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Obama’s First State of the Union—Full Remarks

Posted on Jan 27, 2010
White House / Pete Souza

(Page 5)

Now, even as we prosecute two wars, we’re also confronting perhaps the greatest danger to the American people—the threat of nuclear weapons.  I’ve embraced the vision of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan through a strategy that reverses the spread of these weapons and seeks a world without them.  To reduce our stockpiles and launchers, while ensuring our deterrent, the United States and Russia are completing negotiations on the farthest-reaching arms control treaty in nearly two decades.  (Applause.)  And at April’s Nuclear Security Summit, we will bring 44 nations together here in Washington, D.C. behind a clear goal:  securing all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years, so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists.  (Applause.)

Now, these diplomatic efforts have also strengthened our hand in dealing with those nations that insist on violating international agreements in pursuit of nuclear weapons.  That’s why North Korea now faces increased isolation, and stronger sanctions—sanctions that are being vigorously enforced.  That’s why the international community is more united, and the Islamic Republic of Iran is more isolated.  And as Iran’s leaders continue to ignore their obligations, there should be no doubt:  They, too, will face growing consequences.  That is a promise.  (Applause.)

That’s the leadership that we are providing—engagement that advances the common security and prosperity of all people. We’re working through the G20 to sustain a lasting global recovery.  We’re working with Muslim communities around the world to promote science and education and innovation.  We have gone from a bystander to a leader in the fight against climate change. We’re helping developing countries to feed themselves, and continuing the fight against HIV/AIDS.  And we are launching a new initiative that will give us the capacity to respond faster and more effectively to bioterrorism or an infectious disease—a plan that will counter threats at home and strengthen public health abroad.

As we have for over 60 years, America takes these actions because our destiny is connected to those beyond our shores.  But we also do it because it is right.  That’s why, as we meet here tonight, over 10,000 Americans are working with many nations to help the people of Haiti recover and rebuild.  (Applause.)  That’s why we stand with the girl who yearns to go to school in Afghanistan; why we support the human rights of the women marching through the streets of Iran; why we advocate for the young man denied a job by corruption in Guinea.  For America must always stand on the side of freedom and human dignity.  (Applause.)  Always.  (Applause.)


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Abroad, America’s greatest source of strength has always been our ideals.  The same is true at home.  We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution:  the notion that we’re all created equal; that no matter who you are or what you look like, if you abide by the law you should be protected by it; if you adhere to our common values you should be treated no different than anyone else. 

We must continually renew this promise.  My administration has a Civil Rights Division that is once again prosecuting civil rights violations and employment discrimination.  (Applause.)  We finally strengthened our laws to protect against crimes driven by hate.  (Applause.)  This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.  (Applause.)  It’s the right thing to do.  (Applause.) 

We’re going to crack down on violations of equal pay laws—so that women get equal pay for an equal day’s work.  (Applause.) And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system—to secure our borders and enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation.  (Applause.)

In the end, it’s our ideals, our values that built America—values that allowed us to forge a nation made up of immigrants from every corner of the globe; values that drive our citizens still. Every day, Americans meet their responsibilities to their families and their employers.  Time and again, they lend a hand to their neighbors and give back to their country.  They take pride in their labor, and are generous in spirit.  These aren’t Republican values or Democratic values that they’re living by; business values or labor values.  They’re American values. 

Unfortunately, too many of our citizens have lost faith that our biggest institutions—our corporations, our media, and, yes, our government—still reflect these same values.  Each of these institutions are full of honorable men and women doing important work that helps our country prosper.  But each time a CEO rewards himself for failure, or a banker puts the rest of us at risk for his own selfish gain, people’s doubts grow.  Each time lobbyists game the system or politicians tear each other down instead of lifting this country up, we lose faith.  The more that TV pundits reduce serious debates to silly arguments, big issues into sound bites, our citizens turn away. 

No wonder there’s so much cynicism out there.  No wonder there’s so much disappointment.

I campaigned on the promise of change—change we can believe in, the slogan went.  And right now, I know there are many Americans who aren’t sure if they still believe we can change—or that I can deliver it.

But remember this—I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I could do it alone.  Democracy in a nation of 300 million people can be noisy and messy and complicated.  And when you try to do big things and make big changes, it stirs passions and controversy.  That’s just how it is.

Those of us in public office can respond to this reality by playing it safe and avoid telling hard truths and pointing fingers.  We can do what’s necessary to keep our poll numbers high, and get through the next election instead of doing what’s best for the next generation.

But I also know this:  If people had made that decision 50 years ago, or 100 years ago, or 200 years ago, we wouldn’t be here tonight.  The only reason we are here is because generations of Americans were unafraid to do what was hard; to do what was needed even when success was uncertain; to do what it took to keep the dream of this nation alive for their children and their grandchildren.

Our administration has had some political setbacks this year, and some of them were deserved.  But I wake up every day knowing that they are nothing compared to the setbacks that families all across this country have faced this year.  And what keeps me going—what keeps me fighting—is that despite all these setbacks, that spirit of determination and optimism, that fundamental decency that has always been at the core of the American people, that lives on. 

It lives on in the struggling small business owner who wrote to me of his company, “None of us,” he said, “… are willing to consider, even slightly, that we might fail.”

It lives on in the woman who said that even though she and her neighbors have felt the pain of recession, “We are strong.  We are resilient.  We are American.”

It lives on in the 8-year-old boy in Louisiana, who just sent me his allowance and asked if I would give it to the people of Haiti.

And it lives on in all the Americans who’ve dropped everything to go someplace they’ve never been and pull people they’ve never known from the rubble, prompting chants of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!  U.S.A!” when another life was saved.

The spirit that has sustained this nation for more than two centuries lives on in you, its people.  We have finished a difficult year.  We have come through a difficult decade.  But a new year has come.  A new decade stretches before us.  We don’t quit.  I don’t quit.  (Applause.)  Let’s seize this moment—to start anew, to carry the dream forward, and to strengthen our union once more.  (Applause.)

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

                            END             10:20 P.M. EST

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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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