Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans
Tonight marks the eighth year I’ve come here to report on the State of the Union. And for this final one, I’m going to try to make it shorter. I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa.
So I hope we can work together this year on bipartisan priorities like criminal justice reform, and helping people who are battling prescription drug abuse. We just might surprise the cynics again.
And I’ll keep pushing for progress on the work that still needs doing. Fixing a broken immigration system. Protecting our kids from gun violence. Equal pay for equal work, paid leave, raising the minimum wage. All these things still matter to hardworking families; they are still the right thing to do; and I will not let up until they get done.
But for my final address to this chamber, I don’t want to talk just about the next year. I want to focus on the next five years, ten years, and beyond.
We live in a time of extraordinary change — change that’s reshaping the way we live, the way we work, our planet and our place in the world.
What was true then can be true now. Our unique strengths as a nation — our optimism and work ethic, our spirit of discovery and innovation, our diversity and commitment to the rule of law — these things give us everything we need to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come.
In fact, it’s that spirit that made the progress of these past seven years possible. It’s how we recovered from the worst economic crisis in generations.
It’s how we reformed our health care system, and reinvented our energy sector
how we delivered more care and benefits to our troops and veterans, and how we secured the freedom in every state to marry the person we love.
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 world.
The future we want — opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and 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.
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, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us.
Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get 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 narrow interest.
It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency — that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better.
There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber who would like to see more cooperation, a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the demands of getting elected. I know; you’ve told me. And if we want a better politics, it’s not enough to just change a Congressman or a Senator or even a President; we have to change the system to reflect our better selves.
We’ve got to make voting easier, not harder, and modernize it for the way we live now. And over the course of this year, I intend to travel the country to push for reforms that do.
It will depend on you. That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people.
As frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or 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, or the security we want, but most of all, it contradicts everything that makes us the envy of the world.
To stay active in our public life so it reflects the goodness and decency and optimism that I see in the American people every single day.
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 as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed. Voices Dr. King believed would have the final word — voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love.
They’re out there, those voices. They don’t get a lot of attention, nor do they seek it, but they are busy doing the work this country needs doing.
You’re the reason why I have such incredible confidence in our future. Because I see your quiet, sturdy citizenship all the time.
I see it in the American who served his time, and dreams of starting over — and 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 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 ’til he can run a marathon, and the community that lines up to cheer him on.
It’s the son who finds the courage to come out as who he is, and the father whose love for that son overrides everything he’s been taught.
That’s the America I know. That’s the country we love. Clear-eyed. Big-hearted. Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future. Because of you. I believe in you. That’s why I stand here confident that the State of our Union is strong.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.