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Obama’s First State of the Union—Full Remarks

Posted on Jan 27, 2010
White House / Pete Souza

It was his third address to a joint session of Congress in less than a year, and it had all the usual gestures toward bipartisanship, but Barack Obama’s big speech was not without sizzle. The president shamed Republicans for obstructing, Democrats for giving up and the Supreme Court for auctioning off our democracy.

White House / Office of the Press Secretary:

Remarks by the President in State of the Union Address

9:11 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Madam Speaker, Vice President Biden, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:


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Our Constitution declares that from time to time, the President shall give to Congress information about the state of our union.  For 220 years, our leaders have fulfilled this duty. They’ve done so during periods of prosperity and tranquility.  And they’ve done so in the midst of war and depression; at moments of great strife and great struggle.

It’s tempting to look back on these moments and assume that our progress was inevitable -– that America was always destined to succeed.  But when the Union was turned back at Bull Run, and the Allies first landed at Omaha Beach, victory was very much in doubt.  When the market crashed on Black Tuesday, and civil rights marchers were beaten on Bloody Sunday, the future was anything but certain.  These were the times that tested the courage of our convictions, and the strength of our union.  And despite all our divisions and disagreements, our hesitations and our fears, America prevailed because we chose to move forward as one nation, as one people.

Again, we are tested.  And again, we must answer history’s call.

One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economy rocked by a severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse, and a government deeply in debt.  Experts from across the political spectrum warned that if we did not act, we might face a second depression.  So we acted—immediately and aggressively.  And one year later, the worst of the storm has passed.

But the devastation remains. One in 10 Americans still cannot find work. Many businesses have shuttered. Home values have declined. Small towns and rural communities have been hit especially hard. And for those who’d already known poverty, life has become that much harder.

This recession has also compounded the burdens that America’s families have been dealing with for decades—the burden of working harder and longer for less; of being unable to save enough to retire or help kids with college.

So I know the anxieties that are out there right now. They’re not new. These struggles are the reason I ran for President. These struggles are what I’ve witnessed for years in places like Elkhart, Indiana; Galesburg, Illinois.  I hear about them in the letters that I read each night. The toughest to read are those written by children—asking why they have to move from their home, asking when their mom or dad will be able to go back to work.

For these Americans and so many others, change has not come fast enough. Some are frustrated; some are angry. They don’t understand why it seems like bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded, but hard work on Main Street isn’t; or why Washington has been unable or unwilling to solve any of our problems. They’re tired of the partisanship and the shouting and the pettiness. They know we can’t afford it. Not now. 

So we face big and difficult challenges. And what the American people hope—what they deserve—is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences; to overcome the numbing weight of our politics. For while the people who sent us here have different backgrounds, different stories, different beliefs, the anxieties they face are the same. The aspirations they hold are shared: a job that pays the bills; a chance to get ahead; most of all, the ability to give their children a better life.

You know what else they share? They share a stubborn resilience in the face of adversity. After one of the most difficult years in our history, they remain busy building cars and teaching kids, starting businesses and going back to school. They’re coaching Little League and helping their neighbors. One woman wrote to me and said, “We are strained but hopeful, struggling but encouraged.”

It’s because of this spirit—this great decency and great strength—that I have never been more hopeful about America’s future than I am tonight. (Applause.)  Despite our hardships, our union is strong. We do not give up. We do not quit. We do not allow fear or division to break our spirit. In this new decade, it’s time the American people get a government that matches their decency; that embodies their strength. (Applause.) 

And tonight, tonight I’d like to talk about how together we can deliver on that promise. 

It begins with our economy.

Our most urgent task upon taking office was to shore up the same banks that helped cause this crisis. It was not easy to do. And if there’s one thing that has unified Democrats and Republicans, and everybody in between, it’s that we all hated the bank bailout.  I hated it—(applause.)  I hated it. You hated it. It was about as popular as a root canal. (Laughter.) 

But when I ran for President, I promised I wouldn’t just do what was popular—I would do what was necessary. And if we had allowed the meltdown of the financial system, unemployment might be double what it is today. More businesses would certainly have closed. More homes would have surely been lost.

So I supported the last administration’s efforts to create the financial rescue program. And when we took that program over, we made it more transparent and more accountable. And as a result, the markets are now stabilized, and we’ve recovered most of the money we spent on the banks. (Applause.)  Most but not all.

To recover the rest, I’ve proposed a fee on the biggest banks. (Applause.)  Now, I know Wall Street isn’t keen on this idea. But if these firms can afford to hand out big bonuses again, they can afford a modest fee to pay back the taxpayers who rescued them in their time of need.  (Applause.)

Now, as we stabilized the financial system, we also took steps to get our economy growing again, save as many jobs as possible, and help Americans who had become unemployed.

That’s why we extended or increased unemployment benefits for more than 18 million Americans; made health insurance 65 percent cheaper for families who get their coverage through COBRA; and passed 25 different tax cuts.

Now, let me repeat:  We cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families.  (Applause.)  We cut taxes for small businesses.  We cut taxes for first-time homebuyers.  We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children.  We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college.  (Applause.)

I thought I’d get some applause on that one.  (Laughter and applause.)

As a result, millions of Americans had more to spend on gas and food and other necessities, all of which helped businesses keep more workers.  And we haven’t raised income taxes by a single dime on a single person.  Not a single dime.  (Applause.)

Because of the steps we took, there are about two million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed.  (Applause.)  Two hundred thousand work in construction and clean energy; 300,000 are teachers and other education workers.  Tens of thousands are cops, firefighters, correctional officers, first responders.  (Applause.)  And we’re on track to add another one and a half million jobs to this total by the end of the year.

The plan that has made all of this possible, from the tax cuts to the jobs, is the Recovery Act.  (Applause.)  That’s right—the Recovery Act, also known as the stimulus bill.  (Applause.)  Economists on the left and the right say this bill has helped save jobs and avert disaster.  But you don’t have to take their word for it.  Talk to the small business in Phoenix that will triple its workforce because of the Recovery Act.  Talk to the window manufacturer in Philadelphia who said he used to be skeptical about the Recovery Act, until he had to add two more work shifts just because of the business it created.  Talk to the single teacher raising two kids who was told by her principal in the last week of school that because of the Recovery Act, she wouldn’t be laid off after all.

There are stories like this all across America.  And after two years of recession, the economy is growing again.  Retirement funds have started to gain back some of their value.  Businesses are beginning to invest again, and slowly some are starting to hire again. 

But I realize that for every success story, there are other stories, of men and women who wake up with the anguish of not knowing where their next paycheck will come from; who send out resumes week after week and hear nothing in response.  That is why jobs must be our number-one focus in 2010, and that’s why I’m calling for a new jobs bill tonight.  (Applause.) 

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By Leila, February 11, 2010 at 12:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

He promises to veto spending except on social and health care programs… And
national security. Why can we not let go of our stupid let’s make more weapons

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By TAO Walker, January 29, 2010 at 11:23 am Link to this comment

JDmysticDJ is right about theamericanpeople and nativeamericanpeople being in pretty much the same desparate straits, depending on the deree of “individual”-ization they’re stuck in.  Us surviving free wild Turtle Island Natives, however, have stayed out of that trap….which is why we might offer some help to our more-or-less tame Sisters and Brothers who will do the Ceremonies needed to get out of it.

“Off-the-grid” is good as far as it goes, but screamingpalm will need to get together with others of the same persuasion if s/he hopes to stay there.

Good luck, All.


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By screamingpalm, January 28, 2010 at 7:28 pm Link to this comment

Super Lou, Hammond Eggs:

Boy did I get the wrong idea, I retract my wish that he upholds that promise! Thanks for the link- clearly the purpose is not to ensure solvency and get rid of fraud like I had thought.

Wise words a usual TAO Walker, though I don’t pretend that the Tiyoshpaye Way would ever be realistically possible (for me). A dream perhaps. I think you had said previously that the way to do this is [simply] gather one’s neighbors and just do it? I try to remain as “off the grid” as possible though.

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By JDmysticDJ, January 28, 2010 at 5:44 pm Link to this comment

Tao Walker

There is more than a “simulacrum” between theamericanpeople and nativeamericanpeople, we’re all in this together. Doom is no respecter of peoples.

Thanks for the trip to the dictionary; are your semantics a CONstruction?

The Tiyoshpaye way looks better, and better, every day.


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By TAO Walker, January 28, 2010 at 2:07 pm Link to this comment

Barack Obama sure does give good talking-head, alright.  Funny, though, it seems to be only those among theamericanpeople who elected him to office (NOT, CONtrary to all the media misrepresentation, “power”), who have yet to catch-on that he’s filling the reality (as distinguished from the textbook idealized simulacrum) of the post about as well as can be.

Your doom, as “individuals,” is sealed, tame Sisters and Brothers.  Your ‘options’ now are limited to resignation or escape.

For the latter, go The Tiyoshpaye Way.


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By Hammond Eggs, January 28, 2010 at 12:13 pm Link to this comment

By screamingpalm, January 28 at 3:23 am #

The strongest language in the speech was the threat to veto spending and promise to issue an executive order to create a commission to look at Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. A promise I hope he actually keeps.

This so-called an ominously named “bipartisan” commission will actually exist to destroy Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  Knowing Obama to be the reactionary Democrat that he is, it is a promise he will most assuredly keep.

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By rico, suave, January 28, 2010 at 11:40 am Link to this comment

“He may be the most popular politician in the U.S.”

That’s like saying herpes is the most popular venerial disease.

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By Blackspeare, January 28, 2010 at 11:08 am Link to this comment

Obama may be able to get a law passed that overturns the recent SCOTUS ruling on business/union politicking, but with the present make-up of SCOTUS it would eventually be ruled unconstitutional, but it would momentarily stop such political contributions.

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By gerard, January 28, 2010 at 10:39 am Link to this comment

“American Exceptonalism” is killing us.  Because of such silly national conceit we cannot even admit our mistakes, let alone learn from them. 
  My heart sunk to the pit last night when (in view of all the lack of creativity and courage, came the sudden change to sanctimonious tone and the trite pandering to our national glory.  Enough to make you cry—especially in times like these when we desperately need a bold vision and action for the future of our children and the world.

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By JDmysticDJ, January 28, 2010 at 10:23 am Link to this comment

I like Obama. I have since the early days of the primary, but I wonder why? Maybe it’s because of his ground breaking election, seeing as how I considered myself a member of the rainbow coalition back in the 80’s. There is something about the guy that is likable; his popularity exceeds that of Congressional Democrats and Republicans. He may be the most popular politician in the U.S.

Obama may not be the best President we’ve ever had, but clearly he is one of the best motivational speakers we’ve had as a President. His “State of the Union” address was nothing more than a glorified “Pep Rally.” His belief in American exceptionalism seems to be very appealing to Americans, “Rah rah, zis boom bah, be true to your school.” Since when are Jingoism and extreme Nationalism not considered to be vices? Apparently they’re not vices, when they are American Jingoism and extreme Nationalism.

Somehow being 2nd doesn’t seem all that bad to me; it beats 39th, or last. We are 1st in several categories though. Need I list them? Our military spending equals that of every other nation on this planet combined, for starters. Oh well, sometimes perceptions are more important than reality.

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By Super Lou, January 28, 2010 at 9:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The “Commission” to look at Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security is a tool designed to deflect blame from Obama instituting Right Wing “reforms.”  Once again, going after the weakest and most politically defenseless members of society.

Read this, and you might change your opinion about the “Commish” being a promise you hope he actually keeps:

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By rico, suave, January 28, 2010 at 6:58 am Link to this comment


I’m not sure you can compare czarist Russia with the US.

Of course, most of the Russian proletariat agreed with Tolstoy and overthrew the Czar. And we all know what a great improvement that turned out to be.

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By Not One More!, January 28, 2010 at 12:11 am Link to this comment

I remember last year he said in a speech that Guantanamo would be shut down in a year. Lot’s of ‘liberals’ bought that and great cheer and hope. It is now a year and on to new promises and hope.

Support Republicans
Vote for a Democrat

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By thebeerdoctor, January 27, 2010 at 11:57 pm Link to this comment

“The greater the state, the more wrong and cruel its patriotism, and the greater is the sum of suffering upon which its power is founded.”

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By Rob, January 27, 2010 at 11:37 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Here’s a tag cloud of Obama’s 2010 State of the Union Address:

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By screamingpalm, January 27, 2010 at 11:23 pm Link to this comment

Well, I think there can be little doubt that the President is abandoning progressives. As David Brooks said on the “News Hour”, this was a very moderate speech and contained many things you’d expect to hear from Republicans.

On one hand he talks about job creation, and then on the other he wants to extend the reach of the WTO with Doha. The strongest language in the speech was the threat to veto spending and promise to issue an executive order to create a commission to look at Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. A promise I hope he actually keeps.

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