(House of Representatives - January 12, 2016)

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[Pages H324-H329]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                              {time}  2033

  The recess having expired, the House was called to order by the 
Speaker at 8 o'clock and 33 minutes p.m.
  The Assistant to the Sergeant at Arms, Ms. Kathleen Joyce, announced 
the Vice President and Members of the U.S. Senate, who entered the Hall 
of the House of Representatives, the Vice President taking the chair at 
the right of the Speaker, and the Members of the Senate the seats 
reserved for them.
  The SPEAKER. The joint session will come to order.
  The Chair appoints as members of the committee on the part of the 
House to escort the President of the United States into the Chamber:
  The gentleman from California (Mr. McCarthy);
  The gentleman from Louisiana (Mr. Scalise);
  The gentlewoman from Washington (Mrs. McMorris Rodgers);
  The gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Walden);
  The gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Messer);
  The gentlewoman from Kansas (Ms. Jenkins);
  The gentlewoman from North Carolina (Ms. Foxx);
  The gentlewoman from California (Ms. Pelosi);
  The gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Hoyer);
  The gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. Clyburn);
  The gentleman from California (Mr. Becerra);
  The gentleman from New York (Mr. Crowley);
  The gentleman from New York (Mr. Israel); and
  The gentlewoman from Connecticut (Ms. DeLauro).
  The VICE PRESIDENT. The President of the Senate, at the direction of 
that body, appoints the following Senators as members of the committee 
on the part of the Senate to escort the President of the United States 
into the House Chamber:
  The Senator from Kentucky (Mr. McConnell);
  The Senator from Texas (Mr. Cornyn);
  The Senator from South Dakota (Mr. Thune);
  The Senator from Wyoming (Mr. Barrasso);
  The Senator from Missouri (Mr. Blunt);
  The Senator from Mississippi (Mr. Wicker);
  The Senator from Nevada (Mr. Reid);
  The Senator from Illinois (Mr. Durbin);
  The Senator from New York (Mr. Schumer);
  The Senator from Washington (Mrs. Murray);
  The Senator from Vermont (Mr. Leahy);
  The Senator from Montana (Mr. Tester);
  The Senator from Michigan (Ms. Stabenow); and
  The Senator from Minnesota (Ms. Klobuchar).
  The Assistant to the Sergeant at Arms announced the Dean of the 
Diplomatic Corps, His Excellency Hersey Kyota, the Ambassador of the 
Republic of Palau.
  The Dean of the Diplomatic Corps entered the Hall of the House of 
Representatives and took the seat reserved for him.
  The Assistant to the Sergeant at Arms announced the Chief Justice of 
the United States and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court.
  The Chief Justice of the United States and the Associate Justices of 
the Supreme Court entered the Hall of the House of Representatives and 
took the seats reserved for them in front of the Speaker's rostrum.
  The Assistant to the Sergeant at Arms announced the Cabinet of the 
President of the United States.
  The members of the Cabinet of the President of the United States 
entered the Hall of the House of Representatives and took the seats 
reserved for them in front of the Speaker's rostrum.
  At 9 o'clock and 5 minutes p.m., the Sergeant at Arms, the Honorable 

[[Page H325]]

D. Irving, announced the President of the United States.
  The President of the United States, escorted by the committee of 
Senators and Representatives, entered the Hall of the House of 
Representatives and stood at the Clerk's desk.
  (Applause, the Members rising.)
  The SPEAKER. Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and the 
distinct honor of presenting to you the President of the United States.
  (Applause, the Members rising.)
  The PRESIDENT. Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, 
my fellow Americans:
  Tonight marks the eighth year I have come here to report on the State 
of the Union, and for this final one, I am going to try to make it a 
little shorter. I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa. I 
have been there. I will be shaking hands afterwards if you want some 
  I understand that because it is an election season, expectations for 
what we will achieve this year are low. But, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate 
the constructive approach that you and other leaders took at the end of 
last year to pass a budget and make tax cuts permanent for working 
families. So I hope we can work together this year on some bipartisan 
priorities like criminal justice reform and helping people who are 
battling prescription drug abuse and heroin abuse. So who knows, we 
might surprise the cynics again.
  But tonight, I want to go easy on the traditional list of proposals 
for the year ahead. Don't worry, I have got plenty, from helping 
students learn to write computer code to personalizing medical 
treatments for patients. And I will keep pushing for progress on the 
work that I believe still needs to be done: fixing a broken immigration 
system, protecting our kids from gun violence, equal pay for equal 
work, paid leave, and raising the minimum wage. All these things still 
matter to hardworking families. They are still the right thing to do, 
and I won't let up until they get done.
  But for my final address to this Chamber, I don't want to just talk 
about next year. I want to focus on the next 5 years, the next 10 
years, and beyond. I want to focus on our future.
  We live in a time of extraordinary change--change that is reshaping 
the way we live, the way we work, our planet, and our place in the 
world. It is change that promises amazing medical breakthroughs, but 
also economic disruptions that strain working families. It promises 
education for girls in the most remote villages, but also connects 
terrorists plotting an ocean away. It is change that can broaden 
opportunity or widen inequality. And whether we like it or not, the 
pace of this change will only accelerate.
  America has been through big changes before: wars and depression, the 
influx of new immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, and 
movements to expand civil rights. Each time, there have been those who 
told us to fear the future, who claimed we could slam the brakes on 
change, who promised to restore past glory if we just got some group or 
idea that was threatening America under control; and each time, we 
overcame those fears. We did not, in the words of Lincoln, adhere to 
the ``dogmas of the quiet past.'' Instead, we thought anew and acted 
anew. We made change work for us, always extending America's promise 
outward to the next frontier, to more people. Because we did, because 
we saw opportunity where others saw peril, we emerged stronger and 
better than before.
  What was true then can be true now. Our unique strengths as a 
nation--our optimism and work ethic, our spirit of discovery, our 
diversity, and our commitment to rule of law--these things give us 
everything we need to ensure prosperity and security for generations to 
  In fact, it is in that spirit that we have made progress these past 7 
years. That is how we recovered from the worst economic crisis in 
generations. That is how we reformed our healthcare system and 
reinvented our energy sector. That is how we delivered more care and 
benefits to our troops coming home and our veterans, and that is how we 
how we secured the freedom in every State to marry the person we love.
  But such progress is not inevitable. It is the result of choices we 
make together, and we face such choices right now. Will we respond to 
the changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation and 
turning against each other as a people? Or will we face the future with 
confidence in who we are, in what we stand for, and the incredible 
things that we can do together?
  So let's talk about the future and four big questions that I believe 
we as a country have to answer, regardless of who the next President is 
or who controls the next Congress.
  First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and 
security in this new economy?
  Second, how do we make technology work for us and not against us, 
especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate 
  Third, how do we keep America safe and lead the world without 
becoming its policeman?
  And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what is best in us 
and not what is worst?
  Let me start with the economy and a basic fact: the United States of 
America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the 
  We are in the middle of the longest streak of private sector job 
creation in history: more than 14 million new jobs, the strongest 2 
years of job growth since the 1990s, an unemployment rate cut in half. 
Our auto industry just had its best year ever. That is just part of a 
manufacturing surge that has created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the 
past 6 years. We have done all this while cutting our deficits by 
almost three-quarters.
  Anyone claiming that America's economy is in decline is peddling 
fiction. Now, what is true and the reason that a lot of Americans feel 
anxious is that the economy has been changing in profound ways, changes 
that started long before the Great Recession hit and changes that have 
not let up. Today technology doesn't just replace jobs on the assembly 
line, but any job where work can be automated. Companies in a global 
economy can locate anywhere, and they face tougher competition. As a 
result, workers have less leverage for a raise, companies have less 
loyalty to their communities, and more and more wealth and income is 
concentrated at the very top.
  All these trends have squeezed workers, even when they have jobs, 
even when the economy is growing. It has made it harder for a 
hardworking family to pull itself out of poverty, harder for young 
people to start their careers, and tougher for workers to retire when 
they want to. Although none of these trends are unique to America, they 
do offend our uniquely American belief that everybody who works hard 
should get a fair shot.
  For the past 7 years, our goal has been a growing economy that also 
works better for everybody. We have made progress. But we need to make 
more. Despite all the political arguments that we have had these past 
few years, there are actually some areas where Americans broadly agree.
  We agree that real opportunity requires every American to get the 
education and training they need to land a good-paying job. The 
bipartisan reform of No Child Left Behind was an important start, and 
together we have increased early childhood education, lifted high 
school graduation rates to new highs, and boosted graduates in fields 
like engineering.
  In the coming years, we should build on that progress by providing 
pre-K for all, offering every student the hands-on computer science and 
math classes that make them job-ready on day one, and we should recruit 
and support more great teachers for our kids.
  We have to make college affordable for every American because no 
hardworking student should be stuck in the red. We have already reduced 
student loan payments to 10 percent of a borrower's income, and that is 
good. But now we have actually got to cut the cost of college.
  Providing 2 years of community college at no cost for every 
responsible student is one of the best ways to do that, and I am going 
to keep fighting to get that started this year. It is the right thing 
to do.
  But a great education isn't all we need in this new economy. We also 
need benefits and protections that provide a basic measure of security. 
It is not too much of a stretch to say that some of the only people in 

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who are going to work the same job in the same place with a health and 
retirement package for 30 years are sitting in this Chamber.
  For everyone else, especially folks in their 40s and 50s, saving for 
retirement or bouncing back from job loss has gotten a lot tougher. 
Americans understand that, at some point in their careers in this new 
economy, they may have to retool and they may have to retrain. But they 
shouldn't lose what they have already worked so hard to build in the 
  That is why Social Security and Medicare are more important than 
ever. We shouldn't weaken them. We should strengthen them. For 
Americans short of retirement, basic benefits should be just as mobile 
as everything else is today.
  That, by the way, is what the Affordable Care Act is all about. It is 
about filling the gaps in employer-based care so that, when you lose a 
job or you go back to school or you strike out and launch that new 
business, you will still have coverage.
  Nearly 18 million people have gained coverage so far. In the process, 
healthcare inflation is slow. Our businesses have created jobs every 
single month since it became law.
  Now, I am guessing we won't agree on health care anytime soon. But 
there should be other ways parties can work together to improve 
economic security. Say a hardworking American loses his job. We 
shouldn't just make sure that he can get unemployment insurance; we 
should make sure that program encourages him to retrain for a business 
that is ready to hire him. If that new job doesn't pay as much, there 
should be a system of wage insurance in place so that he can still pay 
his bills. Even if he is going from job to job, he should still be able 
to save for retirement and take his savings with him. That is the way 
we make the new economy work better for everybody.
  I also know Speaker Ryan has talked about his interest in tackling 
poverty. America is about giving everybody willing to work a chance, a 
hand up. I would welcome a serious discussion about strategies we can 
all support, like expanding tax cuts for low-income workers who don't 
have children.
  But there are some areas where we just have to be honest. It has been 
difficult to find agreement over the last 7 years. A lot of them fall 
under the category of what role the government should play in making 
sure the system is not rigged in favor of the wealthiest and biggest 
corporations. It is an honest disagreement, and the American people 
have a choice to make.
  I believe a thriving private sector is the lifeblood of our economy. 
I think there are outdated regulations that need to be changed and 
there is red tape that needs to be cut.
  But, after years now of record corporate profits, working families 
won't get more opportunity or bigger paychecks just by letting big 
banks or Big Oil or hedge funds make their own rules at everybody 
else's expense. Middle class families are not going to feel more secure 
because we allow attacks on collective bargaining to go unanswered.
  Food stamp recipients did not cause the financial crisis. 
Recklessness on Wall Street did. Immigrants aren't the principal reason 
wages haven't gone up. Those decisions were made in the boardrooms 
that, all too often, put quarterly earnings over long-term returns. It 
is sure not the average family watching tonight that avoids paying 
taxes through offshore accounts.
  The point is, I believe that in this new economy workers and startups 
and small businesses need more of a voice, not less. The rules should 
work for them. I am not alone in this. This year, I plan to lift up the 
many businesses which have figured out that doing right by their 
workers or their customers or their communities ends up being good for 
their shareholders, and I want to spread those best practices across 
America. That is a part of a brighter future.
  In fact, it turns out many of our best corporate citizens are also 
our most creative. This brings me to the second big question we as a 
country have to answer: How do we reignite that spirit of innovation to 
meet our biggest challenges?
  Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn't deny 
Sputnik was up there. We didn't argue about the science or shrink our 
research and development budget. We built a space program almost 
overnight, and, 12 years later, we were walking on the Moon.
  That spirit of discovery is in our DNA. America is Thomas Edison and 
the Wright Brothers and George Washington Carver. America is Grace 
Hopper and Katherine Johnson and Sally Ride. America is every immigrant 
and entrepreneur from Boston to Austin to Silicon Valley, racing to 
shape a better future. That is who we are, and over the past 7 years we 
have nurtured that spirit.
  We have protected an open Internet and have taken bold new steps to 
get more students and low-income Americans online. We have launched 
next-generation manufacturing hubs and online tools that give an 
entrepreneur everything that he or she needs to start a business in a 
single day.
  But we can do so much more. Last year, Vice President Biden said that 
with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer. Last month, he worked 
with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of 
Health the strongest resources that they have had in over a decade.
  So, tonight, I am announcing a new national effort to get it done; 
and because he has gone to the mat for all of us on so many issues over 
the past 40 years, I am putting Joe in charge of mission control. For 
the loved ones we have all lost, for the families that we can still 
save, let's make America the country that cures cancer once and for 
  What do you say, Joe? Let's make it happen.
  Medical research is critical. We need the same level of commitment 
when it comes to developing clean energy sources. Look, if anybody 
still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. 
You will be pretty lonely because you will be debating our military, 
most of America's business leaders, the majority of the American 
people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around 
the world which agree it is a problem and intend to solve it.
  But even if the planet wasn't at stake, even if 2014 wasn't the 
warmest year on record--until 2015 turned out to be even hotter--why 
would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce 
and sell the energy of the future?
  Listen, 7 years ago, we made the single biggest investment in clean 
energy in our history. Here are the results: in fields from Iowa to 
Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier conventional power. On 
rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of 
millions of dollars a year on their energy bills and employs more 
Americans than coal in jobs that pay better than average.
  We are taking steps to give homeowners the freedom to generate and 
store their own energy, something, by the way, that environmentalists 
and tea partiers have teamed up to support. Meanwhile, we have cut our 
imports of foreign oil by nearly 60 percent and cut carbon pollution 
more than any other country on Earth.
  Gas under two bucks a gallon ain't bad either.
  Now we have got to accelerate the transition away from old, dirtier 
energy sources. Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the 
future, especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels. We do them 
no favor when we don't show them where the trends are going.
  That is why I am going to push to change the way we manage our oil 
and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose 
on taxpayers and our planet. That way, we put money back into those 
communities and put tens of thousands of Americans to work in building 
a 21st century transportation system.
  None of this is going to happen overnight, and, yes, there are plenty 
of entrenched interests who want to protect the status quo. But the 
jobs we will create, the money we will save, and the planet we will 
preserve, that is the kind of future our kids and our grandkids 
deserve, and it is within our grasp.
  Climate change is just one of many issues where our security is 
linked to the rest of the world. That is why the third big question 
that we have to answer together is how to keep America

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safe and strong without either isolating ourselves or trying to nation-
build everywhere there is a problem.
  I told you earlier all of the talk of America's economic decline is 
political hot air. Well, so is all the rhetoric you hear about our 
enemies getting stronger and America getting weaker. Let me tell you 
something. The United States of America is the most powerful nation on 
Earth--period. It is not even close. We spend more on our military than 
the next eight nations combined.
  Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world. 
No nation attacks us directly or our allies because they know that is 
the path to ruin. Surveys show our standing around the world is higher 
than when I was elected to this office; and when it comes to every 
important international issue, people of the world do not look to 
Beijing or Moscow to lead. They call us. So it is useful to level set 
here, because when we don't, we don't make good decisions.
  Now, as someone who begins every day with an intelligence briefing, I 
know this is a dangerous time, but that is not primarily because of 
some looming superpower out there, and it is certainly not because of 
diminished American strength. In today's world, we are threatened less 
by evil empires and more by failing states.
  The Middle East is going through a transformation that will play out 
for a generation, rooted in conflicts that date back millennia. 
Economic headwinds are blowing in from a Chinese economy that is in 
significant transition. Even as their economy severely contracts, 
Russia is pouring resources in to prop up Ukraine and Syria, client 
states that they saw slipping away from their orbit. The international 
system we built after World War II is now struggling to keep pace with 
this new reality.
  It is up to us, the United States of America, to help remake that 
system. And to do that well, it means that we have got to set 
  Priority number one is protecting the American people and going after 
terrorist networks. Both al Qaeda and, now, ISIL pose a direct threat 
to our people because in today's world, even a handful of terrorists 
who place no value on human life, including their own, can do a lot of 
damage. They use the Internet to poison the minds of individuals inside 
our country. Their actions undermine and destabilize our allies. We 
have to take them out.
  But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is 
world war III just play into their hands. Masses of fighters on the 
back of pickup trucks, twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages, 
they pose an enormous danger to civilians. They have to be stopped, but 
they do not threaten our national existence. That is the story ISIL 
wants to tell. That is the kind of propaganda they use to recruit. We 
don't need to build them up to show that we are serious, and we sure 
don't need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie 
that ISIL is somehow representative of one of the world's largest 
religions. We just need to call them what they are: killers and 
fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed. That is 
exactly what we are doing.
  For more than a year, America has led a coalition of more than 60 
countries to cut off ISIL's financing, disrupt their plots, stop the 
flow of terrorist fighters, and stamp out their vicious ideology. With 
nearly 10,000 airstrikes, we are taking out their leadership, their 
oil, their training camps, and their weapons. We are training, arming, 
and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and 
  If this Congress is serious about winning this war and wants to send 
a message to our troops and the world, authorize the use of military 
force against ISIL. Take a vote.
  But the American people should know that, with or without 
congressional action, ISIL will learn the same lessons as terrorists 
before them. If you doubt America's commitment--or mine--to see that 
justice is done, just ask Osama bin Laden. Ask the leader of al Qaeda 
in Yemen who was taken out last year, or the perpetrator of the 
Benghazi attacks who sits in a prison cell. When you come after 
Americans, we go after you. It may take time, but we have long 
memories, and our reach has no limit.
  Our foreign policy has to be focused on the threat from ISIL and al 
Qaeda, but it can't stop there. For even without ISIL, even without al 
Qaeda, instability will continue for decades in many parts of the 
world: in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, in parts of Pakistan, in 
parts of Central America, in Africa and Asia. Some of these places may 
become safe havens for new terrorist networks. Others will just fall 
victim to ethnic conflict or famine, feeding the next wave of refugees.
  The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our 
answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet bomb 
civilians. That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn't pass muster 
on the world stage.
  We also can't try to take over and rebuild every country that falls 
into crisis, even if it is done with the best of intentions. That is 
not leadership. That is a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood 
and treasure that ultimately will weaken us. It is the lesson of 
Vietnam; it is the lesson of Iraq; and we should have learned it by 
  Fortunately, there is a smarter approach, a patient and disciplined 
strategy that uses every element of our national power. It says America 
will always act--alone, if necessary--to protect our people and our 
  But on issues of global concern, we will mobilize the world to work 
with us and make sure other countries pull their own weight. That is 
our approach to conflicts like Syria, where we are partnering with 
local forces and leading international efforts to help that broken 
society pursue a lasting peace.
  That is why we built a global coalition with sanctions and principled 
diplomacy to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. As we speak, Iran has rolled 
back its nuclear program, shipped out its uranium stockpile, and the 
world has avoided another war.
  That is how we stopped the spread of Ebola in West Africa. Our 
military, our doctors, our development workers, they were heroic. They 
set up the platform that then allowed other countries to join in behind 
us and stamp out that epidemic. Hundreds of thousands, maybe a couple 
million, lives were saved.
  That is how we forged a Trans-Pacific Partnership to open markets, 
protect workers and the environment, and advance American leadership in 
Asia. It cuts 18,000 taxes on products made in America, which will then 
support more good jobs here in America.
  With TPP, China does not set the rules in that region. We do. You 
want to show our strength in this new century? Approve this agreement. 
Give us the tools to enforce it. It is the right thing to do.
  Let me give you another example. Fifty years of isolating Cuba had 
failed to promote democracy. It set us back in Latin America. That is 
why we restored diplomatic relations, opened the door to travel and 
commerce, and positioned ourselves to improve the lives of the Cuban 
people. So if you want to consolidate our leadership and credibility in 
the hemisphere, recognize that the cold war is over. Lift the embargo.
  The point is American leadership in the 21st century is not a choice 
between ignoring the rest of the world, except when we kill terrorists, 
or occupying and rebuilding whatever society is unraveling. Leadership 
means a wise application of military power and rallying the world 
behind causes that are right. It means seeing our foreign assistance as 
a part of our national security, not something separate, not charity.
  When we lead nearly 200 nations to the most ambitious agreement in 
history to fight climate change, yes, that helps vulnerable countries, 
but it also protects our kids. When we help Ukraine defend its 
democracy or Colombia resolve a decades-long war, that strengthens the 
international order we depend on. When we help African countries feed 
their people and care for the sick, it is the right thing to do, and it 
prevents the next pandemic from reaching our shores.
  Right now we are on track to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS. That is 
within our grasp. And we have the chance to accomplish the same thing 
with malaria, something I will be pushing this Congress to fund this 
  That is American strength. That is American leadership. That kind of 
leadership depends on the power of our

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example. That is why I will keep working to shut down the prison at 
Guantanamo. It is expensive. It is unnecessary. It only serves as a 
recruitment brochure for our enemies. There is a better way.
  That is why we need to reject any politics that targets people 
because of race or religion. Let me just say this: This is not a matter 
of political correctness. This is a matter of understanding just what 
it is that makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our 
arsenal. It respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way 
we respect every faith.
  His Holiness, Pope Francis, told this body from the very spot that I 
am standing tonight that ``to imitate the hatred and violence of 
tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place.''
  When politicians insult Muslims, whether abroad or our fellow 
citizens, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid is called names, that 
doesn't make us safer. That is not telling it like it is. It is just 
wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to 
achieve our goals. It betrays who we are as a country.
  ``We the People.'' Our Constitution begins with those three simple 
words, words we have come to recognize mean all the people, not just 
some, words that insist we rise and fall together, that that is how we 
might perfect our Union.
  That brings me to the fourth, and maybe the most important, thing I 
want to say tonight. The future we want, all of us want--opportunity 
and security for our families; a rising standard of living; a 
sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids--all that is within our 
reach. But it will only happen if we work together. It will only happen 
if we can have rational, constructive debates. It will only happen if 
we fix our politics.
  A better politics doesn't mean we have to agree on everything. This 
is a big country with different regions, different attitudes, different 
interests. That is one of our strengths, too.
  Our Founders distributed power between States and branches of 
government and expected us to argue, just as they did, fiercely over 
the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, 
over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.
  But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. 
It doesn't work if we think the people who disagree with us are all 
motivated by malice. It doesn't work if we think that our political 
opponents are unpatriotic or are trying to weaken America. Democracy 
grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise or when even basic 
facts are contested or when we listen only to those who agree with us.
  Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get all the 
attention. Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person 
feels their voice doesn't matter, that the system is rigged in favor of 
the rich or the powerful or some special interest.
  Too many Americans feel that way right now. It is one of the few 
regrets of my Presidency, that the rancor and suspicion between the 
parties has gotten worse instead of better. I have no doubt a President 
with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the 
divide, and I guarantee I will keep trying to be better so long as I 
hold this office.
  But, my fellow Americans, this cannot be my task--or any 
President's--alone. There are a whole lot of folks in this Chamber, 
good people who would like to see more cooperation, would like to see a 
more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the imperatives 
of getting elected, by the noise coming out of your base.
  I know. You have told me. It is the worst kept secret in Washington. 
And a lot of you aren't enjoying being trapped in that kind of rancor. 
But that means, if we want a better politics--and I am addressing the 
American people now--it is not enough to just change a Congressman or 
change a Senator or even change a President. We have to change the 
system to reflect our better selves.
  We have got to end the practice of drawing our congressional 
districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other 
way around. Let a bipartisan group do it.
  I believe we have got to reduce the influence of money in our 
politics so that a handful of families and hidden interests can't 
bankroll our elections. If our existing approach to campaign finance 
reform can't pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to 
find a real solution, because it is a problem. And most of you don't 
like raising money. I know. I have done it.
  We have got to make it easier to vote, not harder. We need to 
modernize it for the way we live now. This is America. We want to make 
it easier for people to participate. Over the course of this year, I 
intend to travel the country to push for reforms that do just that.
  But I can't do these things on my own. Changes in our political 
process, in not just who gets elected, but how they get elected, that 
will only happen when the American people demand it. It depends on you. 
That is what is meant by a government of, by, and for the people.
  What I am suggesting is hard. It is a lot easier to be cynical, to 
accept that change is not possible and politics is hopeless and the 
problem is all the folks who are elected don't care, and to believe 
that our voices and our actions don't matter.
  But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future. Those with 
money and power will gain greater control over the decisions that could 
send a young soldier to war, allow another economic disaster, or roll 
back the equal rights and voting rights that generations of Americans 
have fought, even died, to secure.
  And then, as frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to 
fall back into our respective tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who 
don't look like us, pray like us, vote like we do, or share the same 
background. We can't afford to go down that path. It won't deliver the 
economy we want, it will not produce the security we want, but most of 
all, it contradicts everything that makes us the envy of the world.
  So, my fellow Americans, whatever you may believe, whether you prefer 
one party or no party, whether you supported my agenda or fought as 
hard as you could against it, our collective future depends on your 
willingness to uphold your duties as a citizen. To vote. To speak out. 
To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, 
knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere stood 
up for us.
  We need every American to stay active in our public life, and not 
just during election time, so that our public life reflects the 
goodness and the decency that I see in the American people every single 
  It is not easy. Our brand of democracy is hard. But I can promise 
that a little over a year from now, when I no longer hold this office, 
I will be right there with you as a citizen, inspired by those voices 
of fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness that have 
helped America travel so far, voices that help us see ourselves not 
first and foremost as Black or White or Asian or Latino, not as gay or 
straight, immigrant or native born, not Democrat or Republican, but as 
Americans first, bound by a common creed, voices Dr. King believed 
would have the final word, voices of unarmed truth and unconditional 
  And they are out there, those voices. They don't get a lot of 
attention. They don't seek a lot of fanfare. But they are busy doing 
the work this country needs doing.
  I see them everywhere I travel in this incredible country of ours. I 
see you, the American people. And in your daily acts of citizenship, I 
see our future unfolding.
  I see it in the worker on the assembly line who clocked extra shifts 
to keep his company open and the boss who pays him higher wages instead 
of laying him off.
  I see it in the DREAMer who stays up late at night to finish her 
science project, and the teacher who comes in early, maybe with some 
extra supplies that she bought, because she knows that that young girl 
might someday cure a disease.
  I see it in the American who served his time and made bad mistakes as 
a child, but now is dreaming of starting over, and I see it in the 
business owner who gives him that second chance; the protester 
determined to prove that justice matters, and the young cop walking the 
beat, treating everybody with

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respect, doing the brave, quiet work of keeping us safe.
  I see it in the soldier who gives almost everything to save his 
brothers, the nurse who tends to him till he can run a marathon, and 
the community that lines up to cheer him on.
  It is the son who finds the courage to come out as who he is, and the 
father whose love for that son overrides everything he has been taught.
  I see it in the elderly woman who will wait in line to cast her vote 
as long as she has to, the new citizen who casts his vote for the first 
time, the volunteers at the polls who believe every vote should count, 
because each of them, in different ways, knows how much that precious 
right is worth.
  That is the America I know. That is the country we love. Clear-eyed. 
Big-hearted. Undaunted by challenge. Optimistic that unarmed truth and 
unconditional love will have the final word.
  That is what makes me so hopeful about our future. I believe in 
change because I believe in you, the American people. And that is why I 
stand here as confident as I have ever been that the state of our Union 
is strong.
  Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.
  (Applause, the Members rising.)
  At 10 o'clock and 10 minutes p.m., the President of the United 
States, accompanied by the committee of escort, retired from the Hall 
of the House of Representatives.
  The Assistant to the Sergeant at Arms escorted the invited guests 
from the Chamber in the following order:
  The members of the President's Cabinet; the Chief Justice of the 
United States and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court; the Dean 
of the Diplomatic Corps.
  The SPEAKER. The Chair declares the joint session of the two Houses 
now dissolved.
  Accordingly, at 10 o'clock and 17 minutes p.m., the joint session of 
the two Houses was dissolved.
  The Members of the Senate retired to their Chamber.