Text of Obama’s State of the Union address

2013-02-12T20:13:00Z 2013-03-05T20:02:19Z Text of Obama’s State of the Union addressThe Associated Press The Associated Press
February 12, 2013 8:13 pm  • 

The text of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, released by the White House as prepared for delivery:

———

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, fellow citizens:

Fifty-one years ago, John F. Kennedy declared to this chamber that “the

Constitution makes us not rivals for power but partners for progress. ... It

is my task,” he said, “to report the state of the Union - to improve it is

the task of us all.”

Tonight, thanks to the grit and determination of the American people, there

is much progress to report.  After a decade of grinding war, our brave men

and women in uniform are coming home.  After years of grueling recession,

our businesses have created over 6 million new jobs.  We buy more American

cars than we have in five years, and less foreign oil than we have in 20.

Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding, and

consumers, patients and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever

before.

Together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and can say with

renewed confidence that the state of our union is stronger.

But we gather here knowing that there are millions of Americans whose hard

work and dedication have not yet been rewarded.  Our economy is adding jobs

- but too many people still can’t find full-time employment.  Corporate

profits have rocketed to all-time highs - but for more than a decade, wages

and incomes have barely budged.

It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s

economic growth - a rising, thriving middle class.

It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this

country - the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you

can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you

love.

It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf

of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise,

rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every

child across this great nation.

The American people don’t expect government to solve every problem.  They

don’t expect those of us in this chamber to agree on every issue.  But they

do expect us to put the nation’s interests before party.  They do expect us

to forge reasonable compromise where we can.  For they know that America

moves forward only when we do so together; and that the responsibility of

improving this union remains the task of us all.

Our work must begin by making some basic decisions about our budget -

decisions that will have a huge impact on the strength of our recovery.

Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce the

deficit by more than $2.5 trillion - mostly through spending cuts, but also

by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.  As a result,

we are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit

reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances.

Now we need to finish the job.  And the question is, how?

In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on

a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars’ worth of budget

cuts would automatically go into effect this year.  These sudden, harsh,

arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness.  They’d devastate

priorities like education, energy and medical research. They would certainly

slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs.  That’s why

Democrats, Republicans, business leaders and economists have already said

that these cuts, known here in Washington as “the sequester,” are a really

bad idea.

Now, some in this Congress have proposed preventing only the defense cuts by

making even bigger cuts to things like education and job training, Medicare

and Social Security benefits.

That idea is even worse.  Yes, the biggest driver of our long-term debt is

the rising cost of health care for an aging population.  And those of us who

care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest

reforms - otherwise, our retirement programs will crowd out the investments

we need for our children, and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement

for future generations.

But we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire

burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest

and most powerful.  We won’t grow the middle class simply by shifting the

cost of health care or college onto families that are already struggling, or

by forcing communities to lay off more teachers, cops and firefighters.

Most Americans - Democrats, Republicans and independents - understand that

we can’t just cut our way to prosperity.  They know that broad-based

economic growth requires a balanced approach to deficit reduction, with

spending cuts and revenue, and with everybody doing their fair share.   And

that’s the approach I offer tonight.

On Medicare, I’m prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount

of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms

proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission.  Already, the

Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs.  The

reforms I’m proposing go even further.  We’ll reduce taxpayer subsidies to

prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors.  We’ll

bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare,

because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered

or days spent in the hospital - they should be based on the quality of care

that our seniors receive.  And I am open to additional reforms from both

parties, so long as they don’t violate the guarantee of a secure retirement.

Our government shouldn’t make promises we cannot keep - but we must keep the

promises we’ve already made.

To hit the rest of our deficit reduction target, we should do what leaders

in both parties have already suggested, and save hundreds of billions of

dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and

well-connected.  After all, why would we choose to make deeper cuts to

education and Medicare just to protect special interest tax breaks?  How is

that fair?  How does that promote growth?

Now is our best chance for bipartisan, comprehensive tax reform that

encourages job creation and helps bring down the deficit.  The American

people deserve a tax code that helps small businesses spend less time

filling out complicated forms, and more time expanding and hiring; a tax

code that ensures billionaires with high-powered accountants can’t pay a

lower rate than their hard-working secretaries; a tax code that lowers

incentives to move jobs overseas, and lowers tax rates for businesses and

manufacturers that create jobs right here in America.  That’s what tax

reform can deliver.  That’s what we can do together.

I realize that tax reform and entitlement reform won’t be easy.  The

politics will be hard for both sides.  None of us will get 100 percent of

what we want.  But the alternative will cost us jobs, hurt our economy, and

visit hardship on millions of hardworking Americans.  So let’s set party

interests aside, and work to pass a budget that replaces reckless cuts with

smart savings and wise investments in our future.  And let’s do it without

the brinksmanship that stresses consumers and scares off investors.  The

greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting

from one manufactured crisis to the next.  Let’s agree, right here, right

now, to keep the people’s government open, pay our bills on time, and always

uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America.  The

American people have worked too hard, for too long, rebuilding from one

crisis to see their elected officials cause another.

Now, most of us agree that a plan to reduce the deficit must be part of our

agenda.  But let’s be clear: Deficit reduction alone is not an economic

plan.  A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs - that must be

the North Star that guides our efforts.  Every day, we should ask ourselves

three questions as a nation:  How do we attract more jobs to our shores?

How do we equip our people with the skills needed to do those jobs?  And how

do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?

A year and a half ago, I put forward an American Jobs Act that independent

economists said would create more than 1 million new jobs.  I thank the last

Congress for passing some of that agenda, and I urge this Congress to pass

the rest.  Tonight, I’ll lay out additional proposals that are fully paid

for and fully consistent with the budget framework both parties agreed to

just 18 months ago.  Let me repeat - nothing I’m proposing tonight should

increase our deficit by a single dime.  It’s not a bigger government we

need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in

broad-based growth.

Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and

manufacturing.

After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added

about 500,000 jobs over the past three. Caterpillar is bringing jobs back

from Japan.  Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico. After locating plants

in other countries like China, Intel is opening its most advanced plant

right here at home.  And this year, Apple will start making Macs in America

again.

There are things we can do, right now, to accelerate this trend.  Last year,

we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio.

A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers

are mastering the 3D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the

way we make almost everything.  There’s no reason this can’t happen in other

towns.  So tonight, I’m announcing the launch of three more of these

manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Departments of

Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global

centers of high-tech jobs.  And I ask this Congress to help create a network

of fifteen of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in

manufacturing is Made in America.

If we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best

ideas.  Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to

our economy.  Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock

the answers to Alzheimer’s; developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs;

devising new material to make batteries 10 times more powerful.  Now is not

the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation.

Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since

the height of the Space Race.  And today, no area holds more promise than

our investments in American energy.

After years of talking about it, we are finally poised to control our own

energy future.  We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years.  We

have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the

amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar -

with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it.  We produce

more natural gas than ever before - and nearly everyone’s energy bill is

lower because of it.  And over the last four years, our emissions of the

dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.

But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat

climate change.  Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend.  But the

fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15.  Heat

waves, droughts, wildfires and floods - all are now more frequent and

intense.  We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most

severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever

seen were all just a freak coincidence.  Or we can choose to believe in the

overwhelming judgment of science - and act before it’s too late.

The good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while

driving strong economic growth.  I urge this Congress to pursue a

bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John

McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago.  But if

Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.  I will

direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in

the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the

consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable

sources of energy.

Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the

jobs that came with it.  We’ve begun to change that.  Last year, wind energy

added nearly half of all new power capacity in America.  So let’s generate

even more.  Solar energy gets cheaper by the year - so let’s drive costs

down even further.  As long as countries like China keep going all-in on

clean energy, so must we.

In the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater

energy independence.  That’s why my administration will keep cutting red

tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.  But I also want to work with

this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural

gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water.

Indeed, much of our newfound energy is drawn from lands and waters that we,

the public, own together.  So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and

gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research

and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.  If a

nonpartisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get

behind this idea, then so can we.  Let’s take their advice and free our

families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up

with for far too long.  I’m also issuing a new goal for America: let’s cut

in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20

years.  The states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills

by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to

help make it happen.

America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in

need of repair.  Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire: a country

with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and

internet; high-tech schools and self-healing power grids.  The CEO of

Siemens America - a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North

Carolina - has said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they’ll bring

even more jobs.  And I know that you want these job-creating projects in

your districts.  I’ve seen you all at the ribbon-cuttings.

Tonight, I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as

possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally

deficient bridges across the country.  And to make sure taxpayers don’t

shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild

America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need

most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm;

modern schools worthy of our children.  Let’s prove that there is no better

place to do business than the United States of America.  And let’s start

right away.

Part of our rebuilding effort must also involve our housing sector.  Today,

our housing market is finally healing from the collapse of 2007.  Home

prices are rising at the fastest pace in six years, home purchases are up

nearly 50 percent, and construction is expanding again.

But even with mortgage rates near a 50-year low, too many families with

solid credit who want to buy a home are being rejected.  Too many families

who have never missed a payment and want to refinance are being told no.

That’s holding our entire economy back, and we need to fix it.  Right now,

there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner

in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates.

Democrats and Republicans have supported it before.  What are we waiting

for?  Take a vote, and send me that bill.  Right now, overlapping

regulations keep responsible young families from buying their first home.

What’s holding us back?  Let’s streamline the process, and help our economy

grow.

These initiatives in manufacturing, energy, infrastructure and housing will

help entrepreneurs and small business owners expand and create new jobs.

But none of it will matter unless we also equip our citizens with the skills

and training to fill those jobs.  And that has to start at the earliest

possible age.

Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better

he or she does down the road.  But today, fewer than 3 in 10 4-year-olds are

enrolled in a high-quality preschool program.  Most middle-class parents

can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool.  And for poor

kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can

shadow them for the rest of their lives.

Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool

available to every child in America.  Every dollar we invest in high-quality

early education can save more than $7 later on - by boosting graduation

rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.  In states that

make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or

Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at

grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families

of their own.  So let’s do what works, and make sure none of our children

start the race of life already behind.  Let’s give our kids that chance.

Let’s also make sure that a high school diploma puts our kids on a path to a

good job.  Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high

school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our

community colleges, so that they’re ready for a job.  At schools like P-Tech

in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York Public Schools, the City

University of New York and IBM, students will graduate with a high school

diploma and an associate degree in computers or engineering.

We need to give every American student opportunities like this.  Four years

ago, we started Race to the Top - a competition that convinced almost every

state to develop smarter curricula and higher standards, for about 1 percent

of what we spend on education each year.  Tonight, I’m announcing a new

challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates

for the demands of a high-tech economy.  We’ll reward schools that develop

new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus

on science, technology, engineering and math - the skills today’s employers

are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future.

Now, even with better high schools, most young people will need some higher

education.  It’s a simple fact: the more education you have, the more likely

you are to have a job and work your way into the middle class.  But today,

skyrocketing costs price way too many young people out of a higher

education, or saddle them with unsustainable debt.

Through tax credits, grants and better loans, we have made college more

affordable for millions of students and families over the last few years.

But taxpayers cannot continue to subsidize the soaring cost of higher

education.  Colleges must do their part to keep costs down, and it’s our job

to make sure they do.  Tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher

Education Act, so that affordability and value are included in determining

which colleges receive certain types of federal aid.  And tomorrow, my

administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and

students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria: where you

can get the most bang for your educational buck.

To grow our middle class, our citizens must have access to the education and

training that today’s jobs require.  But we also have to make sure that

America remains a place where everyone who’s willing to work hard has the

chance to get ahead.

Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of

striving, hopeful immigrants.  And right now, leaders from the business,

labor, law enforcement and faith communities all agree that the time has

come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress

my administration has already made - putting more boots on the southern

border than at any time in our history, and reducing illegal crossings to

their lowest levels in 40 years.

Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship -

a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a

meaningful penalty, learning English and going to the back of the line

behind the folks trying to come here legally.

And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting

periods, reduce bureaucracy and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and

engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy.

In other words, we know what needs to be done.  As we speak, bipartisan

groups in both chambers are working diligently to draft a bill, and I

applaud their efforts.  Now let’s get this done.  Send me a comprehensive

immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right

away.

But we can’t stop there.  We know our economy is stronger when our wives,

mothers and daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the

workplace, and free from the fear of domestic violence.  Today, the Senate

passed the Violence Against Women Act that Joe Biden originally wrote almost

20 years ago.  I urge the House to do the same.  And I ask this Congress to

declare that women should earn a living equal to their efforts, and finally

pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year.

We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with

honest wages.  But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns

$14,500 a year.  Even with the tax relief we’ve put in place, a family with

two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line.

That’s wrong.  That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the

minimum wage, 19 states have chosen to bump theirs even higher.

Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who

works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal

minimum wage to $9 an hour.  This single step would raise the incomes of

millions of working families.  It could mean the difference between

groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting

ahead.  For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more

money in their pockets.  In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year

after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been

higher.  So here’s an idea that Gov. Romney and I actually agreed on last

year: let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally

becomes a wage you can live on.

Tonight, let’s also recognize that there are communities in this country

where no matter how hard you work, it’s virtually impossible to get ahead.

Factory towns decimated from years of plants packing up.  Inescapable

pockets of poverty, urban and rural, where young adults are still fighting

for their first job.  America is not a place where chance of birth or

circumstance should decide our destiny.  And that is why we need to build

new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to

climb them.

Let’s offer incentives to companies that hire Americans who’ve got what it

takes to fill that job opening, but have been out of work so long that no

one will give them a chance.  Let’s put people back to work rebuilding

vacant homes in run-down neighborhoods.  And this year, my administration

will begin to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get

these communities back on their feet.  We’ll work with local leaders to

target resources at public safety, education and housing.  We’ll give new

tax credits to businesses that hire and invest.  And we’ll work to

strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for

low-income couples, and doing more to encourage fatherhood - because what

makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the

courage to raise one.

Stronger families.  Stronger communities.  A stronger America.  It is this

kind of prosperity - broad, shared and built on a thriving middle class -

that has always been the source of our progress at home.  It is also the

foundation of our power and influence throughout the world.

Tonight, we stand united in saluting the troops and civilians who sacrifice

every day to protect us. Because of them, we can say with confidence that

America will complete its mission in Afghanistan, and achieve our objective

of defeating the core of al-Qaida.  Already, we have brought home 33,000 of

our brave servicemen and women.  This spring, our forces will move into a

support role, while Afghan security forces take the lead.  Tonight, I can

announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come

home from Afghanistan.  This drawdown will continue.  And by the end of next

year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.

Beyond 2014, America’s commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan

will endure, but the nature of our commitment will change.  We are

negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government that focuses on two

missions: training and equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not

again slip into chaos, and counter-terrorism efforts that allow us to pursue

the remnants of al-Qaida and their affiliates.

Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former

self.  Different al-Qaida affiliates and extremist groups have emerged -

from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa.  The threat these groups pose is

evolving.  But to meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands

of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations.  Instead, we will

need to help countries like Yemen, Libya and Somalia provide for their own

security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in

Mali.  And, where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will

continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest

threat to Americans.

As we do, we must enlist our values in the fight.  That is why my

administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy

framework to guide our counterterrorism operations.  Throughout, we have

kept Congress fully informed of our efforts.  I recognize that in our

democracy, no one should just take my word that we’re doing things the right

way.  So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress to

ensure not only that our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists

remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that

our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the

world.

Of course, our challenges don’t end withal-Qaida.  America will continue to

lead the effort to prevent the spread of the world’s most dangerous weapons.

The regime in North Korea must know that they will only achieve security and

prosperity by meeting their international obligations.  Provocations of the

sort we saw last night will only isolate them further, as we stand by our

allies, strengthen our own missile defense, and lead the world in taking

firm action in response to these threats.

Likewise, the leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time for a

diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that

they meet their obligations, and we will do what is necessary to prevent

them from getting a nuclear weapon.  At the same time, we will engage Russia

to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals, and continue leading the

global effort to secure nuclear materials that could fall into the wrong

hands - because our ability to influence others depends on our willingness

to lead.

America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber attacks.  We

know hackers steal people’s identities and infiltrate private e-mail.  We

know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets.  Now our

enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our

financial institutions and our air traffic control systems.  We cannot look

back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real

threats to our security and our economy.

That’s why, earlier today, I signed a new executive order that will

strengthen our cyber defenses by increasing information sharing, and

developing standards to protect our national security, our jobs and our

privacy.  Now, Congress must act as well, by passing legislation to give our

government a greater capacity to secure our networks and deter attacks.

Even as we protect our people, we should remember that today’s world

presents not only dangers, but opportunities.  To boost American exports,

support American jobs and level the playing field in the growing markets of

Asia, we intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership.

And tonight, I am announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union -

because trade that is free and fair across the Atlantic supports millions of

good-paying American jobs.

We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world

enriches us all.  In many places, people live on little more than a dollar a

day.  So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such

extreme poverty in the next two decades: by connecting more people to the

global economy and empowering women; by giving our young and brightest minds

new opportunities to serve and helping communities to feed, power and

educate themselves; by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths;

and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation.

Above all, America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom during this

period of historic change.  I saw the power of hope last year in Rangoon -

when Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed an American president into the home where she

had been imprisoned for years; when thousands of Burmese lined the streets,

waving American flags, including a man who said, “There is justice and law

in the United States.  I want our country to be like that.”

In defense of freedom, we will remain the anchor of strong alliances from

the Americas to Africa; from Europe to Asia.  In the Middle East, we will

stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support

stable transitions to democracy.  The process will be messy, and we cannot

presume to dictate the course of change in countries like Egypt; but we can

- and will - insist on respect for the fundamental rights of all people.  We

will keep the pressure on a Syrian regime that has murdered its own people,

and support opposition leaders that respect the rights of every Syrian.  And

we will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting

peace.  These are the messages I will deliver when I travel to the Middle

East next month.

All this work depends on the courage and sacrifice of those who serve in

dangerous places at great personal risk - our diplomats, our intelligence

officers, and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.  As long

as I’m commander in chief, we will do whatever we must to protect those who

serve their country abroad, and we will maintain the best military in the

world.  We will invest in new capabilities, even as we reduce waste and

wartime spending.  We will ensure equal treatment for all service members,

and equal benefits for their families - gay and straight.  We will draw upon

the courage and skills of our sisters and daughters, because women have

proven under fire that they are ready for combat.  We will keep faith with

our veterans - investing in world-class care, including mental health care,

for our wounded warriors; supporting our military families; and giving our

veterans the benefits, education and job opportunities they have earned.

And I want to thank my wife, Michelle, and Dr. Jill Biden for their

continued dedication to serving our military families as well as they serve

us.

But defending our freedom is not the job of our military alone.  We must all

do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home.

That incl

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