OBAMA'S STATE OF THE UNION SPEECH JAN. 25, 2011
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HIGHLIGHTS OF PRES. OBAMA'S STATE OF THE UNION JAN. 25, 2011, BY OBAMA
"What I just told the nation"
Tonight I addressed the American people on the future we face together.
Though at times it may seem uncertain, it is a future that is ours to decide, ours to define, and ours to win.
I know we will.
Because, after the worst recession in decades, we see an economy growing again.
Because, after two years of job losses, we've added private-sector jobs for 12 straight months -- more than 1 million in all.
Because, time after time, when our resolve has been tested, we, as a nation, have always prevailed.
Overcoming the challenges we face today requires a new vision for tomorrow. We will move forward together, or not at all -- for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.
Yet the story of America is this: We do big things.
Just as the progress of the past two years would not have been possible without your hard work, we will not realize the agenda I described tonight without you.
So as we continue this great mission together, and we set out the plans for how far we can go, I need to know that you are ready to work side by side with me once more.
Will you stand with me as we strive to win the future?
The last two years have been marked by unprecedented reforms and historic progress.
But there is much more work to do.
Moving forward, America's economic growth at home is inextricably connected to our competitiveness in the global community. The more products American companies can export, the more jobs we can create at home.
This vision for the future starts with innovation, tapping into the creativity and imagination of our people to create the jobs and industries of the future. Instead of subsidizing yesterday's energy, let's invest in tomorrow's. It's why I challenged Congress to join me in setting a new goal: By 2035, 80 percent of America's electricity will come from clean energy sources.
It means leading the world in educating our kids, giving each of our children the best opportunity to succeed and preparing them for the jobs of tomorrow.
We must build a 21st century infrastructure for our country, putting millions of Americans to work rebuilding roads and bridges and expanding high-speed Internet and high-speed rail.
We must reform government, making it leaner, smarter, and more transparent.
And we must take responsibility for our shared debt, reining in our long-term deficit so we can afford the investments we need to move our country forward.
That is the vision I laid out tonight. That is how we win the future.
It is going to take a lot of work -- but I have no doubt we are up to the task.
Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik, we had no idea how we'd beat them to the moon. The science wasn't there yet. NASA didn't even exist.
But after investing in better research and education, we didn't just surpass the Soviets. We unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.
This is our generation's Sputnik moment.
Please stand together with me:
It is because of each of you, who define the will of a people, that the state of our union is strong in the face of tough challenges. You are the reason our future is still bright in the face of deep uncertainty.
And you are the reason I believe that future is ours to win.
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CRITIQUES OF OBAMA'S STATE OF THE UNION SPEECH JANUARY 25, 2011
HISTORIANS AGAINST THE WAR
“Response to President Obama’s January 25, 2011 State of the Union Address, Historians Against the WarDraft by Marty Halpern, Edrene McKay, and Staughton Lynd
[COMPETITION: headings and bold by Dick]
President Obama’s State of the Union address, coming two months after
his party’s defeat in the 2010 elections, makes clear that he puts a
high value on winning. He wants the United States to compete more
effectively, to be number one around the world again. He wants every
child to have the opportunity to compete to achieve the American dream.
He wants American industry to compete more successfully in the global
marketplace. He wants improvements to our infrastructure to create and
sustain more jobs. He wants to produce innovative and competitive
scientists, engineers, and technicians. Although competitiveness is not
the only value Mr. Obama upholds, by making it number one and allowing
it to trump other values, he fails to identify the true sources of our
problems at home and abroad such as the bloated military budget and,
therefore, fails to effectively address those problems.
Mr. Obama declared that “America has been the story of ordinary people
who dare to dream,” but his focus on competitiveness means embracing
corporate rather than democratic values and reflects Mr. Obama’s recent
appointments of business executives and business-oriented advisors. The
push for competiveness is an attempt to reassert what historian William
Appleman Williams called “open door imperialism,” the export of goods
and investment of capital abroad with regard only to profits,
disregarding the human consequences and paving the way for military
intervention when needed to achieve political stability or cooperation.
What we need if we are to advance as a nation is a spirit of
cooperation at home and abroad. We need to organize our educational
system not around competition but around personal rights, ensuring, as
John Kennedy explained in his address to the country on civil rights,
that all children have the right “to be educated to the limit” of their
talents. We need to organize our society around meeting the basic
needs of all and cooperating with one another rather than merely
asserting everyone should have the chance to try to grab the brass ring.
We need to create a world economy based on equality and friendship
among peoples, not a competitive race to the top which often forces
people from poorer nations and working people in richer nations to the
bottom. Symptomatic of the mistaken idea that the competitive market
solves all problems is the adoption of NAFTA and other so-called free
trade pacts. Although several Latin American states have successfully
rejected the International Monetary Fund model of austerity and
privatization and put resources toward expanding social benefits and
infrastructure development, NAFTA has increased profits for U.S. agricultural firms, flooded Mexico with corn and meat subsidized by U.S. taxpayers, and undermined Mexico's rural economy. Workers in neither country have benefitted and large
numbers of Mexicans have been forced to leave the land, work in
American-owned border town factories as cheap labor under the most
deplorable working and living conditions, or to seek employment in our
In the late nineteenth century, corporations came to dominate our
economy and have often had a stranglehold on our political system.
Beginning in the late 1970s, corporations with headquarters in the
United Sates have transferred manufacturing capital out of the country
to low-wage societies. The federal government has not regulated such
outflows and indeed has embraced deregulation. The loss of good-paying
jobs, attacks on unions, regressive taxes, and deregulation have created
the widest wealth and income gap between the corporate elite and the
rest of the population in our history. The Supreme Court’s
green-lighting of unlimited corporate funding of political campaigns
makes the more than century-old problem of money corrupting politics
worse than ever. The corporate dictum that we must dominate other
countries in order to maximize profits has turned the United States into
a warfare state.
The jobs crisis that Mr. Obama hopes to address can only be understood
in the context of a political situation dominated by business interests
who believe that our economy runs best through a dog-eat-dog competition
that has millions of unemployed people seeking jobs. Corporate interests
want workers to work harder; they seek to eliminate unions and keep
wages low and hours long. At the same time, the most irresponsible
portion of the corporate elite wants to minimize its obligation to fund
the government and to forsake the needs of ordinary people. However, it
expects aid to support its business interests and relies on U.S.
military power around the globe to achieve its objectives.
[PRESIDENTS OBAMA AND ROOSEVELT: ONE USA]
In his address at Tucson on January 8, Mr. Obama confirmed movingly that
“those who were harmed, those who were killed -- they are part our
family, an American family 300 million strong.” He suggested that we
should use the occasion “to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to
each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and
remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.”
Mr. Obama’s notion that we should be one America makes sense if it’s
coupled with the idea of the government serving the needs of all the
people, with the bulk of the costs being borne by the people with the
ability to pay. Sixty seven years ago, during the midst of World War
II, President Franklin Roosevelt used his state of the union address to
propose an Economic Bill of Rights in which all of us would be
guaranteed “useful and remunerative” jobs, medical care, education, and
a decent home. Mr. Roosevelt combined his call for an expanded New Deal
with support for tax reform, placing the tax burden on the wealthy and
the large corporations because those who reap the most benefits from the
economy should be willing to bear the greatest tax burden. As Mr.
Roosevelt saw it at the time of his second inaugural address in 1937:
“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of
those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have
too little.” Mr. Roosevelt did not succeed in securing guaranteed jobs
or tax reform, but he tried to achieve the ideal of community by
promoting justice and that is what is needed again today.
[PRESIDENT OBAMA’S ACHIEVEMENTS AND FAILURES IN PEACE AND HUMAN RIGHTS]
Mr. Obama can claim some important recent achievements including the
ratification of the START treaty and open participation by gay and
lesbian soldiers in our military. We welcome Mr. Obama’s call for the
elimination of nuclear weapons since the nuclear arms race has been
dangerous, harmful to human health, and economically destructive; it
continues to cause instability in world politics. We also appreciate
Mr. Obama’s pledge last Saturday, on the anniversary of Roe versus Wade,
to protect reproductive freedom. On most peace, national security, and
human rights issues, however, Mr. Obama’s record has been disappointing
to peace and justice advocates.
[WARS AND CONSEQUENCES: MILITARISM]
The peace movement is critical of Mr. Obama’s desire to maintain a
significant military presence in Iraq despite his earlier advocacy of
complete withdrawal of our fighting forces from that country. We need
to bring a complete end to our unjust intervention in Iraq. Although 60
percent of the U.S. public now believes that the war in Afghanistan is
“not worth fighting,” the administration’s December 2010 review of
Afghanistan policy led to dubious claims of successes, which the
president repeated in his State of the Union address, and to a decision
to continue the war for four more years. The choice to continue a
policy which the government’s own National Intelligence Estimate makes
clear is failing is a grave error. How many more people must die before
the forces in conflict sit around a table to negotiate an end to an
unwinnable war? With the government making use of private corporations
to carry out its military enterprise and warfare, military expenditures
have continued to grow under Mr. Obama, reaching over one trillion
dollars in 2010 alone. How can the government meet the needs of the
people of the United States when military expenditures are at such a
Peace forces are also troubled by the administration’s human rights
record, by its failure to close the Guantánamo prison as promised, by
the opening of military trials of detainees in defiance of international
human rights standards, by the many deaths of civilians in Afghanistan
and Pakistan in attacks that amount to war crimes, by continuing
interventions against left-wing governments in Latin America, by the
recent FBI raids against peace activists, and by the U.S.’s failure to
pressure Israel to end its denial of Palestinian rights. Although peace
and justice activists support the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” we
don’t agree that democratic reform should be used to promote further
militarization of our society as Mr. Obama did with his call to
universities to open their doors to the ROTC and military recruiters.
Our university graduates are needed in fields that meet people’s needs
and that develop the country’s infrastructure rather than in staffing an
The ?? to the civilians in societies where we are intervening
and to our own and other combatants is tragic and unsustainable.
Continuing down the path of spending almost as much on the military as
all other countries put together is bankrupting the country, failing to
achieve the control our government seeks, and making us less safe.
Fifty years ago, President Eisenhower’s farewell address warned the
country against domination by the military-industrial complex.
Eisenhower recognized the destructive nature of militarization. He said
in 1953: “"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket
fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and
are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms
is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers,
the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”
Unfortunately, domination by the military-industrial complex has grown
stronger in the past five decades with negative consequences to our
democratic polity and to the ability of our economy to meet the needs of
our people and contribute in a positive way to help the poorer people of
[PEACE MOVEMENT FOR A NEW NATIONAL SECURITY]
Historians Against the War (HAW) was formed in 2003 in response to the
Iraq War to offer historical expertise to a burgeoning mass movement in
our country against an unjust war. Like the mass movement against the
unjust Vietnam War, the movement against the Iraq war raised pragmatic,
legal, and moral questions and contributed to a change in U.S. policy.
The Democratic capture of Congress in 2006 and Mr. Obama’s election in
2008 owe much to the popular revulsion to the Iraq war, stimulated in
part by the anti-war movement.
Since Mr. Obama’s election, peace activists have held vigils, teach-ins,
participated in the World Social Forum, the One Nation Coming Together
march led by the AFL-CIO, and the National Day of Action to Confront
U.S. Militarism in the Americas. Nevertheless, we acknowledge that the
grass roots pressure for peace is modest right now. Movements wax and
wane and presidents, of course, have to give leadership every day and
sometimes trim their sails to deal with political realities.
Our standard is not perfection but having the political courage to move
in the right direction. The grass roots will stir again, helped along
by peace and justice movements and by contingencies yet to develop, but
will Mr. Obama be their ally? We need the president to have the
political courage to honestly address the need to finally and fully
extricate us from Iraq, end our involvement in the failed war in
Afghanistan, contribute to finding peaceful and just solutions to other
foreign policy problems, and create a new national security posture
based on peace, friendship and equality with other nations rather than
domination via overweening military power.
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