For his first State of the Union address of his second term in office, President Barack Obama praised the progress made in areas such as the economy and related to the war abroad, but emphasized there is still a long way to go.
"The state of our union is stronger," he said, noting the rebounding stock market, the six million new jobs and the 34,000 American troops expected to return home by the end of next year at which time "our war in Afghanistan will be over."
Although the country is more than halfway towards reducing the national deficit, the question is "how do we finish the job," the President said. His answers included making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing by starting projects to fix infrastructure like bridges — programs that would create new jobs, and entice major companies to set up shop in America.
In order to encourage spending, the President also proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour. "Let's tie the minimum wage to the cost of living so it finally becomes a wage you can live on," he said.
Part of this also included focusing on education specifically in areas like engineering, science and math so that young people are better prepared for high-tech careers. This focus on America's high schools was in addition to his plan to make preschool accessible to every child to reduce teen pregnancy and crime in the years ahead. The President also proposed amending the higher education act so that affordability is used to help determine how much funding schools receive.
The President also spoke of his desire to enact major Medicare reforms such as reduce taxpayer subsidiaries to medical companies, comprehensive tax reform and passing the rest of the American jobs act. "it is not a bigger government we need but a smarter government." The President also addressed the longstanding issue of passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill to create strong border security and reduce illegal border crossings. "Let's get it done," he said.
In the wake of Superstorm Sandy late last year, the President insisted that the government "must do more to combat climate change," he said. "I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions that we can take to ... reduce pollution, prepare for weather and promote clean energy."
However, it was in the wake of the Newtown tragedy two months ago and the recent killing of 15-year-old Chicago student Hadiya Pendleton that prompted the President to encourage major gun law reform. "Overwhelming majorities of Americans, Americans who believe in the Second Amendment, have come together around common sense reform, like background checks," Obama said.
"These proposals deserve a vote," said the President before highlighting Pendleton's mother and father, who were seated next to the First Lady Michelle Obama, and former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was also in attendance. In addition to protecting Americans against gun violence, the President spoke of leading the global effort against nuclear weapons, and international hackers threatening the country's security.
What did you think of the President's State of the Union?