.  But one thing I'm positive about is, when we're shy about what we care about, when we're defensive about what we've accomplished, when we don't stand up straight and proud and say, yes, we believe that everybody in this country should have health insurance, and we're glad that we are making that happen -- (applause) -- yes, we believe that families shouldn’t be torn apart, and we're glad that we're fighting for immigration reform -- (applause) -- yes, we believe in middle-class economics, and we don't apologize for wanting to make sure that some wonderful young man or young woman out there can actually afford to go to college even if their parents didn’t go -- we need to stand up and go on offense, and not be defensive about what we believe in!  (Applause.)  That's why we're Democrats!  (Applause.)

And I promise you, I'm not going out the last two years sitting on the sidelines.  I am going to be out there making the case every single day, and I hope you join me.  (Applause.)

Thank you.  (Applause.)

                      END                  7:54 P.M. EST

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THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 22, 2015

Statement by the President on the 42nd Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

Forty-two years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Roe v. Wade, a decision that protects a woman’s freedom to make her own choices about her body and her health, and reaffirms a fundamental American value: that government should not intrude in our most private and personal family matters.

I am deeply committed to protecting this core constitutional right, and I believe that efforts like H.R. 7, the bill the House considered today, would intrude on women's reproductive freedom and access to health care and unnecessarily restrict the private insurance choices that consumers have today. The federal government should not be injecting itself into decisions best made between women, their families, and their doctors.  I am also deeply committed to continuing our work to reduce unintended pregnancies, support maternal and child health, promote adoptions, and minimize the need for abortion.

Today, as we reflect on this critical moment in our history, may we all rededicate ourselves to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as our sons.

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THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                             January 13, 2015

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON MIDDLE-CLASS ECONOMICS

University of Kansas
Lawrence, Kansas

11:30 A.M. CST

     THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Kansas!  (Applause.)  Rock Chalk!  (Applause.)  Can everybody give Alyssa a big round of applause for the great introduction?  (Applause.)  It is good to be at KU! (Applause.)  I’ve got to admit, I took a moment to meet with Coach Self and the KU basketball team.  (Applause.)  I mean, we're here for other business, but while I was here -- (laughter) -- I thought I should talk to some basketball players.  And it is January, so that means that the Jayhawks are at the top of the Big 12, hunting for your 11th straight conference title.  (Applause.)

I want to thank your Chancellor, Bernadette Gray-Little.  (Applause.)  I want to thank Mayor Amyx for having me.  I recently heard from Bob Dole, as well.  He told me he’s very proud of his Institute of Politics here.  (Applause.)  Any school of politics named for Bob Dole is one I’d be proud of, too, because he is a great Kansan and a great American.  (Applause.)

And it’s good to be back in Kansas.  (Applause.)  I've got deep roots in Kansas.  (Applause.)  As you know, my mom was born in Wichita.  (Applause.)  Her mom grew up in Augusta.  Her father was from El Dorado.  (Applause.)  So I'm a Kansas guy.  (Applause.)  I'm a Kansas guy.  

Now, that helped me in the caucus here in 2008.  (Applause.) It didn’t help me as much in the general election.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We're sorry!

THE PRESIDENT:  Coach Self won 10 straight -- I lost two straight here.  (Laughter.)  But that’s okay.  Listen, I love you -- and I might have won sections of Lawrence.  (Applause.)  That's possible.  That's a possibility.  (Laughter.)  But, look, this is exactly why I’ve come back to Kansas today.

On Tuesday, I gave my State of the Union address.  (Applause.)  And I just want you to know, today I will be shorter.  (Laughter.)  But I want to begin where I finished on Tuesday, because I talked about in the State of the Union how, over a decade ago, in Boston at the Democratic Convention, I gave a speech where I said there is no liberal America or  conservative America, there’s a United States of America.  We're all supposed to be on the same team.  (Applause.)

And I know it can seem sometimes like our politics is more divided than ever; that in places like Kansas, the only blue stands for KU.  (Laughter.)  And so because of those divisions the pundits in Washington, they hold this up as proof that any vision of a more hopeful politics must be naïve or misguided.  But, as I pointed out, I still believe what I said back then.  I still believe that we, as Americans, have more in common than not.  (Applause.)  And I have seen too much of the good, generous, big-hearted optimism of the American people over these past six years to believe otherwise.

I will never stop trying to make our politics work better.  That’s what you deserve, and that’s how we move this country forward.  And, Kansas, we’ve got some big things to do together. (Applause.)  We've got some big things to do.

We start this year with some good news.  Our economy is creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999.  (Applause.)  Our deficits are shrinking.  Energy production is booming.  Our troops are coming home.  (Applause.)  We have risen from recession in a better position, freer to write our own future than any nation on Earth.  So now we’ve got to choose what our future will look like.  And when I look out at this crowd, it's your generation in particular that's going to have to decide what this future looks like.  Are we going to accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?  Or do we commit ourselves to an economy that generates opportunity and rising incomes for everybody who’s willing to work hard and make an effort?  That's a choice we've got to make.  (Applause.)

For six years, we’ve been working to rebuild our economy on a new foundation.  And what I want people to know is, thanks to your hard work, thanks to your resilience, America is coming back.  We believed we could reverse the tide of outsourcing and draw new jobs to our shore.  And over the past five years, our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs.  (Applause.)  

We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet at the same time.  (Applause.)  And today, America is number one in oil and gas, but we're also number one in wind power.  And every three weeks, we bring as much solar power online as we did in all of 2008.  We have doubled wind power production.  (Applause.)  And thanks not just to lower gas prices, but also higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save about 750 bucks at the pump.  (Applause.)

We believed that we could prepare our kids for this more competitive world, 21st century economy.  And today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record.  Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high.  And more young people like you are finishing college than ever before.  (Applause.)

We believed that sensible regulations should encourage fair competition, and shield families from ruin, and prevent the kind of crisis that we saw in 2007, 2008.  So today we’ve got new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts.  And in the past year alone, about 10 million uninsured Americans have finally gained the security of health coverage.  (Applause.)  We’ve gotten that done.

Now, at every step we were told that we were misguided, or too ambitious, or the laws we pass would explode deficits or crush jobs or destroy the economy.  I just want everybody to remember that.  (Laughter.)  Roll back the tape.  (Laughter.)  Roll back the tape.  And instead we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade.  We’ve seen the deficits cut by two-thirds.  People’s 401ks are in better shape because the stock market has doubled.  (Applause.)  We have put ourselves in a position in which the economy potentially can grow not just for next year, or the year after that, but over the next decade, and generate the kind of jobs that all of you will fill.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thank you!

THE PRESIDENT:  So the verdict is in:  Middle-class economics works.  (Applause.)  Providing opportunity for everybody works.  The ruling on the field stands.  (Laughter.)  And these policies are going to continue to work as long as we don’t let politics get in the way.  Especially politics in Washington.  (Applause.)  We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance.  We’re not going to get rid of the rules we put in place to check recklessness on Wall Street.  If those efforts come to my desk, I will veto them -- (applause) -- because we’re moving in the right direction.

And here’s what’s most important.  Today because the economy is growing at a faster pace, we’re starting to actually see wages tick up for the first time in a very long time.  And a survey of small businesses showed they are more likely to provide raises to their employees than any time since 2007.  (Applause.)  So we’ve got to make sure that all people have the tools and the support that they need to take advantage of this growing economy.  It's not good enough just to not screw it up -- let’s build on the momentum and move it even further.  Let’s keep it going.  Let’s keep it going.  That’s what we’ve got to focus on.  (Applause.)  That’s what we’ve got to focus on.

So how do we restore this link between hard work and being able to get ahead?  How do we make sure that everybody is doing their fair share, everybody has a fair shot, and everybody is playing by the same set of rules?  How do we make sure that everybody not only shares in success but also is able to contribute to the success of the United States of America?  That is middle-class economics.  That’s our project.  (Applause.)  And that’s something that, by the way, shouldn’t be a Democratic or a Republican issue.  That should be an American issue.  (Applause.) All of us should want that kind of success for the middle class and everybody who’s willing to work hard to try to get into the middle class.  (Applause.)

So what does middle-class economics require?  Well, the first thing is trying to give people a sense of security at a time when they economy is so rapidly changing, so dynamic, that people can’t rely on being in one place, in one job for 30 years, 40 years.  That’s not going to be the career that young people like you have.  You’re going to be doing a whole range of things, and it’s going to be fluid.  And you’re going to have to be taking advantage of opportunities, and you’re going to have to adapt to new circumstances.

And so part of what we have to do is to make sure that we’re giving families some sense of security in the midst of all this change.  And that means helping folks afford child care.  It means helping folks afford college.  (Applause.)  It means helping folks get paid leave at work.  It means making sure people have health care.  (Applause.)  It means helping the first-time homebuyer.  It means helping folks save for retirement -- although you guys don’t have to worry about that for a while. (Laughter.)  He raised his hand, “actually, I do.”  (Laughter.)

And so I’m sending Congress a budget, a plan, that’s going to help a family with all of these issues -- lowering the taxes for working families by thousands of dollars, putting money back into their pockets so that they can have a little bit of cushion in their lives.  We can do that.  And today I want to focus on one of those ideas, and that’s child care.  (Applause.)

Now, I mentioned my grandparents were from Kansas.  Well, my grandfather, Stanley Dunham, he went to Europe to fight in World War II.  And while he was gone, my grandmother, she was like Rosie the Riveter -- Madelyn.  She worked on an assembly plant for bombers.  And because it was a national priority, having women in the workforce was critical.  My grandmother worked at a bomber assembly line in Wichita.  And by that time, my mom had already been born.  So this country provided universal child care because they understood that if women are working, they’re going to need some help -- right?  They understood that.  (Applause.)  And research shows that it was good for the kids, good for the parents.  But we stopped doing it, even though almost every other advanced country on Earth continued to do it -- learned from us and did it.

Now, in today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, affordable, high-quality child care and early childhood education -- these aren’t just nice-to-haves, this is a must-have.  (Applause.)  And studies show that children who get a high-quality early education earn more over their lifetimes than their peers who don’t.

So think about that.  You give somebody -- you give parents support and you give a child that little boost at the beginning, it lasts a lifetime.  Which means that the entire economy is more productive for a lifetime, for a generation.  Young people who get that good early start are more likely to finish school; they’re less likely to get in trouble with the law.  And access to child care can lead to higher employment and incomes for the moms -- which means the whole family is doing better.  (Applause.)

So the point is, if we knew how to do this back in 1943 and ’44, and here we are in 2015, what’s the holdup?  It is time that we stop treating child care as a side issue or a “women’s issue.” This is a family issue.  (Applause.)  This is a national economic priority for all of us.  We can do better than we’re doing right now.  (Applause.)

And right now, in 31 states, high-quality child care costs more than a year of tuition at a state university.  Think about that.  By the way, this is personal for me because Michelle and I remember what it was like trying to -- and we had good jobs.  But trying to figure out how to manage child care costs was extraordinary, at the same that you're paying back student loans. So this is something you have a deep interest in -- all of you.  Because I’m assuming some of you are going to have a little bit of school debt.  (Laughter.)  Just a little.  And then you start a family, and now you want to start saving for their college education.  But in the meantime, you're already paying the equivalent of college tuition just to make sure that they're okay at home.  This is a strain that cuts -- and by the way, Republican families feel it just as much as Democratic families. They don't -- there’s no distinction.

I don't want any family to face the choice between not working, or leaving their children in unsafe or poor-quality child care.  We are a better country than that.  We're a better country than that.  (Applause.)

So that's why my plan will make quality child care available and affordable to every middle-class and low-income family in America with young children.  We're going to expand access to high-quality care for more than 1 million children, and we're going to offer a tax cut of up $3,000 per child per year.  (Applause.)  I don't want anybody being “daycare poor.”

And we're going to build on a bipartisan law that I signed last year to improve the quality of child care options so that parents know their children are well cared for, because we also want to lift up the quality of the facilities there.

And I just had the chance to visit the Community Children’s Center, which is a Head Start center here in Lawrence.  (Applause.)  Had a chance to spend time with 48 lucky kids.  (Laughter.)  Because they're teachers are wonderful, not because they're -- although they all say, “I know you.”  (Laughter.)  “I see you on TV.”  (Laughter.)  That's what they always say -- “I see on TV.”  I say, yes.  Yes.  (Laughter.)  “You're the President.”  (Laughter.)

So you have these wonderful teachers, and the light in all of these children’s eyes, the sense of possibility and potential for these kids, made me just that much more determined to keep strengthening and keep promoting and expanding early childhood education, to give all of our children a strong start.  (Applause.)  I want to support expectant mothers.  I want to make sure we’ve got universal child care to preschool for all.  It’s the best investment we can make.  It is the right thing to do.  We can do more to help families make ends meet.  (Applause.)

Now, even as we're doing these things there are some other things we’ve got to do to help families who are middle-class or working their way into the middle class.  Higher wages helps -- which means Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work.  (Applause.)  I mean, come on, now -- it’s 2015.  (Applause.)  This should be sort of a no-brainer.  Congress still needs to raise the minimum wage.  (Applause.)  Like I said on Tuesday, if there are members of Congress who really believe that they can work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, they should try it.  (Applause.)  And if not, they should vote to give millions of hardworking people across America the raise that they deserve.  (Applause.)

And if we're going to make sure that more and more people are earning higher wages down the road as the economy continues to transform, then we’ve got to help to make sure that more Americans like all of you are in a position to upgrade your skills.  That's what you're doing here.  And that's the second part of middle-class economics.  That’s why we’ve been working to help more young people access and afford college.  That’s why I took action to help millions of students cap payments on their loans at 10 percent of their income.  (Applause.)  So if you want to go into teaching, or you want to go into public service, or you want to go into basic research -- any field that doesn’t pay you a huge amount of money -- you can do it.  (Applause.)

I want to work with Congress to make sure every student who’s already burdened with loans can find a way to refinance and reduce your monthly payments.  (Applause.)  And that's why I’m sending Congress a bold, new plan to lower the cost of community college to zero.  (Applause.)  Down to zero.  In the new economy, two years of college should be as free and as universal as high school is today.

The third part of middle-class economics means we've got to build the most competitive economy in the world, and that means building the best infrastructure, and opening new markets so we can sell products around the world, and investing in research so we keep on being the creators of new products and businesses can keep creating jobs right here in Kansas and around the world -- and sell them around the world.  (Applause.)

Now, the good news is Lawrence gets it.  (Applause.)    That’s why you’re encouraging private companies to compete against one another to offer high-speed broadband at better prices.  And now you’ve got networks as fast as some of the best in the world:  There’s Hong Kong; there’s Tokyo; there’s Paris -- and there’s Lawrence.  (Applause.)

So, helping families feel more secure, including helping with child care costs and improving the quality of child care option; making sure that you have the capacity to finance, constantly upgrading your skills; making sure that we've got a competitive economy, including not just roads and bridges and traditional infrastructure, but the new infrastructure of the 21st century -- those are the things we need to do to keep the momentum going.        

Now, Republicans in Congress may disagree with some of my ideas.  You know, I didn’t get as much applause from them as I was hoping.  (Laughter.)  But the truth, is when it comes to infrastructure and research, both parties generally agree that it's important.  They say that to me privately; they just can't applaud it publicly.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, right.  (Applause.)  

So, too often, where we get stuck is how to pay for these investments -- because these things cost money.  Roads don't build themselves.  Power grids and sewer lines and basic research -- those things don't pay for themselves.

And as Americans, we don’t mind paying our fair share of taxes, as long as everybody else does, too.  (Applause.)  The problem we've got is we've got lobbyists that have rigged the tax code with loopholes that let some corporations pay nothing while others are paying full freight.  We've got the super rich getting giveaways they don’t need, and middle-class folks not getting the breaks that they do need for things like child care.

So what I told Congress is let’s just close those loopholes. Let’s stop rewarding companies that keep profits abroad; reward companies that are creating jobs right here in the United States. (Applause.)  Let’s close loopholes that let the top 1 percent, or .01 percent avoid paying certain taxes -- use that money to help more Americans pay for college and child care.  Let’s have a tax code that truly helps working Americans get a leg up in this new economy.  It's a good investment that will ultimately be good for everybody.  (Applause.)  

So that’s what I believe in:  Helping hardworking families make ends meet.  Giving everybody the tools they need to find good-paying jobs in the new economy.  Keeping our economy strong and competitive.  Making sure we've got a tax code that is fair so that we can get all these things done and grow the economy well into the future.  That's where I think America needs to go. And that's where I believe Americans want to go.  It's going to make our economy stronger not just a year from now, or 10 years from now, but deep into the century ahead.

And I understand Republicans who disagree with my approach. So what I've said to them is, fine; show me your ideas to pay for things like R&D and infrastructure.  (Applause.)  Explain to me how you want to help families pay for college and for child care.
It's perfectly fair for them to say, we've got a better way for meeting these national priorities -- and then to specify what those ideas are.  What you can’t do is simply pretend that issues like child care or student debt aren’t out there, that they’re not important.  You can't pretend that there’s nothing we can do to help middle-class families get ahead -- because I've seen how we've been able to help middle-class families get ahead when we make an effort.

The answer can’t just be no to everything.  (Applause.)  I don't mind hearing no to some things, but it can't be no to everything.  At some point, you got to say yes to something.  (Applause.)  I want to get to yes!  (Applause.)  Tell me what you want to do.  Let’s get to yes on helping more families get by.  I want to get to yes on child care.  I want to get to yes on more young people going to college and not being loaded up with debt. That's what I want to get to.  (Applause.)  

I want to get to yes for folks like Steve Ozark, from right here in Lawrence.  Where is Steve?  I know I saw him.  He was around here.  There he -- you're not Steve.  (Laughter.)  There he is right there.

So, last year, Steve wrote me a letter about his vision for this country -- a place where every American, he said, has “a place at the table.”  And 25 years ago, Steve and his girlfriend, now his wife, were living paycheck-to-paycheck, with a baby on the way.  And for a while, they turned to food stamps to get by.  nd then they took out students loans so that his wife could go to college and get a job, and climb the ladder of success.  And today, they spend their time helping others in their community find a place at the table, because, as Steve wrote in his letter, it’s “what God and Grandma taught us to do.”  (Applause.)  God and Grandma -- now, that’s some good authority right there.  (Applause.)  

The point is, is that we’re going to disagree on politics sometimes, but we don’t have to be so viciously divided as a people.  We all know what God and Grandma taught us to do.  (Laughter.)  Whoever we are -- Republican, Democrat, male, female, young, old, black, white, gay, straight -– we all share a common vision for our future.  We want a better country for your generation, and for your kids’ generation -- a place where, as Steve wrote, everybody has “a place at the table.”  I want that country to be one that shows the world what I know is still to be true, that we are still not a collection of just red states and blue states; we are still the United States of America.  (Applause.)

So we’ve made it through some hard times, but we’ve laid a new foundation, Jayhawks.  We’ve got a new future to write.  The young people here are going to write a new future for America.  Let’s get started right now.  (Applause.)  

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

                   END                12:05 P.M. CST

Discuss
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                         January 21, 2015

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON MIDDLE-CLASS ECONOMICS

Boise State University
Boise, Idaho

3:05 P.M. CST

     THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Boise State!  (Applause.)  Oh, it's good to be back!  (Applause.)  Can everybody please give Camille a big round of applause for that introduction?  (Applause.)  I love young people who are doing science.  And I especially love seeing young women in sciences.  And so, a great job that Camille is doing.  (Applause.)    

A couple other people I want to mention.  Your Mayor, Mayor Bieter, is here.  (Applause.)  Where is he?  Where is he?  There he is.  Flew back with me on Air Force One.  (Applause.)  And he didn’t break anything.  (Laughter.)  It was amazing, though.  When we were coming back he was telling me the story about his grandfather, an immigrant from the Basque Region, coming here and how he would herd sheep.  And for five years, he would be up in the mountains and the hills, and then come down to town for like two months a year, and the rest of the time he was up there.  And I figured his dad was a pretty tough guy, because I'll bet it gets kind of cold up in the hills.  (Laughter.)

Another person I want to mention -- this is somebody who I actually have known for a really long time.  He was the lieutenant governor in Illinois, now is your outstanding president here at Boise State -- President Kustra.  Give him a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  There he is.  It’s good to see Illinoisans do something with their lives.  (Laughter.)  We're proud of them.

Thanks to all the Broncos for having me.  (Applause.)  And thanks for the balmy weather.  I thought it was going to be a little colder around here.  (Laughter.)    

So, last night, I gave my State of the Union address.  (Applause.)  Today, I'm going to be shorter.  I won't be too short, just a little shorter.  (Laughter.)  And I focused last night on what we can do, together, to make sure middle-class economics helps more Americans get ahead in the new economy.  And I said that I’d take these ideas across the country.  And I wanted my first stop to be right here in Boise, Idaho. (Applause.)  

Now, there are a couple reasons for this.  The first is because, last year, Michelle and I got a very polite letter from a young girl named Bella Williams -- who is here today.  Where’s Bella?  There she is right there.  Wave, Bella.  (Applause.)  Bella is 13 now, but she was 12 at the time.  So she wrote me a letter and she said, “I know what you’re thinking -- Wow, what’s it like in Boise, Idaho?”  (Laughter.)  So she invited me to come visit.  And she also invited me to learn how to ski or snowboard with her.  (Applause.)  Now, as somebody who was born in Hawaii, where there’s not a lot of snow -- let me put it this way -- you do not want to see me ski.  (Laughter.)  Or at least the Secret Service does not want to see me ski.  (Laughter.)

But what I do know about Boise is that it’s beautiful.  I know that because I’ve been here before.  I campaigned here in 2008.  (Applause.)  It was really fun.  And the truth is, because of the incredible work that was done here in Idaho, it helped us win the primary.  And I might not be President if it weren't for the good people of Idaho.  (Applause.)  Of course, in the general election I got whupped.  (Laughter.)  I got whupped twice, in fact.  But that’s okay -- I’ve got no hard feelings.  (Laughter.)  
In fact, that’s exactly why I’ve come back.  Because I ended my speech last night with something that I talked about in Boston just over a decade ago, and that is there is not a liberal America or a conservative America, but a United States of America.  (Applause.)  

And today, I know it can seem like our politics are more divided than ever.  And in places like Idaho, the only “blue” turf is on your field.  (Applause.)  And the pundits in Washington hold up these divisions in our existing politics and they show, well, this is proof that any kind of hopeful politics, that's just naïve.  But as I told you last night, I still believe what I said back then.  I still believe that, as Americans, we have more in common than not.  (Applause.)

I mean, we have an entire industry that's designed to sort us out.  Our media is all segmented now so that instead of just watching three stations, we got 600.  And everything is market-segmented, and you got the conservative station and the liberal stations.  So everybody is only listening to what they already agree with.  And then you’ve got political gerrymandering that sorts things out so that every district is either one thing or the other.  And so there are a lot of institutional forces that make it seem like we have nothing in common.

But one of the great things about being President is you travel all across the country and I've seen too much of the good and generous and big-hearted optimism of people, young and old -- folks like Bella.  I've seen how deep down there’s just a core decency and desire to make progress together among the American people.  (Applause.)  That's what I believe.

So I've got two years left and I am not going to stop trying -- trying to make our politics work better.  That’s what you deserve.  That’s how we move the country forward.  (Applause.)   And, Idaho, we’ve got big things to do together.  I may be in the fourth quarter of my presidency, but here, at the home of the team with the most famous “Statue of Liberty” play in history -- (applause) -- I don’t need to remind you that big things happen late in the fourth quarter.  (Applause.)

So here’s where we're starting in 2015.  Our economy is growing.  Our businesses are creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999.  Our deficits have been cut by two-thirds.  Our energy production is booming.  Our troops are coming home.  (Applause.)  We have risen from recession better positioned, freer to write our own future than any other country on Earth.

But as I said last night, now we’ve got to choose what future we want.  Are we going to accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  Or can we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and opportunities for everybody who’s willing to try hard?  (Applause.)

For six years, we’ve been working to rebuild our economy on a new foundation.  And what I want people to know is, thanks to your hard work and your resilience, America is coming back.  And you’ll recall, when we were in the midst of the recession, right after I came into office, there was some arguments about the steps we were taking.  There were questions about whether we were doing the right thing.  But we believed we could reverse the tide of outsourcing, and draw new jobs back to America.  And over the past five years, our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs.  (Applause.)  

We believed that with smart energy policies, we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet.  Today, America is number one in oil production and gas production and wind production.  (Applause.)  And every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008.  (Applause.) And meanwhile, thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the average family this year should save about 750 bucks at the pump.  (Applause.)

We believed we could do better when it came to educating our kids for a competitive world.  And today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record.  Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high.  More young people like folks right here at Boise State are finishing college than ever before.  (Applause.)

We figured sensible regulations could encourage fair competition and shield families from ruin, and prevent the kind of crises that we saw in 2007, 2008.  And today, we have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts.  And in the past year alone, about 10 million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage, including right here in Idaho.  (Applause.)

Now, sometimes you’d think folks have short memories, because at every step of the way, we were told that these goals were too misguided, or they were too ambitious, or they’d crush jobs, or they’d explode deficits, or they’d destroy the economy. You remember those, right?  Every step we took, this is going to be terrible.  And instead, we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade.  And we’ve seen the deficits, as I said, go down by two-thirds.  And people’s 401[k]s are stronger now because the stock market has doubled.  And health care inflation is at the lowest rate in 50 years.  (Applause.)  Lowest rate in 50 years.

Here in Boise, your unemployment rate has fallen below 4 percent -- and that's almost two-thirds from its peak five years ago.  (Applause.)

So the verdict is clear.  The ruling on the field stands.  (Laughter.)  Middle-class economics works.  Expanding opportunity works.  These policies will keep on working, as long as politics in Washington doesn’t get in the way of our progress.  (Applause.)  We can’t suddenly put the security of families back at risk by taking away their health insurance.  We can't risk another meltdown on Wall Street by unraveling the new rules on Wall Street.  I'm going to stand between working families and any attempt to roll back that progress.  (Applause.)

Because today, thanks to a growing economy, the recovery is touching more and more lives.  Wages are finally starting to go up.  More small business owners plan to raise their employees’ pay than at any time since 2007.  So we need to keep on going. Let’s do more to restore the link between hard work and opportunity for every single American.  (Applause.)  That's our job.  That's our job.  Let’s make sure all our people have the tools and the support that they need to go as far as their dreams and their effort will take them.

That's what middle-class economics is -- the idea that this country does best when everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody is doing their fair share, and everybody is playing by the same set of rules.  We don’t want to just make sure that everybody shares in America’s success -- we actually think that everybody can contribute to America’s success.  (Applause.)  And when everybody is participating and given a shot, there’s nothing we cannot do.  (Applause.)    

So here’s what middle-class economics requires in this new economy.  Number one, it means helping working families feel more secure in a constantly changing economy.  It means helping folks afford child care, and college, and paid leave at work, and health care, and retirement.  (Applause.)  And I’m sending Congress a plan that’s going to help families with all of these issues -- lowering the taxes of working families, putting thousands of dollars back into your pockets each year.  (Applause.)  Giving you some help.  

Number two, middle-class economics means that we’re going to make sure that folks keep earning higher wages down the road, and that means we’ve got to do more to help Americans upgrade their skills.  And that's what all of you are doing right here at Boise State.  You heard Camille’s story -- she’s a Mechanical Engineering major.  She’s a great example of why we’re encouraging more women and more minorities to study in high-paying fields that traditionally they haven't always participated in -- in math and science and engineering and technology.  (Applause.)  Camille has done research for NASA.  She’s gotten real job experience with industry partners.  She’s the leader of your Microgravity Team.  And, by the way, she’s a sophomore.  (Applause.)  So by the time she’s done -- she might invent time travel by the time she’s done here at Boise.  (Laughter.)

But the point is, I want every American to have the kinds of chances that Camille has.  Because when we've got everybody on the field, that's when you win games.  I mean, think about if we had as many young girls focused and aspiring to be scientists and astronauts and engineers.  That's a whole slew of talent that we want to make sure is on the field.  (Applause.)

So we’ve been working to help more young people have access to and afford college, with grants and loans that go farther than before.  And when I came into office, we took action to help millions of students cap payments on their loans at 10 percent of their income -- (applause) -- so that they could afford to, let’s say, take a research job after graduation and not be overburdened by debt.  That’s why I want to work with Congress to make sure every student already burdened with loans can reduce your monthly payments by refinancing.  (Applause.)

But there are a lot of Americans who don’t always have the opportunity to study someplace like Boise State.  They need something that’s local; they need something that’s more flexible. You’ve got older workers looking for a better job.  Or you got veterans coming back and trying to figure out how they can get into the civilian workforce.  You got parents who are trying to transition back into the job market, but they’ve got to work and pay the rent and look after their kids, but they still want to make something of themselves.  So they can't always go full-time at a four-year institution.  And that’s why I’m sending Congress a bold, new plan to lower the cost of community college to zero. (Applause.)  To zero.

The idea is, in the new economy, we need to make two years of college as free and as universal in America as high school is today.  Because that was part of our huge advantage back in the 20th century.  We were the first out of the gate to democratize education and put in place public high schools.  And so our workforce was better educated than any other country in the world.  The thing is, other countries caught up.  They figured it out.  They looked at America and said, why is America being so successful?  Their workers are better educated.  We were on the cutting-edge then; now we've got to be pushing the boundaries for the 21st century.

And just like we pick up a tool to build something new, we can pick up a skill to do something new.  And that’s something that you’re doing right here at Boise.  Every year, you sponsor HackFort -- (applause) -- which is, for those of you who are not aware, this is a tech festival that brings the community together to share knowledge and new skills with one another.  And I know we’ve got some folks from some of Boise’s dozen or so tech “meetups” here today.

Here at Boise State innovation is a culture that you're building.  And you're also partnering with companies to do two things -- you help students graduate with skills that employers are looking for, and you help employees pick up the skills they need to advance on the job.  So you're working together.  And you're seeing progress, and it's contributing to the economic development of the city and the state, as well as being good for the students.

And that's why my administration is connecting community colleges with local employers to train workers to fill high-paying jobs like coding, or robotics, as well as traditional fields like nursing.  And today, we’re partnering with business across the country to “Upskill America” -- to help workers of all ages earn a shot at better, higher-paying jobs, even if they don’t have a higher education.  We want to recruit more companies to help provide apprenticeships and other pathways so that people can upgrade their skills.  We're all going to have to do that in this new economy.  But it's hard to do it on your own, especially if you're already working and supporting a family.

Now, as we better train our workers, we need the new economy to keep churning out high-wage jobs for those workers to fill.  And that's why the third part of middle-class economics is about building the most competitive economy in the world.  We want good jobs being created right here in the United States of America, not someplace else.  (Applause.)

And we’ve got everything it takes to do it.  Just to go back to Bella’s question -- “Wow, what’s it like in Boise, Idaho”  -- well, one of the answers is, you’re the cutting-edge of innovation.

I had a chance to tour your New Product Development lab, and I've got to say this was not the stuff I was doing in college.  (Laughter.)  So one group was showing me how they 3D-printed a custom handle that a local student with developmental disabilities could access his locker independently, without anybody’s help.  (Applause.)  But this whole 3D-printing concept was creating prototypes, so that if you have a good idea you don't have to have a huge amount of money.  You can come and students and faculty are going to work with you to develop a prototype that you may then be able to sell as a product at much lower cost.

Another group is working with a local company, Rekluse, to manufacture parts for high-performance motorcycles.  Now, that excites Vice President Biden.  (Laughter.  I might bring him with me the next time I come to Boise.  (Applause.)  Some of your faculty and students are working with next-generation materials like graphene, which is a material that’s thinner than paper and stronger than steel.  It's amazing.

And the work you do here is one of the reasons why Boise is one of our top cities for tech startups.  (Applause.)  And that means we shouldn’t just be celebrating your work, we should be investing in it.  We should make sure our businesses have everything they need to innovate, expand in this 21st century economy.

The research dollars that leads to new inventions.  The manufacturers who can make those inventions here in America.  The best infrastructure to ship products, and the chance to sell those products in growing markets overseas.  A free and open Internet that reaches every classroom, and every community -- (applause) -- so this young generation of innovators and entrepreneurs can keep on remaking our world.

Now, those of you who were watching last night know that I made these arguments before Congress.  Most of these are ideas that traditionally were bipartisan.  I was talking to Bob.  Bob was a Republican lieutenant governor, but I'm not sure he’d survive now in a primary.  (Laughter.)  But the ideas I just talked about, those are things that traditionally all of us could agree to.  I mean, after all, the state we come from, Illinois, that's the “land of Lincoln,” and Lincoln was the first Republican President.  And he started land-grant colleges, and he built railroads and invested in the National Science Foundation. And he understood that this is what it takes for us to grow together.

But watching last night, some of you may have noticed, Republicans were not applauding for many of these ideas. (Laughter.)  They were kind of quiet.  But when it comes to issues like infrastructure and research, I think when you talk to them privately, when they’re not on camera -- (laughter) -- they generally agree that it's important.  Educating our young people, creating good jobs, being competitive, those things shouldn’t be controversial.  But where too often we run onto the rocks, where the debate starts getting difficult, is how do we pay for these investments.  Because it requires dollars.  The labs here and the infrastructure that we need, those things don't just pop up for free.

And the private sector, which is the heartbeat of our economy, it doesn’t build roads; it doesn’t create ports; it doesn’t lay down all the Internet lines -- or the broadband lines that are required to reach remote communities.  So we have to make some investments; we've got to figure out how to pay for it.
And as Americans, we don’t mind paying our fair share of taxes, as long as everybody else does.  (Applause.)  Where we get frustrated is when we know that lobbyists have rigged the tax code with loopholes, so you’ve got some corporations paying nothing while others are paying full freight.  You’ve got the super rich getting giveaways they don’t need, and middle-class families not getting the breaks that they do need.  (Applause.)
So what I said last night to Congress is we need to make these investments, we need to help families, we need to build middle-class economics.  And here’s how we can pay for it.  Let’s close those loopholes.  Let’s stop rewarding companies that keep profits abroad; let’s reward companies that are investing here in America.  (Applause.)  

Let’s close the loopholes that let the top 1 or .1 or .01 percent avoid paying certain taxes, and use that money to help more Americans pay for college and child care.  The idea is, let’s have a tax code that truly helps working Americans, the vast majority of Americans, get a leg up in the new economy.  (Applause.)  

That’s what I believe in.  That's what I believe in.  I believe in helping hardworking families make ends meet.  And I believe in giving all of us the tools we need so that if we work hard we can get good-paying jobs in this new economy.  And I believe in making sure that our businesses are strong and competitive and making the investments that are required.

That’s where America needs to go.  And I believe that's where Americans want America to go.  (Applause.)  And if we do these things, it will make our economy stronger -- not just a year from now, or 10 years from now, but deep into the next century.

Now, I know there are Republicans who disagree with my approach.  I could see that from their body language yesterday.  (Laughter.)  And if they do disagree with me, then I look forward to hearing from them how they want to pay for things like R&D and infrastructure that we need to grow.  (Applause.)  They should put forward some alternative proposals.

I want to hear specifically from them how they intend to help kids pay for college.  (Applause.)  It is perfectly fair for them to say, we've got a better way of meeting these national priorities.  But if they do, then they’ve got to show us what those ideas are.  (Applause.)  And what you can’t do is just pretend that things like child care or student debt or infrastructure or basic research are not important.  And you can't pretend there’s nothing we can do to help middle-class families get ahead.  There’s a lot we can do.  (Applause.)  

Some of the commentators last night said, well, that was a pretty good speech, but none of this can pass this Congress.  But my job is to put forward what I think is best for America.  The job of Congress, then, is to put forward alternative ideas, but they’ve got to be specific.  They can't just be, no.  (Laughter and applause.)  I'm happy to start a conversation.  Tell me how we're going to do the things that need to be done.  Tell me how we get to yes.  (Applause.)

I want to get to yes on more young people being able to afford college.  I want to get to yes on more research and development funding.  I want to get to yes for first-class infrastructure to help our businesses succeed.  I want to get to yes!  (Applause.)  But you’ve got to tell me, work with me here. (Applause.)  Work with me!  Come on!  Don't just say no!  (Applause.)  You can't just say no.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Si, se puede!

THE PRESIDENT:  Si, se puede!  Yes, we can!  (Applause.)

Look, we may disagree on politics sometimes.  Not “may” -- often.  All the time disagree.  That's the nature of a democracy But we don't have to be divided as a people.  We're on the same team.  (Applause.)  When the football team divides up into offense and defense, they probably go at it pretty hard during practice, but they understand, well, we're part of the same team. We're supposed to be rooting for each other.  If a quarterback controversy arises and there’s a competition, I'm going to be fighting real hard to get that starting spot.  But if I don't get it, I'm going to be rooting for the team.  (Applause.)

Whoever we are -- whether we are Republican, or Democrat, or independent, or young or old, or black, white, gay, straight --  we all share a common vision for our future.  (Applause.)  We want a better country for your generation, and for your kids’ generation.  And I want this country to be one that shows the world what we still know to be true -- that we are not just a collection of red states and blue states; we are still the United States of America.  (Applause.)  That's what we're fighting for. That's what we're pushing for.

And if you agree with me, then join me, and let’s get to work.  We've got a lot of stuff to do in this new century.

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

                       END            3:38 P.M. CST

Discuss
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 20, 2015

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
State of the Union Address

The White House is making the full text of the State of the Union widely available on its Medium page. The text, as prepared for delivery, is now online HERE, along with tools that allow people to follow along with the speech as they watch in real time, to view charts and infographics on key areas, to tweet their favorite lines, and to leave notes to provide feedback.

The full text of the State of the Union Address, as prepared for delivery, is posted now on Medium and can be viewed here:
http://go.wh.gov/...        

There is a ritual on State of the Union night in Washington. A little before the address, the White House sends out an embargoed copy of the President’s speech to the press (embargoed means that the press can see the speech, but they can’t report on it until a designated time). The reporters then start sending it around town to folks on Capitol Hill to get their reaction, then those people send it to all their friends, and eventually everyone in Washington can read along, but the public remains in the dark.

This year we change that.

For the first time, the White House is making the full text of the speech available to citizens around the country online. On Medium, you can follow along with the speech as you watch in real time, view charts and infographics on key areas, tweet favorite lines, and leave notes. By making the text available to the public in advance, the White House is continuing efforts to reach a wide online audience and give people a range of ways to consume the speech.

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Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:

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.

Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999.  Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis.  More of our kids are graduating than ever before; more of our people are insured than ever before; we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years.

Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over.  Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Today, fewer than 15,000 remain.  And we salute the courage and sacrifice of every man and woman in this 9/11 Generation who has served to keep us safe.  We are humbled and grateful for your service.

America, for all that we’ve endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this:  

The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.

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?

Will we approach the world fearful and reactive, dragged into costly conflicts that strain our military and set back our standing?  Or will we lead wisely, using all elements of our power to defeat new threats and protect our planet?

Will we allow ourselves to be sorted into factions and turned against one another – or will we recapture the sense of common purpose that has always propelled America forward?

In two weeks, I will send this Congress a budget filled with ideas that are practical, not partisan.  And in the months ahead, I’ll crisscross the country making a case for those ideas.

So tonight, I want to focus less on a checklist of proposals, and focus more on the values at stake in the choices before us.

It begins with our economy.

Seven years ago, Rebekah and Ben Erler of Minneapolis were newlyweds.  She waited tables.  He worked construction.  Their first child, Jack, was on the way.

They were young and in love in America, and it doesn’t get much better than that.

“If only we had known,” Rebekah wrote to me last spring, “what was about to happen to the housing and construction market.”

As the crisis worsened, Ben’s business dried up, so he took what jobs he could find, even if they kept him on the road for long stretches of time.  Rebekah took out student loans, enrolled in community college, and retrained for a new career.  They sacrificed for each other.  And slowly, it paid off.  They bought their first home.  They had a second son, Henry.  Rebekah got a better job, and then a raise.  Ben is back in construction – and home for dinner every night.

“It is amazing,” Rebekah wrote, “what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”

We are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.

America, Rebekah and Ben’s story is our story.  They represent the millions who have worked hard, and scrimped, and sacrificed, and retooled.  You are the reason I ran for this office.  You’re the people I was thinking of six years ago today, in the darkest months of the crisis, when I stood on the steps of this Capitol and promised we would rebuild our economy on a new foundation.  And it’s been your effort and resilience that has made it possible for our country to emerge stronger.

We believed we could reverse the tide of outsourcing, and draw new jobs to our shores.  And over the past five years, our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs.

We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet.  And today, America is number one in oil and gas.  America is number one in wind power.  Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008.  And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save $750 at the pump.

We believed we could prepare our kids for a more competitive world.  And today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record.  Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high.  And more Americans finish college than ever before.

We believed that sensible regulations could prevent another crisis, shield families from ruin, and encourage fair competition.  Today, we have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, and a new consumer watchdog to protect us from predatory lending and abusive credit card practices.  And in the past year alone, about ten million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage.
At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious; that we would crush jobs and explode deficits.  Instead, we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health care inflation at its lowest rate in fifty years.

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.  We can’t slow down businesses or put our economy at risk with government shutdowns or fiscal showdowns.  We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got a system to fix.  And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, it will earn my veto.

Today, thanks to a growing economy, the recovery is touching more and more lives.  Wages are finally starting to rise again.  We know that more small business owners plan to raise their employees’ pay than at any time since 2007.  But here’s the thing – those of us here tonight, we need to set our sights higher than just making sure government doesn’t halt the progress we’re making.  We need to do more than just do no harm.  Tonight, together, let’s do more to restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity for every American.

Because families like Rebekah’s still need our help.  She and Ben are working as hard as ever, but have to forego vacations and a new car so they can pay off student loans and save for retirement.  Basic childcare for Jack and Henry costs more than their mortgage, and almost as much as a year at the University of Minnesota.  Like millions of hardworking Americans, Rebekah isn’t asking for a handout, but she is asking that we look for more ways to help families get ahead.

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.  We don’t just want everyone to share in America’s success – we want everyone to contribute to our success.

So what does middle-class economics require in our time?

First – middle-class economics means helping working families feel more secure in a world of constant change.  That means helping folks afford childcare, college, health care, a home, retirement – and my budget will address each of these issues, lowering the taxes of working families and putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets each year.

Here’s one example.  During World War II, when men like my grandfather went off to war, having women like my grandmother in the workforce was a national security priority – so this country provided universal childcare.  In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever.  It’s not a nice-to-have – it’s a must-have.  It’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us.  And that’s why my plan will make quality childcare more available, and more affordable, for every middle-class and low-income family with young children in America – by creating more slots and a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child, per year.

Here’s another example.  Today, we’re the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers.  Forty-three million workers have no paid sick leave.  Forty-three million.  Think about that.  And that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home.  So I’ll be taking new action to help states adopt paid leave laws of their own.  And since paid sick leave won where it was on the ballot last November, let’s put it to a vote right here in Washington.  Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave.  It’s the right thing to do.

Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages.  That’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work.  Really.  It’s 2015.  It’s time.  We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they’ve earned.  And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this:  If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it.  If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.

These ideas won’t make everybody rich, or relieve every hardship.  That’s not the job of government.  To give working families a fair shot, we’ll still need more employers to see beyond next quarter’s earnings and recognize that investing in their workforce is in their company’s long-term interest.  We still need laws that strengthen rather than weaken unions, and give American workers a voice.  But things like child care and sick leave and equal pay; things like lower mortgage premiums and a higher minimum wage – these ideas will make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of families.  That is a fact.  And that’s what all of us – Republicans and Democrats alike – were sent here to do.

Second, to make sure folks keep earning higher wages down the road, we have to do more to help Americans upgrade their skills.

America thrived in the 20th century because we made high school free, sent a generation of GIs to college, and trained the best workforce in the world.  But in a 21st century economy that rewards knowledge like never before, we need to do more.

By the end of this decade, two in three job openings will require some higher education.  Two in three.  And yet, we still live in a country where too many bright, striving Americans are priced out of the education they need.  It’s not fair to them, and it’s not smart for our future.

That’s why I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college – to zero.

Forty percent of our college students choose community college.  Some are young and starting out.  Some are older and looking for a better job.  Some are veterans and single parents trying to transition back into the job market.  Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt.  Understand, you’ve got to earn it – you’ve got to keep your grades up and graduate on time.  Tennessee, a state with Republican leadership, and Chicago, a city with Democratic leadership, are showing that free community college is possible.  I want to spread that idea all across America, so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today.  And I want to work with this Congress, to make sure Americans already burdened with student loans can reduce their monthly payments, so that student debt doesn’t derail anyone’s dreams.

Thanks to Vice President Biden’s great work to update our job training system, we’re connecting community colleges with local employers to train workers to fill high-paying jobs like coding, and nursing, and robotics.  Tonight, I’m also asking more businesses to follow the lead of companies like CVS and UPS, and offer more educational benefits and paid apprenticeships – opportunities that give workers the chance to earn higher-paying jobs even if they don’t have a higher education.

And as a new generation of veterans comes home, we owe them every opportunity to live the American Dream they helped defend.  Already, we’ve made strides towards ensuring that every veteran has access to the highest quality care.  We’re slashing the backlog that had too many veterans waiting years to get the benefits they need, and we’re making it easier for vets to translate their training and experience into civilian jobs.  Joining Forces, the national campaign launched by Michelle and Jill Biden, has helped nearly 700,000 veterans and military spouses get new jobs.  So to every CEO in America, let me repeat:  If you want somebody who’s going to get the job done, hire a veteran.

Finally, as we better train our workers, we need the new economy to keep churning out high-wage jobs for our workers to fill.

Since 2010, America has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and all advanced economies combined.  Our manufacturers have added almost 800,000 new jobs.  Some of our bedrock sectors, like our auto industry, are booming.  But there are also millions of Americans who work in jobs that didn’t even exist ten or twenty years ago – jobs at companies like Google, and eBay, and Tesla.

So no one knows for certain which industries will generate the jobs of the future.  But we do know we want them here in America.  That’s why the third part of middle-class economics is about building the most competitive economy anywhere, the place where businesses want to locate and hire.

21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure – modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet.  Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this.  So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline.  Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than thirty times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come.

21st century businesses, including small businesses, need to sell more American products overseas.  Today, our businesses export more than ever, and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages.  But as we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region.  That would put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage.  Why would we let that happen?  We should write those rules.  We should level the playing field.  That’s why I’m asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but fair.

Look, I’m the first one to admit that past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype, and that’s why we’ve gone after countries that break the rules at our expense.  But ninety-five percent of the world’s customers live outside our borders, and we can’t close ourselves off from those opportunities.  More than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking at bringing jobs back from China.  Let’s give them one more reason to get it done.

21st century businesses will rely on American science, technology, research and development.  I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of medicine – one that delivers the right treatment at the right time.  In some patients with cystic fibrosis, this approach has reversed a disease once thought unstoppable.  Tonight, I’m launching a new Precision Medicine Initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes – and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier.

I intend to protect a free and open internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.

I want Americans to win the race for the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs – converting sunlight into liquid fuel; creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a veteran who gave his arms for his country can play catch with his kid; pushing out into the Solar System not just to visit, but to stay.  Last month, we launched a new spacecraft as part of a re-energized space program that will send American astronauts to Mars.  In two months, to prepare us for those missions, Scott Kelly will begin a year-long stay in space.  Good luck, Captain – and make sure to Instagram it.

Now, the truth is, when it comes to issues like infrastructure and basic research, I know there’s bipartisan support in this chamber.  Members of both parties have told me so.  Where we too often run onto the rocks is how to pay for these investments.  As Americans, we don’t mind paying our fair share of taxes, as long as everybody else does, too.  But for far too long, lobbyists have rigged the tax code with loopholes that let some corporations pay nothing while others pay full freight.  They’ve riddled it with giveaways the superrich don’t need, denying a break to middle class families who do.  

This year, we have an opportunity to change that.  Let’s close loopholes so we stop rewarding companies that keep profits abroad, and reward those that invest in America.  Let’s use those savings to rebuild our infrastructure and make it more attractive for companies to bring jobs home.  Let’s simplify the system and let a small business owner file based on her actual bank statement, instead of the number of accountants she can afford.  And let’s close the loopholes that lead to inequality by allowing the top one percent to avoid paying taxes on their accumulated wealth.  We can use that money to help more families pay for childcare and send their kids to college.  We need a tax code that truly helps working Americans trying to get a leg up in the new economy, and we can achieve that together.

Helping hardworking families make ends meet. Giving them the tools they need for good-paying jobs in this new economy.  Maintaining the conditions for growth and competitiveness.  This is where America needs to go.  I believe it’s where the American people want to go.  It will make our economy stronger a year from now, fifteen years from now, and deep into the century ahead.

Of course, if there’s one thing this new century has taught us, it’s that we cannot separate our work at home from challenges beyond our shores.

My first duty as Commander-in-Chief is to defend the United States of America.  In doing so, the question is not whether America leads in the world, but how.  When we make rash decisions, reacting to the headlines instead of using our heads; when the first response to a challenge is to send in our military – then we risk getting drawn into unnecessary conflicts, and neglect the broader strategy we need for a safer, more prosperous world.  That’s what our enemies want us to do.

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.

First, we stand united with people around the world who’ve been targeted by terrorists – from a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris.  We will continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their networks, and we reserve the right to act unilaterally, as we’ve done relentlessly since I took office to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to us and our allies.  

At the same time, we’ve learned some costly lessons over the last thirteen years.

Instead of Americans patrolling the valleys of Afghanistan, we’ve trained their security forces, who’ve now taken the lead, and we’ve honored our troops’ sacrifice by supporting that country’s first democratic transition.  Instead of sending large ground forces overseas, we’re partnering with nations from South Asia to North Africa to deny safe haven to terrorists who threaten America.  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.

Second, we are demonstrating the power of American strength and diplomacy.  We’re upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small – by opposing Russian aggression, supporting Ukraine’s democracy, and reassuring our NATO allies.  Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies, some suggested that Mr. Putin’s aggression was a masterful display of strategy and strength.  Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters.

That’s how America leads – not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve.

In Cuba, we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date.  When what you’re doing doesn’t work for fifty years, it’s time to try something new.  Our shift in Cuba policy has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere; removes a phony excuse for restrictions in Cuba; stands up for democratic values; and extends the hand of friendship to the Cuban people.  And this year, Congress should begin the work of ending the embargo.  As His Holiness, Pope Francis, has said, diplomacy is the work of “small steps.”  These small steps have added up to new hope for the future in Cuba.  And after years in prison, we’re overjoyed that Alan Gross is back where he belongs.  Welcome home, Alan.

Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material.  Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran; secures America and our allies – including Israel; while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict.  There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran.  But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails – alienating America from its allies; and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again.  It doesn’t make sense.  That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress.  The American people expect us to only go to war as a last resort, and I intend to stay true to that wisdom.

Third, we’re looking beyond the issues that have consumed us in the past to shape the coming century.

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.

In West Africa, our troops, our scientists, our doctors, our nurses and healthcare workers are rolling back Ebola – saving countless lives and stopping the spread of disease.  I couldn’t be prouder of them, and I thank this Congress for your bipartisan support of their efforts.  But the job is not yet done – and the world needs to use this lesson to build a more effective global effort to prevent the spread of future pandemics, invest in smart development, and eradicate extreme poverty.

In the Asia Pacific, we are modernizing alliances while making sure that other nations play by the rules – in how they trade, how they resolve maritime disputes, and how they participate in meeting common international challenges like nonproliferation and disaster relief.  And no challenge – no challenge – poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.

2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record.  Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does – 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.

I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act.  Well, I’m not a scientist, either.  But you know what – I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities.  The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe.  The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security.  We should act like it.

That’s why, over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever before to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy, to the way we use it.  That’s why we’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history.  And that’s why I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts.  I am determined to make sure American leadership drives international action.  In Beijing, we made an historic announcement – the United States will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions.  And because the world’s two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we’ve got.

There’s one last pillar to our leadership – and that’s the example of our values.

As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I’ve prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained.  It’s why we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world.  It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims – the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace.  That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.  We do these things not only because they’re right, but because they make us safer.

As Americans, we have a profound commitment to justice – so it makes no sense to spend three million dollars per prisoner to keep open a prison that the world condemns and terrorists use to recruit.  Since I’ve been President, we’ve worked responsibly to cut the population of GTMO in half.  Now it’s time to finish the job.  And I will not relent in my determination to shut it down.  It’s not who we are.

As Americans, we cherish our civil liberties – and we need to uphold that commitment if we want maximum cooperation from other countries and industry in our fight against terrorist networks.  So while some have moved on from the debates over our surveillance programs, I haven’t.  As promised, our intelligence agencies have worked hard, with the recommendations of privacy advocates, to increase transparency and build more safeguards against potential abuse.  And next month, we’ll issue a report on how we’re keeping our promise to keep our country safe while strengthening privacy.

Looking to the future instead of the past.  Making sure we match our power with diplomacy, and use force wisely.  Building coalitions to meet new challenges and opportunities.  Leading – always – with the example of our values.  That’s what makes us exceptional.  That’s what keeps us strong.  And that’s why we must keep striving to hold ourselves to the highest of standards – our own.

You know, just over a decade ago, I gave a speech in Boston where I said there wasn’t a liberal America, or a conservative America; a black America or a white America – but a United States of America.  I said this because I had seen it in my own life, in a nation that gave someone like me a chance; because I grew up in Hawaii, a melting pot of races and customs; because I made Illinois my home – a state of small towns, rich farmland, and one of the world’s great cities; a microcosm of the country where Democrats and Republicans and Independents, good people of every ethnicity and every faith, share certain bedrock values.

Over the past six years, the pundits have pointed out more than once that my presidency hasn’t delivered on this vision.  How ironic, they say, that our politics seems more divided than ever.  It’s held up as proof not just of my own flaws – of which there are many – but also as proof that the vision itself is misguided, and naïve, and that there are too many people in this town who actually benefit from partisanship and gridlock for us to ever do anything about it.

I know how tempting such cynicism may be.  But I still think the cynics are wrong.

I still believe that we are one people.  I still believe that together, we can do great things, even when the odds are long.  I believe this because over and over in my six years in office, I have seen America at its best.  I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates from New York to California; and our newest officers at West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs, and New London.  I’ve mourned with grieving families in Tucson and Newtown; in Boston, West, Texas, and West Virginia.  I’ve watched Americans beat back adversity from the Gulf Coast to the Great Plains; from Midwest assembly lines to the Mid-Atlantic seaboard.  I’ve seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in ten Americans call home.

So I know the good, and optimistic, and big-hearted generosity of the American people who, every day, live the idea that we are our brother’s keeper, and our sister’s keeper.  And I know they expect those of us who serve here to set a better example.

So the question for those of us here tonight is how we, all of us, can better reflect America’s hopes.  I’ve served in Congress with many of you.  I know many of you well.  There are a lot of good people here, on both sides of the aisle.  And many of you have told me that this isn’t what you signed up for – arguing past each other on cable shows, the constant fundraising, always looking over your shoulder at how the base will react to every decision.

Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns.  Imagine if we did something different.

Understand – a better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine.

A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears.

A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues, and values, and principles, and facts, rather than “gotcha” moments, or trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives.

A better politics is one where we spend less time drowning in dark money for ads that pull us into the gutter, and spend more time lifting young people up, with a sense of purpose and possibility, and asking them to join in the great mission of building America.

If we’re going to have arguments, let’s have arguments – but let’s make them debates worthy of this body and worthy of this country.

We still may not agree on a woman’s right to choose, but surely we can agree it’s a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows, and that every woman should have access to the health care she needs.

Yes, passions still fly on immigration, but surely we can all see something of ourselves in the striving young student, and agree that no one benefits when a hardworking mom is taken from her child, and that it’s possible to shape a law that upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.

We may go at it in campaign season, but surely we can agree that the right to vote is sacred; that it’s being denied to too many; and that, on this 50th anniversary of the great march from Selma to Montgomery and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we can come together, Democrats and Republicans, to make voting easier for every single American.

We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York.  But surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed.  Surely we can understand the wife who won’t rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift.  Surely we can agree it’s a good thing that for the first time in 40 years, the crime rate and the incarceration rate have come down together, and use that as a starting point for Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law enforcement, to reform America’s criminal justice system so that it protects and serves us all.

That’s a better politics.  That’s how we start rebuilding trust.  That’s how we move this country forward.  That’s what the American people want.  That’s what they deserve.

I have no more campaigns to run.  My only agenda for the next two years is the same as the one I’ve had since the day I swore an oath on the steps of this Capitol – to do what I believe is best for America.  If you share the broad vision I outlined tonight, join me in the work at hand.  If you disagree with parts of it, I hope you’ll at least work with me where you do agree.  And I commit to every Republican here tonight that I will not only seek out your ideas, I will seek to work with you to make this country stronger.

Because I want this chamber, this city, to reflect the truth – that for all our blind spots and shortcomings, we are a people with the strength and generosity of spirit to bridge divides, to unite in common effort, and help our neighbors, whether down the street or on the other side of the world.

I want our actions to tell every child, in every neighborhood:  your life matters, and we are as committed to improving your life chances as we are for our own kids.

I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we are a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen – man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino and Asian, immigrant and Native American, gay and straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability.

I want them to grow up in a country that shows the world what we still know to be true:  that we are still more than a collection of red states and blue states; that we are the United States of America.

I want them to grow up in a country where a young mom like Rebekah can sit down and write a letter to her President with a story to sum up these past six years:

“It is amazing what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”

My fellow Americans, we too are a strong, tight-knit family.  We, too, have made it through some hard times.  Fifteen years into this new century, we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and begun again the work of remaking America.  We’ve laid a new foundation.  A brighter future is ours to write.  Let’s begin this new chapter – together – and let’s start the work right now.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless this country we love.

###
Discuss
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
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                                    December 19, 2014

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
IN YEAR-END PRESS CONFERENCE

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:53 P.M. EST

     THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  We've really got a full house today, huh?  Well, all I want for Christmas is to take your questions.  (Laughter.)  But first let me say a little bit about this year.

In last year’s final press conference, I said that 2014 would be a year of action and would be a breakthrough year for America.  And it has been.  Yes, there were crises that we had to tackle around the world, many that were unanticipated.  We have more work to do to make sure our economy, our justice system, and our government work not just for the few, but for the many.  But there is no doubt that we can enter into the New Year with renewed confidence that America is making significant strides where it counts.

The steps that we took early on to rescue our economy and rebuild it on a new foundation helped make 2014 the strongest year for job growth since the 1990s.  All told, over a 57-month streak, our businesses have created nearly 11 million new jobs.  Almost all the job growth that we’ve seen have been in full-time positions.  Much of the recent pickup in job growth has been in higher-paying industries.  And in a hopeful sign for middle-class families, wages are on the rise again.

Our investments in American manufacturing have helped fuel its best stretch of job growth also since the 1990s.  America is now the number-one producer of oil, the number-one producer of natural gas.  We're saving drivers about 70 cents a gallon at the pump over last Christmas.  And effectively today, our rescue of the auto industry is officially over.  We've now repaid taxpayers every dime and more of what my administration committed, and the American auto industry is on track for its strongest year since 2005.  And we've created about half a million new jobs in the auto industry alone.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, about 10 million Americans have gained health insurance just this past year.  Enrollment is beginning to pick up again during the open enrollment period.  The uninsured rate is at a near record low.  Since the law passed, the price of health care has risen at its slowest rate in about 50 years.  And we’ve cut our deficits by about two-thirds since I took office, bringing them to below their 40-year average.

Meanwhile, around the world, America is leading.  We’re leading the coalition to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL -- a coalition that includes Arab partners.  We’re leading the international community to check Russian aggression in Ukraine. We are leading the global fight to combat Ebola in West Africa, and we are preventing an outbreak from taking place here at home. We’re leading efforts to address climate change, including last month’s joint announcement with China that’s already jumpstarting new progress in other countries.  We’re writing a new chapter in our leadership here in the Americas by turning a new page on our relationship with the Cuban people.

And in less than two weeks, after more than 13 years, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over.  Today, more of our troops are home for the holidays than any time in over a decade. Still, many of our men and women in uniform will spend Christmas in harm’s way.  And they should know that the country is united in support of you and grateful not only to you but also to your families.

The six years since the crisis have demanded hard work and sacrifice on everybody’s part.  But as a country, we have every right to be proud of what we’ve accomplished -- more jobs; more people insured; a growing economy; shrinking deficits; bustling industry; booming energy.  Pick any metric that you want -- America’s resurgence is real.  We are better off.

I’ve always said that recovering from the crisis of 2008 was our first order of business, and on that business, America has outperformed all of our other competitors.  Over the past four years, we’ve put more people back to work than all other advanced economies combined.  We’ve now come to a point where we have the chance to reverse an even deeper problem, the decades-long erosion of middle-class jobs and incomes, and to make sure that the middle class is the engine that powers our prosperity for decades to come.

To do that, we're going to have to make some smart choices; we've got to make the right choices.  We're going to have to invest in the things that secure even faster growth in higher-paying jobs for more Americans.  And I’m being absolutely sincere when I say I want to work with this new Congress to get things done, to make those investments, to make sure the government is working better and smarter.  We're going to disagree on some things, but there are going to be areas of agreement and we've got to be able to make that happen.  And that's going to involve compromise every once in a while, and we saw during this lame duck period that perhaps that spirit of compromise may be coming to the fore.  

In terms of my own job, I'm energized, I'm excited about the prospects for the next couple of years, and I'm certainly not going to be stopping for a minute in the effort to make life better for ordinary Americans.  Because, thanks to their efforts, we really do have a new foundation that's been laid.  We are better positioned than we have been in a very long time.  A new future is ready to be written.  We've set the stage for this American moment.  And I'm going to spend every minute of my last two years making sure that we seize it.

My presidency is entering the fourth quarter; interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter.  And I'm looking forward to it.  But going into the fourth quarter, you usually get a timeout.  I'm now looking forward to a quiet timeout -- Christmas with my family.  So I want to wish everybody a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a Happy New Year.  I hope that all of you get some time to spend with your families as well, because one thing that we share is that we're away too much from them.

And now, Josh has given me the “who’s been naughty and who’s been nice” list -- (laughter) -- and I'm going to use it to take some questions.  And we're going to start with Carrie Budoff Brown of Politico.  There you go, Carrie.

     Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I’ll start on North Korea -- that seems to be the biggest topic today.  What does a proportional response look like to the Sony hack?  And did Sony make the right decision in pulling the movie?  Or does that set a dangerous precedent when faced with this kind of situation?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me address the second question first.  Sony is a corporation.  It suffered significant damage.  There were threats against its employees.  I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced.  Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake.

     In this interconnected, digital world, there are going to be opportunities for hackers to engage in cyber assaults both in the private sector and the public sector.  Now, our first order of business is making sure that we do everything to harden sites and prevent those kinds of attacks from taking place.  When I came into office, I stood up a cybersecurity interagency team to look at everything that we could at the government level to prevent these kinds of attacks.  We’ve been coordinating with the private sector, but a lot more needs to be done.  We’re not even close to where we need to be.

     And one of the things in the New Year that I hope Congress is prepared to work with us on is strong cybersecurity laws that allow for information-sharing across private sector platforms, as well as the public sector, so that we are incorporating best practices and preventing these attacks from happening in the first place.

     But even as we get better, the hackers are going to get better, too.  Some of them are going to be state actors; some of them are going to be non-state actors.  All of them are going to be sophisticated and many of them can do some damage.

We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States.  Because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don’t like, or news reports that they don’t like.  Or even worse, imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody whose sensibilities probably need to be offended.

     So that’s not who we are.  That’s not what America is about.
Again, I’m sympathetic that Sony as a private company was worried about liabilities, and this and that and the other.  I wish they had spoken to me first.  I would have told them, do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.  Imagine if, instead of it being a cyber-threat, somebody had broken into their offices and destroyed a bunch of computers and stolen disks.  Is that what it takes for suddenly you to pull the plug on something?

     So we’ll engage with not just the film industry, but the news industry and the private sector around these issues.  We already have.  We will continue to do so.  But I think all of us have to anticipate occasionally there are going to be breaches like this.  They’re going to be costly.  They’re going to be serious.  We take them with the utmost seriousness.  But we can’t start changing our patterns of behavior any more than we stop going to a football game because there might be the possibility of a terrorist attack; any more than Boston didn’t run its marathon this year because of the possibility that somebody might try to cause harm.  So let’s not get into that way of doing business.

Q    Can you just say what the response would be to this attack?  Wwould you consider taking some sort of symbolic step like watching the movie yourself or doing some sort of screening here that --

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ve got a long list of movies I’m going to be watching.  (Laughter.)

Q    Will this be one of them?

THE PRESIDENT:  I never release my full movie list.

But let’s talk of the specifics of what we now know.  The FBI announced today and we can confirm that North Korea engaged in this attack.  I think it says something interesting about North Korea that they decided to have the state mount an all-out assault on a movie studio because of a satirical movie starring Seth Rogen and James Flacco [Franco].  (Laughter.)  I love Seth and I love James, but the notion that that was a threat to them I think gives you some sense of the kind of regime we’re talking about here.

They caused a lot of damage, and we will respond.  We will respond proportionally, and we’ll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose.  It’s not something that I will announce here today at a press conference.

More broadly, though, this points to the need for us to work with the international community to start setting up some very clear rules of the road in terms of how the Internet and cyber operates.  Right now, it’s sort of the Wild West.  And part of the problem is, is you’ve got weak states that can engage in these kinds of attacks, you’ve got non-state actors that can do enormous damage.  That’s part of what makes this issue of cybersecurity so urgent.

Again, this is part of the reason why it’s going to be so important for Congress to work with us and get a actual bill passed that allows for the kind of information-sharing we need.  Because if we don’t put in place the kind of architecture that can prevent these attacks from taking place, this is not just going to be affecting movies, this is going to be affecting our entire economy in ways that are extraordinarily significant.

And, by the way, I hear you’re moving to Europe.  Where you going to be?

Q    Brussels.

THE PRESIDENT:  Brussels.

Q    Yes.  Helping Politico start a new publication.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, congratulations.

Q    I’ve been covering you since the beginning.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think --

Q    It’s been a long road for the both of us.

THE PRESIDENT:  I think there’s no doubt that what Belgium needs is a version of Politico.  (Laughter.)

Q    I’ll take that as an endorsement.

THE PRESIDENT:  The waffles are delicious there, by the way.
Cheryl Bolen.  You’ve been naughty.  (Laughter.)  Cheryl, go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Looking ahead to your work with Congress next year, you’ve mentioned as an area of possible compromise tax reform.  And so I am wondering, do you see a Republican Congress as presenting a better opportunity for actually getting tax reform next year?  Will you be putting out a new proposal?  Are you willing to consider both individual and corporate side of the tax ledger there?  And also, are you still concerned about corporate inversions?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think an all-Democratic Congress would have provided an even better opportunity for tax reform.  But I think, talking to Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell that they are serious about wanting to get some things done.  The tax area is one area where we can get things done.  And I think in the coming weeks leading up to the State of Union, there will be some conversations at the staff levels about what principles each side are looking at.

     I can tell you broadly what I’d like to see.  I’d like to see more simplicity in the system.  I’d like to see more fairness in the system.  With respect to the corporate tax reform issue, we know that there are companies that are paying the full freight -- 35 percent -- higher than just about any other company on Earth, if you're paying 35 percent, and then there are other companies that are paying zero because they’ve got better accountants or lawyers.  That's not fair.

     There are companies that are parking money outside the country because of tax avoidance.  We think that it’s important that everybody pays something if, in fact, they are effectively headquartered in the United States.  In terms of corporate inversion, those are situations where companies really are headquartered here but, on paper, switch their headquarters to see if they can avoid paying their fair share of taxes.  I think that needs to be fixed.

     So, fairness, everybody paying their fair share, everybody taking responsibility I think is going to be very important.

     Some of those principles I’ve heard Republicans say they share.  How we do that -- the devil is in the details.  And I’ll be interested in seeing what they want to move forward.  I’m going to make sure that we put forward some pretty specific proposals building on what we’ve already put forward.

     One other element of this that I think is important is -- and I’ve been on this hobby horse now for six years.  (Audience member sneezes.)  Bless you.  We’ve got a lot of infrastructure we’ve got to rebuild in this country if we're going to be competitive -- roads, bridges, ports, airports, electrical grids, water systems, sewage systems.  We are way behind.

And early on we indicated that there is a way of us potentially doing corporate tax reform, lowering rates, eliminating loopholes so everybody is paying their fair share, and during that transition also providing a mechanism where we can get some infrastructure built.  I’d like to see us work on that issue as well.  Historically, obviously, infrastructure has not been a Democratic or a Republican issue, and I’d like to see if we can return to that tradition.

     Julie Pace.

     Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I wanted to ask about Cuba. What would you say to dissidents or democracy advocates inside Cuba who fear that the policy changes you announced this week could give the Castro regime economic benefits without having to address human rights or their political system?  When your administration was lifting sanctions on Myanmar you sought commitments of reform.  Why not do the same with Cuba?

     And if I could just follow up on North Korea.  Do you have any indication that North Korea was acting in conjunction with another country, perhaps China?

     THE PRESIDENT:  We’ve got no indication that North Korea was acting in conjunction with another country.

     With respect to Cuba, we are glad that the Cuban government have released slightly over 50 dissidents; that they are going to be allowing the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations human rights agencies to operate more freely inside of Cuba and monitor what is taking place.

     I share the concerns of dissidents there and human rights activists that this is still a regime that represses its people. And as I said when I made the announcement, I don’t anticipate overnight changes, but what I know deep in my bones is that if you’ve done the same thing for 50 years and nothing has changed, you should try something different if you want a different outcome.

And this gives us an opportunity for a different outcome, because suddenly Cuba is open to the world in ways that it has not been before.  It’s open to Americans traveling there in ways that it hasn’t been before.  It’s open to church groups visiting their fellow believers inside of Cuba in ways they haven't been before.  It offers the prospect of telecommunications and the Internet being more widely available in Cuba in ways that it hasn’t been before.

     And over time, that chips away at this hermetically sealed society, and I believe offers the best prospect then of leading to greater freedom, greater self-determination on the part of the Cuban people.

I think it will happen in fits and starts.  But through engagement, we have a better chance of bringing about change then we would have otherwise.

     Q    Do you have a goal for where you see Cuba being at the end of your presidency?

     THE PRESIDENT:  I think it would be unrealistic for me to map out exactly where Cuba will be.  But change is going to come to Cuba.  It has to.  They’ve got an economy that doesn’t work.  They’ve been reliant for years first on subsidies from the Soviet Union, then on subsidies from Venezuela.  Those can’t be sustained.  And the more the Cuban people see what’s possible, the more interested they are going to be in change.

But how societies change is country-specific, it’s culturally specific.  It could happen fast; it could happen slower than I’d like; but it’s going to happen.  And I think this change in policy is going to advance that.

     Lesley Clark.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I had a number of questions on Cuba as well.  Appreciate that.  I wanted to --

     THE PRESIDENT:  Do I have to write all these down?  How many are there?  (Laughter.)  “A number” sounded intimidating.

     Q    As quick as I can.  As quick as I can.  I wanted to see if you got an assurances from the Cuban government that it would not revert to the same sort of -- sabotage the deal, as it has in the past when past Presidents had made similar overtures to the government.

     THE PRESIDENT:  Meaning?  Be specific.  What do you mean?

     Q    When the Clinton administration made some overtures, they shot down planes.  They sort of had this pattern of doing provocative -- provocative events.

     THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, so just general provocative activity.

     Q    Provocative activities any time the U.S. has sort of reached out a hand to them.  I wanted to see what is your knowledge of whether Fidel Castro -- did he have any role in the talks?  When you talked to President Raul Castro, did Fidel Castro’s name come up?  Or did you ask about him?  How he’s doing?  People haven't seen him in a while.  Given the deep opposition from some Republicans in Congress to lifting the embargo, to an embassy, to any of the changes that you’re doing, are you going to personally get involved in terms of talking to them about efforts that they want to do to block money on a new embassy?

     THE PRESIDENT:  All right, Lesley, I think I’m going to cut you off here.  (Laughter.)  This is taking up a lot of time.

     Q    Okay, all right.

     THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  So, with respect to sabotage, I mean, my understanding of the history, for example, of the plane being shot down, it’s not clear that that was the Cuban government purposely trying to undermine overtures by the Clinton administration.  It was a tragic circumstance that ended up collapsing talks that had begun to take place.  I haven't seen a historical record that suggests that they shot the plane down specifically in order to undermine overtures by the Clinton government.

     I think it is not precedented for the President of the United States and the President of Cuba to make an announcement at the same time that they are moving towards normalizing relations.  So there hasn’t been anything like this in the past. That doesn’t meant that over the next two years we can anticipate them taking certain actions that we may end up finding deeply troubling either inside of Cuba or with respect to their foreign policy.  And that could put significant strains on the relationship.  But that’s true of a lot of countries out there where we have an embassy.  And the whole point of normalizing relations is that it gives us a greater opportunity to have influence with that government than not.

So I would be surprised if the Cuban government purposely tries to undermine what is now effectively its own policy.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they take at any given time actions that we think are a problem.  And we will be in a position to respond to whatever actions they take the same way we do with a whole range of countries around the world when they do things we think are wrong.  But the point is, is that we will be in a better position I think to actually have some influence, and there may be carrots as well as sticks that we can then apply.

The only way that Fidel’s name came up -- I think I may have mentioned this in the Davie Muir article -- interview that I did -- was I delivered a fairly lengthy statement at the front end about how we’re looking forward to a new future in the relationship between our two countries, but that we are going to continue to press on issues of democracy and human rights, which we think are important.

My opening remarks probably took about 15 minutes, which on the phone is a pretty long time.  And at the end of that, he said, Mr. President, you’re still a young man.  Perhaps you have the -- at the end of my remarks I apologized for taking such a long time, but I wanted to make sure that before we engaged in the conversation he was very clear about where I stood.  He said, oh, don’t worry about it, Mr. President, you’re still a young man and you have still the chance to break Fidel’s record -- he once spoke seven hours straight.  (Laughter.)

And then, President Castro proceeded to deliver his own preliminary remarks that last at least twice as long as mine.  (Laughter.)  And then I was able to say, obviously it runs in the family.  But that was the only discussion of Fidel Castro that we had.

I sort of forgot all the other questions.  (Laughter.)

Q    I have a few more if you’re -- how personally involved are you going to get in --

THE PRESIDENT:  With respect to Congress?  We cannot unilaterally bring down the embargo.  That’s codified in the Libertad Act.  And what I do think is going to happen, though, is there’s going to be a process where Congress digests it.  There are bipartisan supporters of our new approach, there are bipartisan detractors of this new approach.  People will see how the actions we take unfold.  And I think there’s going to be a healthy debate inside of Congress.

And I will certainly weigh in.  I think that ultimately we need to go ahead and pull down the embargo, which I think has been self-defeating in advancing the aims that we’re interested in.  But I don’t anticipate that that happens right away.  I think people are going to want to see how does this move forward before there’s any serious debate about whether or not we would make major shifts in the embargo.

Roberta Rampton.

Q    I want to follow on that by asking, under what conditions would you meet with President Castro in Havana?  Would you have certain preconditions that you would want to see met before doing that?  And on the hack, I know that you said that you’re not going to announce your response, but can you say whether you’re considering additional economic or financial sanctions on North Korea?  Can you rule out the use of military force or some kind of cyber hit of your own?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think I’m going to leave it where I left it, which is we just confirmed that it was North Korea; we have been working up a range of options.  They will be presented to me.  I will make a decision on those based on what I believe is proportional and appropriate to the nature of this crime.

With respect to Cuba, we’re not at a stage here where me visiting Cuba or President Castro coming to the United States is in the cards.  I don’t know how this relationship will develop over the next several years.  I’m a fairly young man so I imagine that at some point in my life I will have the opportunity to visit Cuba and enjoy interacting with the Cuban people.  But there’s nothing specific where we're trying to target some sort of visit on my part.

     Colleen McCain Nelson.

     Q    Thank you, Mr. President.

     THE PRESIDENT:  There you are.

     Q    You spoke earlier about 2014 being a breakthrough year, and you ended the year with executive actions on Cuba and immigration and climate change.  But you didn't make much progress this year on your legislative agenda.  And some Republican lawmakers have said they're less inclined to work with you if you pursue executive actions so aggressively.  Are you going to continue to pursue executive actions if that creates more roadblocks for your legislative agenda?  Or have you concluded that it’s not possible to break the fever in Washington and the partisan gridlock here?

     THE PRESIDENT:  I think there are real opportunities to get things done in Congress.  As I said before, I take Speaker Boehner and Mitch McConnell at their words that they want to get things done.  I think the American people would like to see us get some things done.  The question is going to be are we able to separate out those areas where we disagree and those areas where we agree.  I think there are going to be some tough fights on areas where we disagree.

If Republicans seek to take health care away from people who just got it, they will meet stiff resistance from me.  If they try to water down consumer protections that we put in place in the aftermath of the financial crisis, I will say no.  And I’m confident that I’ll be able to uphold vetoes of those types of provisions.  But on increasing American exports, on simplifying our tax system, on rebuilding our infrastructure, my hope is that we can get some things done.

I’ve never been persuaded by this argument that if it weren’t for the executive actions they would have been more productive.  There’s no evidence of that.  So I intend to continue to do what I’ve been doing, which is where I see a big problem and the opportunity to help the American people, and it is within my lawful authority to provide that help, I’m going to do it.  And I will then, side-by-side, reach out to members of Congress, reach out to Republicans, and say, let’s work together; I’d rather do it with you.

     Immigration is the classic example.  I was really happy when the Senate passed a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration bill.  And I did everything I could for a year and a half to provide Republicans the space to act, and showed not only great patience, but flexibility, saying to them, look, if there are specific changes you’d like to see, we're willing to compromise, we're willing to be patient, we're willing to work with you.  Ultimately it wasn’t forthcoming.

     And so the question is going to be I think if executive actions on areas like minimum wage, or equal pay, or having a more sensible immigration system are important to Republicans, if they care about those issues, and the executive actions are bothering them, there is a very simple solution, and that is:  Pass bills.  And work with me to make sure I’m willing to sign those bills.

Because both sides are going to have to compromise.  On most issues, in order for their initiatives to become law, I’m going to have sign off.  And that means they have to take into account the issues that I care about, just as I’m going to have to take into account the issues that they care about.

     All right.  I think this is going to be our last question.  Juliet Eilperin.  There you go.

     Q    Thanks so much.  So one of the first bills that Mitch McConnell said he will send to you is one that would authorize the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.  When you talked about this in the past, you’ve minimized the benefits and you highlighted some of the risks associated with that project.  I’m wondering if you could tell us both what you would do when faced with that bill, given the Republican majority that we’ll have in both chambers.  And also, what do you see as the benefits?  And given the precipitous drop we’ve seen in oil prices recently, does that change the calculus in terms of how it will contribute to climate change, and whether you think it makes sense to go ahead with that project?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I don’t think I’ve minimized the benefits, I think I’ve described the benefits.  At issue in Keystone is not American oil.  It is Canadian oil that is drawn out of tar sands in Canada.  That oil currently is being shipped out through rail or trucks, and it would save Canadian oil companies and the Canadian oil industry an enormous amount of money if they could simply pipe it all the way through the United States down to the Gulf.  Once that oil gets to the Gulf, it is then entering into the world market, and it would be sold all around the world.

So there’s no -- I won’t say “no” -- there is very little impact, nominal impact, on U.S. gas prices -- what the average American consumer cares about -- by having this pipeline come through.  And sometimes the way this gets sold is, let’s get this oil and it’s going to come here.  And the implication is, is that’s going to lower gas prices here in the United States.  It’s not.  There’s a global oil market.  It’s very good for Canadian oil companies and it’s good for the Canadian oil industry, but it’s not going to be a huge benefit to U.S. consumers.  It’s not even going to be a nominal benefit to U.S. consumers.

     Now, the construction of the pipeline itself will create probably a couple thousand jobs.  Those are temporary jobs until the construction actually happens.  There’s probably some additional jobs that can be created in the refining process down in the Gulf.  Those aren’t completely insignificant -- it’s just like any other project.  But when you consider what we could be doing if we were rebuilding our roads and bridges around the country -- something that Congress could authorize -- we could probably create hundreds of thousands of jobs, or a million jobs. So if that’s the argument, there are a lot more direct ways to create well-paying Americans construction jobs.

     And then, with respect to the cost, all I’ve said is that I want to make sure that if, in fact, this project goes forward, that it’s not adding to the problem of climate change, which I think is very serious and does impose serious costs on the American people -- some of them long term, but significant costs nonetheless.  If we’ve got more flooding, more wildfires, more drought, there are direct economic impacts on that.

And as we’re now rebuilding after Sandy, for example, we’re having to consider how do we increase preparedness in how we structure infrastructure and housing, and so forth, along the Jersey Shore.  That’s an example of the kind of costs that are imposed, and you can put a dollar figure on it.

     So, in terms of process, you’ve got a Nebraska judge that’s still determining whether or not the new path for this pipeline is appropriate.  Once that is resolved, then the State Department will have all the information it needs to make its decision.  

But I’ve just tried to give this perspective, because I think that there’s been this tendency to really hype this thing as some magic formula to what ails the U.S. economy, and it’s hard to see on paper where exactly they’re getting that information from.

     In terms of oil prices and how it impacts the decision, I think that it won’t have a significant impact except perhaps in the minds of folks -- when gas prices are lower, maybe they’re less susceptible to the argument that this is the answer to lowering gas prices.  But it was never going to be the answer to lowering gas prices, because the oil that would be piped through the Keystone pipeline would go into the world market.  And that’s what determines oil prices, ultimately.

Q    And in terms of Congress forcing your hand on this, is this something where you clearly say you’re not going to let Congress force your hand on whether to approve or disapprove of this?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ll see what they do.  We’ll take that up in the New Year.

Q    Any New Year’s resolutions?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ll ask -- April, go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Last question, I guess.  (Laughter.)  Six years ago this month, I asked you what was the state of black America in the Oval Office, and you said it was the “the best of times and the worst of times.”  You said it was the best of times in the sense that there was -- has never been more opportunity for African Americans to receive a good education, and the worst of times for unemployment and the lack of opportunity.  We're ending 2014.  What is the state of black America as we talk about those issues as well as racial issues in this country?

THE PRESIDENT:  Like the rest of America, black America in the aggregate is better off now than it was when I came into office.  The jobs that have been created, the people who’ve gotten health insurance, the housing equity that’s been recovered, the 401 pensions that have been recovered -- a lot of those folks are African American.  They’re better off than they were.

The gap between income and wealth of white and black America persists.  And we’ve got more work to do on that front.  I’ve been consistent in saying that this is a legacy of a troubled racial past of Jim Crow and slavery.  That’s not an excuse for black folks.  And I think the overwhelming majority of black people understand it’s not an excuse.  They’re working hard. They’re out there hustling and trying to get an education, trying to send their kids to college.  But they’re starting behind, oftentimes, in the race.

And what’s true for all Americans is we should be willing to provide people a hand up -- not a handout, but help folks get that good early childhood education, help them graduate from high school, help them afford college.  If they do, they’re going to be able to succeed, and that’s going to be good for all of us.

And we’ve seen some progress.  The education reforms that we’ve initiated are showing measurable results.  We have the highest high school graduation that we’ve seen in a very long time.  We are seeing record numbers of young people attending college.  In many states that have initiated reforms, you’re seeing progress in math scores and reading scores for African American and Latino students as well as the broader population.  But we’ve still got more work to go.

Now, obviously, how we’re thinking about race relations right now has been colored by Ferguson, the Garner case in New York, a growing awareness in the broader population of what I think many communities of color have understood for some time, and that is that there are specific instances at least where law enforcement doesn’t feel as if it’s being applied in a colorblind fashion.

The task force that I formed is supposed to report back to me in 90 days -- not with a bunch of abstract musings about race relations, but some really concrete, practical things that police departments and law enforcement agencies can begin implementing right now to rebuild trust between communities of color and the police department.

And my intention is to, as soon as I get those recommendations, to start implementing them.  Some of them we’ll be able to do through executive action.  Some of them will require congressional action.  Some of them will require action on the part of states and local jurisdictions.

But I actually think it’s been a healthy conversation that we’ve had.  These are not new phenomenon.  The fact that they’re now surfacing, in part because people are able to film what have just been, in the past, stories passed on around a kitchen table, allows people to make their own assessments and evaluations.  And you’re not going to solve a problem if it’s not being talked about.

In the meantime, we’ve been moving forward on criminal justice reform issues more broadly.  One of the things I didn’t talk about in my opening statement is the fact that last year was the first time in 40 years where we had the federal prison population go down and the crime rate go down at the same time, which indicates the degree to which it’s possible for us to think smarter about who we’re incarcerating, how long we’re incarcerating, how are we dealing with nonviolent offenders, how are we dealing with drug offenses, diversion programs, drug courts.  We can do a better job of -- and save money in the process by initiating some of these reforms.  And I’ve been really pleased to see that we’ve had Republicans and Democrats in Congress who are interested in these issues as well.

The one thing I will say -- and this is going to be the last thing I say -- is that one of the great things about this job is you get to know the American people.  I mean, you meet folks from every walk of life and every region of the country, and every race and every faith.  And what I don’t think is always captured in our political debates is the vast majority of people are just trying to do the right thing, and people are basically good and have good intentions.  Sometimes our institutions and our systems don’t work as well as they should.  Sometimes you've got a police department that has gotten into bad habits over a period of time and hasn’t maybe surfaced some hidden biases that we all carry around.  But if you offer practical solutions, I think people want to fix these problems.  It’s not -- this isn’t a situation where people feel good seeing somebody choked and dying.  I think that troubles everybody.  So there’s an opportunity of all of us to come together and to take a practical approach to these problems.

     And I guess that's my general theme for the end of the year -- which is we’ve gone through difficult times.  It is your job, press corps, to report on all the mistakes that are made and all the bad things that happen and the crises that look like they're popping.  And I understand that.  But through persistent effort and faith in the American people, things get better.  The economy has gotten better.  Our ability to generate clean energy has gotten better.  We know more about how to educate our kids.  We solved problems.  Ebola is a real crisis; you get a mistake in the first case because it’s not something that's been seen before -- we fix it.  You have some unaccompanied children who spike at a border, and it may not get fixed in the time frame of the news cycle, but it gets fixed.

     And part of what I hope as we reflect on the New Year this should generate is some confidence.  America knows how to solve problems.  And when we work together, we can't be stopped.

And now I’m going to go on vacation.  Mele Kalikimaka, everybody.  (Laughter.)  Mahalo.  Thank you, everybody.

                        END                2:45 P.M. EST

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THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 15, 2014

Statement by the President on the Confirmation of Vivek Murthy as the Surgeon General

I applaud the Senate for confirming Vivek Murthy to be our country’s next Surgeon General.  As ‘America’s Doctor,’ Vivek will hit the ground running to make sure every American has the information they need to keep themselves and their families safe.  He’ll bring his lifetime of experience promoting public health to bear on priorities ranging from stopping new diseases to helping our kids grow up healthy and strong.  Vivek will also help us build on the progress we’ve made combatting Ebola, both in our country and at its source.  Combined with the crucial support for fighting Ebola included in the bill to fund our government next year, Vivek’s confirmation makes us better positioned to save lives around the world and protect the American people here at home.

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