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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  January 20, 2015 8:00pm-10:01pm EST

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product. we are the ones being sold. not only are we working for free, we are being sold. it is the ultimate scam. it is a perfect hitchcock movie. >> sunday night at 8:00 eastern and pacific on c-span's "q and a". >> welcome to the coverage of the 2015 state of the union address. president barack obama will return to the podium and the house of representatives for the seventh time in his administration. for the first time facing a house and senate controlled by republicans. for the next hour we will take you inside the halls of congress and you will see much of the behind the scenes as well as the official event. filled with history and tradition, and of course on a night this, a great deal of politicking. we start with scott long, who is a senior writer for the "hill"
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newspaper. the white house released a few themes, the theme of turning the page on recession and war. why do we start out by what you have learned from the preview this week about how the white house wants to frame tonight's speech? >> the keywords that we will hear from the president are middle-class economics. this in my mind is a campaign-style speech. the president will be hitting on a number of populist proposals, including free community college. he will be talking about a number of tax cuts, billions worth of tax cuts for the middle class. she performed mortgage is -- cheaper home mortgages. but my colleagues described obama tonight is playing the role of a robin hood, who is
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taking from the rich and giving to the poor and the middle class. i think we will see this is really the opening shot we are seeing out of the 2016 election. the president certainly won't be on the ballot in 2016 and maybe hillary clinton and maybe somebody else, but the president tonight i think is saying this is what the democratic party stands for. these are our principles and he is ready to take the fight to republicans tonight. >> what about his legacy? he has two years to work on the record from his administration. with a congress that really will oppose a number of the things he has already been presenting. where does his legacy preservation and creation stand? >> i think you are right. he is thinking about his legacy tonight. he has a limited number of days
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in office and republicans will remind him of that at every opportunity. in republicans' minds the president is already a lame-duck president. he only has one foot out the door and i think tonight is about who is really going to be dictating the 2015 legislative agenda. will it be president barack obama or will it be newly-empowered congressional republicans? >> let me share with you and our audience a tweet that came out of speaker boehner's office. he tweeted -- what is your reaction? >> as i mentioned, republicans are feeling emboldened after the historic midterm elections that saw them recapture control of the senate. they gained a historic number of seats in the house of representatives, 247. that was the largest number in 80-something years.
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i think that republicans feel like the american public is on their side. they have public support and they really feel like they should be controlling the agenda for 2015. not talking about tax hikes on the wealthiest americans. >> we are talking about how the republicans are positioning themselves. they selected the new representative joni ernst to deliver the response. >> interesting selection. without the republican retreat where mitch mcconnell and john boehner brought her out in front of cameras and reporters. she is an interesting choice. she is a freshman senator from iowa, rand new to the senate. she was sworn in to fill weeks ago. she is a mother, a grandmother but also a combat war veteran
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from the iraq war. she came on the national scene during the gop primary in a race when she came out with an ad talking about growing up on a farm learning to castrate hogs and she is a famous line saying that she is ready to cut some pork in washington. >> the selection to be the responder has sometimes been a mixed blessing. for some politicians, it has not worked well. what are the stakes like tonight? >> the stakes are always high with your going head-to-head against the president of the united states. in past republican state of the union responses, we have seen high-profile republicans stumble. bobby jindal comes to my. he had an awkward respond to the president early on in the
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presidency. a couple of years ago, another freshman republican, marco rubio of florida, give the gop response. he longed out of you -- lunged out of view of the camera to grab a bottle of water. he took a sip of water on cameron was widely panned because of it. she is well rehearsed. she is very well spoken and i don't expect she will face any trouble tonight. >> in past years in preparation for this, the content of the speech has been very closely guarded by the white house. they wanted an element of surprise in holding anticipation. the reality is viewership numbers have been steadily going down. the white house turned the secrecy on its head with announcements of some of the major programs the president will be speaking about tonight. what has been the reaction to that by the public as we can
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tell so far? >> i haven't seen any spike in interest from the public tonight. we will have better numbers, i'm sure, by the end of the week. if you are -- you are correct in that the white house did it different this time. instead of big surprises being revealed of the speech itself they sent the president out around the country. he was in arizona. he was, i believe, in michigan unveiling some of these proposals they will be detailing later tonight. particularly having to do with some housing reforms. the free community college for eligible students that i mentioned before. i expect that he will be hitting the road immediately. i believe tomorrow he heads out to boise idaho and lawrence, kansas, right after that, where
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he will be trying to sell his plan to the american public. >> scott wong is going to be with us for a good portion of our preview pro should -- preview program. in about 12 minutes we will open our phone lines to talk to you. you can also send us a tweet. what we are looking for is why you're watching tonight. what are you looking for from both sides and if you would like to comment on the politics ahead. we will put the phone number on the screen if you want to get in queue and be part of the conversation. let me introduce our next guest. ray smock is someone who knows this city and the institution very well. he spent 12 years as the official historian of the house of representatives 1980 3-1995 and he is now at the shepherd university where he is the director of the robert byrd study for legislative study. nice to see you. >> nice to see you, susan.
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>> you mentioned that tonight is an anniversary for the address. >> this is the 225th annual message. it started with george washington in 1790. he gave the first one and he and john adams gave them in person before the congress. then jefferson became president in 1801 and he said that he thought going before congress was too much like the king going before parliament in being a good small republican, he said he would send his message in writing and not appear. there was another reason for why he did not. he was not a very good public speaker, jefferson. he was a great writer but not a good public speaker. after that, every president sent their message in writing. it was sent to the congress where he would be read out loud by clerks.
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then fast-forward to 1913. woodrow wilson decides to do it in person. >> we're going to stop you there because we want to talk a little bit more in detail about the evolving media and how it affected this speech. we were talking about an article that wondered in print whether or not the state of the union was essentially obsolete. fewer people are watching it. it is a tradition from the past. does it still have relevance? >> absolutely. i was very upset with that article because it said maybe they make it up. the president will only get 20 million viewers tonight. i think 20 million viewers is just fine, plus the other social media. the last youtube state of the union address has had over 400,000 viewers there. the media is changing. we can use television numbers
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even cable or network numbers anymore. the president is doing that. plus the fact it is a constitutional requirement. i don't think any modern president is going to give up on the chance to appear before congress before an international audience. it is here to stay. >> let's go back to that live picture from inside statuary hall. what is statuary hall? >> statuary hall is the old house chamber. tonight, it is a historic space that was used in the 1850's all the way up to the modern chamber was built. tonight, it is absolutely filled with plenty of tv cameras from local and national and international places. members will go there after the speech. they will all do their own network and their own stations.
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reporters will interview people there for a good long time after the speech. >> what, if you could put into words, this is a very limited number of people who are there live. each member of congress gets one ticket, is that right? >> yes. the leadership get more but you get one ticket. you look at your ticket and it says admit to the floor or short to gallery can. sometimes it will say standing room or step-seating in the galleries. they work it out so they can pack as many people in as we can. >> still we are talking about a couple of thousand people. for people that will not get the opportunity, explain what it is like in a building tonight and what the mood is like. >> oh, i was very fortunate to be at 10 of them. a couple in the gallery. once when i sat next to nancy reagan and barbara bush by
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coincidence, and most of the time on the floor. as house historian, i had the floor privilege but i had to wait to get it. it was carefully guarded. it was always a pleasure to get on the floor. it is a very festive mood. the members have been probably visiting with constituents and with various caucuses and groups. since it is a night of high theater, they have all come from cocktail parties and other places. they are festive, they are relaxed. it is a serious night in so many ways, but it is also -- for the members, they are going to come and sit and listen to the president. >> we have a picture released from the white house of the president working on his speech. for this president, who is a speech-maker and has a long reputation as being an excellent speech-maker, he gets very involved in the crafting of the speech.
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in the terms of rhetoric historically, has a state of the union addresses at times been part about oratory or something else? >> they are not soaring oratory at all. when you take them altogether they form a nice fabric where they have the american creed. they talk about american values in one way or another. they will also talk about policy. you go back and look at all of them and you see changing policy, but you only see the internal values of american pride. there is usually optimism in all the speeches. there are nuts and bolts of speeches to a large extent and designed in modern times to be good on -- read on teleprompters with short, punchy lines and not elaborate paragraphs. that written period, sometimes they were 25,000, 30,000 words.
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>> they were like small books. jefferson did not want royal gold -- one troilus connections but it seems like the queen's a speech the parliament where she lays out program she would like to a cop was. this is the president laying out program to was to a cop was from. >> in the queen's case, she reads what the prime minister wants her to read. >> are pictures will start coming from the senate in about 15 more minutes. you will see senators gathering in the chamber, house members gathering in there is, and the crosswalk from one side of the capitol to the other. it is interesting to watch the pairing of the senators. who walks with whom. if you're a political junkie, you might see some the home-state spirit in partnership as they walk across the capitol building. something to look for
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tonight, how may members of the supreme court will be in attendance. it used to be traditional for all nine, but in recent years fewer have attended. the members of the cabinet and the diplomatic corps. all kinds of pop to -- pomp, tradition, and circumstance. we will bring as much as we can do tonight. i wanted to talk about that history. in 1913, woodrow wilson a phd congressional scholar, decided to change the written address to in person. why did he do that? >> he was a professor and wanted to lecture the congress in part. he saw this as an opportunity to enliven the whole process. by giving the speech in person he created a whole new environment. the city was a god. that is the way that he described it. the city is a god because i'm going to speak before congress.
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the newspapermen were going around. this is usually an event for the pick up the speech and reported on. now they will listen to it. it was quite a special night. >> 1923, president calvin coolidge added the new medium of radio. >> he was called silent cal but he was the first to use the radio. i don't remember much of the content. i have listened to a recording of that and it was pretty dry and pretty straightforward. i think they were more interested in the medium. it did not get very many people because in 1923 radio is coming along, but it was mostly in the cities. >> next up as the media progressed was 1947 and president truman. what did he do? >> president truman was the first use television, 1947. he read the speech. this was before teleprompters were in and did. he read the -- teleprompters
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were invented. he read the speech from paper in front of him. there are clips of that. most of the time he was looking down so you saw the top of his head. he wore thick glasses so they reflected badly. he was not ready for prime time. no one was. he delivered a fine speech but basically reading it and not being aware of the camera and probably no one prompted him on how to be aware of the camera. that really takes us up to the presidential debates, the fact that when they first came on television they had a lot to learn about how to appear on television. >> you mention that ready for prime time. we think about the state of the union as being the primetime address, but in truman's date was the middle of the day when congress was meeting. >> until 1965 when lyndon johnson put it in the evening
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these addresses were always at high noon and after they were televised, they were still a noontime event. television coverage was not that great. television following politics was a new, relatively new thing. it was not a big seller, not something that packed ratings in. >> after prime time came in, the audience for the speech continued to grow until it reached tens of millions of households. it has been declining. the first one was 48 million and 2010. 37.8 in 2012. in 2002, george w. bush introduced live streaming. how did that change anything? >> any new development in technology adds a new potential audience. with streaming and all of the social media reaching young
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voters. both parties want to do that and both parties know that the 2016 election is going to be more media-driven than any of our elections in history. we are going to have to figure out ways to respond to that. >> if you go to whitehouse.gov, they have been posting video of ways to get people involved and interested in this debate. we wanted to show people one that is about a minute and 40 seconds long that is a bit of the history we talked about and also to entice people that are all digital, rather than watching unconventional television as you and i are on tonight, about the state of the union. i hope we can show that now. ok. we'll get back to that in a couple of minutes.
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let me talk a little bit about the challenges we referenced earlier about facing a congress not of their own party. the show clips throughout the evening of presidents that have done that. the first that did that was ronald reagan. let's listen in to the challenge of ronald reagan in 1987 of coming to a democratic house and senate. >> next, the budget process is a sorry spectacle. [applause] the missing of deadlines and the nightmare of monstrous continuing resolutions backing hundreds of billions of dollars of spending into one bill must be stopped. [applause] we ask the congress once again -- give us the same tools that 43 governors have. a line-item veto so we can carve out the things that are important. [applause]
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those items that would never survive on their own. i would send the congress broad recommendations on the budget but first i would like to see yours. let's go to work and get this done together. [applause] >> does the congress ever want to give the president the power of the line-item veto? >> they did. bill clinton was the first to use it, even though it was hotly debated. it did pass and was declared unconstitutional eventually. that is one of those things which senator byrd, we have his papers. he fought the line-item veto and the reason he did is because he felt it was encroachment of the president into the budget
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process and the power of the purse resides in congress. both parties, republicans push of a both parties wanted it >> and bill clinton was the first to get a chance to use it. > what we talk about ronald reagan, he introduced a tradition to the state of the union address which remains to this day which is inviting special guests to the gallery to listen to the speech. people who have somatic connections to the speech he is delivering. how do you think that tradition has become permanent? >> in his good theatrical quality, it is a good chance to recognize american heroes, military heroes, civilian heroes. the first one that ronald reagan recognized in 1982, i believe it was come was a fellow -- it was was a fellow named lenny'
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scutnik, who said people in an airplane crash in d.c. that crashed into a bridge. he saved a number of people and was honored as a hero. >> we will start mixing in your phone calls. we will give you the phone numbers. if you are a democrat and want to be part of the conversation and share with us what you would like to hear from the president or republican response 202- 748-8920. if you're republican, 202- 748-8921. all others, 202-748-8922. a number of the people they have on the list are people who have
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written to the white house about their own life story. the president will be referring to them as his speech kenexa those policy issues. there are, -- connects with those policy issues. there are, unsurprising, people from the iraq and afghanistan wars. allen gross, who was just released from cuban prison after the president changed u.s.-cuba policy. scott kelly is the twin brother of mark kelly, the astronaut. he is an astronaut himself. mark kelly is the spouse of gabby giffords, the former congresswoman who was wounded in a shooting in her own district rate of also -- district. also is the chief officer of cvs drugstores, and he is being highlighted for the ban on cigarette sales that cvs took earlier this year. we can expect the president to
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talk about his signature health care law earlier tonight. we will begin with a call from alberto here in washington dc. you are on the air. >> my name is alberto morales and i am a graduate of georgetown university. i'm now working full-time for an organization called the george hoff college program. my concern is senator -- who transferred from georgetown community college. we know what it takes to graduate in a competitive environment to transfer to a four-year university. what i hope to hear tonight from the state of the union is some sort of acknowledgment of the student debt crisis. >> let me go back to scott wong. he has heard the president talk about his community college initiative. you think you will be highlighting the student debt initiative, which many people have described as a near-crisis? >> i think it is entirely possible we could here the
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president talk about student debt. it has been an issue for him the past but he talked about an issue that both republicans and democrats on capitol hill have been debating for quite a while. marco rubio, the florida republican, i believe has some student debt. it has been a personal issue for some of these lawmakers. i expect we will hear about this issue tonight. >> we have that video from the white house ready now that is the appeal to the digital age. let's watch it now. ♪
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>> ray smock is a historian. what is your reaction to the message? >> i think they summarized what we have been talking about pretty well. pretty quickly. i like it. >> also you see the many ways that the white house has tried to connect everywhere that people are. on mobile devices, spanish-language and captioning. politicians are trying to get
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where people are in today's society. let's go to a call from john in houston, texas. what will you be listening for? >> you know, i'm really concerned with just trying to see, as a republican, trying to see what the president's agenda for the next year, trying to understand what they are going to be going for and more importantly, as a republican, i see what the republicans in congress can do to work together with the president particularly looking into seeing foreign policy, what the president will do with foreign policy especially regarding what is going on in the middle east and how he is going to do with isis. >> thank you for your call. another republican up next. this is ruslan clinton missouri. you are on. >> my name is russell and i definitely am a republican. i watch all these tv shows including yours, that talks
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about everything that is going on up there that i never hear about us people out here in the rural areas that actually are the ones that suffer as a result of the people in washington that do not care about anything except their own elections and everything else that is involved with the running of the government. they are elected by the people by me. i was born in the depression era. i watched through a lot of things in my lifetime. i'm sorry, my voice is going. i went to a lot of things in my lifetime. this latest scenario of washington government is just wearing me out. >> thank you so much. let's take a picture now from
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the senate chamber. ray, talk us through this meeting of the two bodies and its significance. >> the senate gathers on the senate side of the capital and with their leaders in front of the group they march across the capital and come into the chamber as a body. they are announced as a body. they come in to great applause and handshaking. one thing that you have to understand about congress is that is two quite different body. the house and senate have different rules and they run differently and operate differently. it is rather remarkable to get one branch fully into the house chamber. it is only a joint meetings or at the annual address, annual state of the union address are
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they together in one place. >> let's watch this for just a little bit. i see faces, some very new, some well-known to the public, who are making their way across from the senate side of the capital to the house of representatives. we are to watch and listen for just a little bit.
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>> one bipartisan couple that announce themselves were kelly ayotte and booker. he talk about the vice president's role tonight? >> yes, and i have a bone to pick with the president on this one. the vice president, when he leaves the senate, he is coming over, of course, he is the vice president, but he is the president of the senate. he is leading the president's delegation. when the president gives his address tonight he always begins by knology -- acknowledging the vice president and the speaker. obama and clinton on a few occasions a mr. vice president, mr. speaker, or they will say vice president biden, mr.
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speaker. what he should be saying, what any president should be saying if the vice president is in the chair he should say mr. president, because he is there in his capacity as the president of the senate, not the vice president. >> and traditions matter. >> traditions matter and they should stick to it. >> we will take a telephone call from matt and newberg, oregon. you are on the air. >> a question for ray. ray has been a student of congress for many, many, many years. as he pointed out just now this is not the congress of 1787. one of the curiosities to me is that the rules have changed so often and the procedures have changed so much. it used to be that freshman congressman, at least, coming in would sit and learn for the first year, even the first term before they would make their positions known.
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but now it seems like many freshmen want to come in and be in the drivers seat. how has that changed over the years, ray? >> i think the answer to your question is the media change that. >> there is an important part of this we want to watch for just a minute. we will come back.
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>> we switched to the white house where the first couple got into the short drive up pennsylvania avenue where he will be greeted officially. i want you to hang on to that question that the caller asked. when the president makes his trip, what is the protocol for being meted by congress? who meets him? >> he is met probably by the sergeant at arms and a delegation sent to meet him. >> do they have a room they can go and prepare? >> yes. once the president arrives at the capital, the security -- he comes under the security of the capitol police and the sergeant at arms. there have been some contentious times with the secret service and the capitol police. he is in a different branch of
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government. he now has to technically and usually defer to the capital police, sergeant at arms. they are there as well of the congressional delegation. >> in this time of heightened security concerns, we have had reporters tweeting that the perimeter is even bigger than in previous years. somewhat understandable. we were answering the historic question from the viewer. >> the gentleman from oregon asked, members used to be quiet and now they all speak of the first day. we are seeing that now with the republican response with a freshman senator who has only been in office two weeks who is getting that kind of exposure. i think it is a modern media invention. our elections now are often times nationalized by media and
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the other big thing is fundraising is now a national phenomenon. people don't have time to sit back as new members of congress and be quiet because they are already starting to raise money for the next campaign. >>; to scott wong from "the hill." -- let me go back to scott wong from "the hill." how does that work for members of congress when they get in early insecure some of those seeds? what does it do for their own reputation in their hometown and how they use those video shots? >> that is exactly right. they arrive early in the morning, right when the chamber opens. they reserve those seats right along the aisle so they are in the shot when the president vice president, members of the cabinet walked down the aisle and shake hands and greet one another. often times photographers will take pictures of the members
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shaking the president's hand on the night of the big speech and that photograph will end up in the local lawmaker's hometown newspaper or broadcast across the internet and c-span television screens. these people camped out all day for that coveted spot and to be seen with the president. >> as always, a sea of right jackets on the women in bold ties on the men. the next question is from chris in lexington, kentucky. welcome. >> i'm a college student from lexington, kentucky. just calling it to express my opinion on the unemployment issue that the president seems to be given with, or at least pretending by. looking into the future, it is hard for me as a student to see the benefits to getting an education. we are getting $100,000 in debt
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just to get a degree. it is a piece of paper and by the time i get out it is practically a joke. the president is just sitting there beating the horn on the unemployment rate going down but the people leaving the workforce is just a spiraling up. i think it is an embarrassment on the president and his staff do not really address the real problem at hand and it is quite trusting essex -- quite frustrating as a college student for the future. >> what is your degree going to be in? >> civil engineering. >> thank you for your call. this is an area used differently by both parties differently. the republicans paint a different story about the state of the economy. can you talk about that? >> the president's popularity numbers have taken a slight bounce in this past month
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because of some of these economic indicators. you mentioned unemployment is now at 5.6%. that is the lowest of his presidency. gas prices are at historic lows. the stock market is around record highs. all of that has helped give the president a slight boost just as he is about to address this joint session of congress. the president is going to be talking a lot about the economic recovery and how his policies have helped aid that recovery, but i also think he is going to mention how there are a number of folks in the middle class who have not felt this recovery as acutely as perhaps some folks in the upper class and that is why i think he is going to say we need to return to some of these new middle-class initiatives that we will be -- he will be proposing to record >> lorraine -- proposing tonight. >> lorraine is in new york.
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>> thank you for taking my call. i believe i am like many people. i am disappointed and exhausted by the manner in which the government current operates . i believe that all media exposure is based on positioning only and the state of the union is the latest august occasion that has been ruined by positioning. the crowd roars, boxers come out swinging, the round is over, and both participants go back to their corner for aaron tactical advice. unfortunately the response falls into the same category. i'm very sad of the state of affairs we are currently in. let's watch as the president's motorcade makes his way to the capital. i want you to think about the
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history of the response, which has not always been part of the president's speech. we will learn about how that got started in a few minutes.
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now just moments away from the state of the union. it is 8:48 eastern time. the speech begins at 9:00. the president has arrived at the u.s. capitol building. this is a time away have lots of video to watch.
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we wanted to know about the origin of the response to the president's address. when did that begin? >> the modern version occurred in 1966 when lyndon johnson was president. it was to republicans -- two republicans from the era everett mckinley dirksen and jerry ford. they gave the first response to lyndon johnson's a 66th state of the union and they became famous. a sort of ev and jerry show because the two were colorful characters to begin with. everett dirksen was a comedian. >> into the chamber. the senator from kentucky, mr. mcconnell.
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the senator from utah, mr. hatch. the senator from south dakota mr. thune. the senator from missouri, mr. blunt. the senator from mississippi mr. wicker. the senator from illinois, mr. durban. the senator from new york, mr. schumer. the senator from washington, ms. murray. excuse me. the senator from vermont, mr. leahy. the senator from montana, mr. tester. the senator from minnesota muskoka chart. numbers of the -- >> members of the escort committee will please exit through the lobby doors. >> as the escort committee makes
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its way out of the chamber to get to the president, what is the important of that tradition? >> let me tell you a little story. the first sort-of response to george washington's presidential speech was written by james madison. the congress is meeting in new york city -- excuse me, philadelphia at this time and congress and where the president was living in a townhouse nearby, now or the liberty bell is. it was very close by. madison writes the speech and george washington delivers the address before congress and congress goes over to his house to thank him. that is the way they did it in the 1790's. and then the president thanked them for thanking him, all those written by james madison.
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>> you're seeing the arrival of the diplomatic corps in the chamber. there are quite a few embassies in washington. are all invited? >> i believe so. i believe most of them send delegations. this is one of the times where the president is also the head of state. you speaking not only to congress, but to all of the official representatives of the countries. >> let's watch for a little bit more. [applause]
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that was the arrival of the supreme court of the united states. all three branches of our federal government on the site tonight. one other aspect we should mention because of the continuity of government, one member of the president's is selected to be outside of the chamber to watch the speech in a secure location. that designated absentee is the secretary of transportation, anthony foxx.
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[applause] >> mr. speaker, the president's cap that. -- president's cabinet. [applause]
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>> we are going to stop talking here and let you watch what is happening in the chamber tonight. we are for the half minutes away from the president's speech. want to say a special thank you to ray smock, former historian of the house and to scott wong of "the hill" for being with us. c-span's live coverage of the state of the union uninterrupted and afterwards, the republican response followed by your reaction from around the country by phone and by twitter.
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is this
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>> the president of the united states. [applause] [applause]
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[applause] [applause] [applause]
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[applause] [applause]
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[applause] [applause] [applause]
quote quote
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[applause] >> i have the high privilege and distinct honor of presenting to you the president of the united states. [applause] >> thank you. thank you so much. mr. speaker, mr. vice president,
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members of congress, my fellow americans. we are fifteen years into this new century. fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world. it has been, and still is, a hard time for many. but tonight, we turn the page. tonight, after a breakthrough year for america, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. [applause]
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[applause] our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. more of our kids are graduating than ever before; more of our people are insured than ever before. [applause] we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we've been in almost 30 years. [applause] tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in afghanistan is over.
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[applause] six years ago, nearly 180,000 american troops served in iraq and afghanistan. today, fewer than 15,000 remain. and we salute the courage and sacrifice of every man and woman in this 9/11 generation who has served to keep us safe. we are humbled and grateful for your service. [applause] [applause] america, for all that we've
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endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this: the shadow of crisis has passed, and the state of the union is strong. [applause] at this moment - with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production - we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on earth. it's now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come. will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?
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or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort? [applause] will we approach the world fearful and reactive, dragged into costly conflicts that strain our military and set back our standing? or will we lead wisely, using all elements of our power to defeat new threats and protect our planet? will we allow ourselves to be sorted into factions and turned against one another - or will we recapture the sense of common purpose that has always propelled america forward? in two weeks, i will send this congress a budget filled with ideas that are practical, not partisan. and in the months ahead, i'll crisscross the country making a case for those ideas.
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so tonight, i want to focus less on a checklist of proposals, and focus more on the values at stake in the choices before us. it begins with our economy. seven years ago, rebekah and ben erler of minneapolis were newlyweds. [applause] [laughter] she waited tables. he worked construction. their first child, jack, was on the way. they were young and in love in america, and it doesn't get much better than that. "if only we had known," rebekah wrote to me last spring, "what was about to happen to the housing and construction market.” as the crisis worsened, ben's
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business dried up, so he took what jobs he could find, even if they kept him on the road for long stretches of time. rebekah took out student loans enrolled in community college, and retrained for a new career. they sacrificed for each other. and slowly, it paid off. they bought their first home. they had a second son, henry. rebekah got a better job, and then a raise. ben is back in construction and home for dinner every night. "it is amazing," rebekah wrote "what you can bounce back from when you have to. we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.” we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times. america, rebekah and ben's story is our story.
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they represent the millions who have worked hard, and scrimped and sacrificed, and retooled. you are the reason i ran for this office. you're the people i was thinking of six years ago today, in the darkest months of the crisis when i stood on the steps of this capitol and promised we would rebuild our economy on a new foundation. and it's been your effort and resilience that has made it possible for our country to emerge stronger. we believed we could reverse the tide of outsourcing, and draw new jobs to our shores. and over the past five years our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs. [applause]
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[applause] we believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet. and today, america is number one in oil and gas. america is number one in wind power. every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. and thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save $750 at the pump. [applause] we believed we could prepare our kids for a more competitive world. and today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record. our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high. more americans finish college than ever before. [applause]
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we believed that sensible regulations could prevent another crisis, shield families from ruin, and encourage fair competition. today, we have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, and a new consumer watchdog to protect us from predatory lending and abusive credit card practices. and in the past year alone about ten million uninsured americans finally gained the security of health coverage. [applause] at every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious; that we would crush jobs and explode deficits. instead, we've seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by
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two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health care inflation at its lowest rate in fifty years. [applause] this is good news, people. [laughter] [applause] so the verdict is clear. middle-class economics works. expanding opportunity works. and these policies will continue to work, as long as politics don't get in the way. we can't slow down businesses or put our economy at risk with government shutdowns or fiscal showdowns. we can't put the security of families at risk by taking away
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their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on wall street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we've got to fix a broken system . and if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, i will veto it. it will earn my veto. [applause] today, thanks to a growing economy, the recovery is touching more and more lives. wages are finally starting to rise again. we know that more small business owners plan to raise their employees' pay than at any time since 2007. but here's the thing - those of us here tonight, we need to set our sights higher than just making sure government doesn't
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screw things up. halt the progress we're making. we need to do more than just do no harm. tonight, together, let's do more to restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity for every american. [applause] [applause] because families like rebekah's still need our help. she and ben are working as hard as ever, but have to forego vacations and a new car so they can pay off student loans and save for retirement. friday night pizza, that is a big splurge. basic childcare for jack and henry costs more than their mortgage, and almost as much as a year at the university of minnesota.
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like millions of hardworking americans, rebekah isn't asking for a handout, but she is asking that we look for more ways to help families get ahead. in fact, at every moment of economic change throughout our history, this country has taken bold action to adapt to new circumstances, and to make sure everyone gets a fair shot. we set up worker protections social security, medicare, and medicaid to protect ourselves from the harshest adversity. we gave our citizens schools and colleges, infrastructure and the internet - tools they needed to go as far as their effort will take them. that's what middle-class economics is - the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share everyone plays by the same set of rules. [applause]
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we don't just want everyone to share in america's success - we want everyone to contribute to our success. [applause] so what does middle-class economics require in our time? first - middle-class economics means helping working families feel more secure in a world of constant change. that means helping folks afford childcare, college, health care, a home, retirement -- and my budget will address each of these issues, lowering the taxes of working families and putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets each year. [applause] here's one example. during world war ii, when men like my grandfather went off to
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war, having women like my grandmother in the workforce was a national security priority - so this country provided universal childcare. in today's economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable high-quality childcare more than ever. [applause] it's not a nice-to-have, it's a must-have. it's time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women's issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us. [applause]
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and that's why my plan will make quality childcare more available, and more affordable for every middle-class and low-income family with young children in america - by creating more slots and a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child, per year. [applause] here's another example. today, we're the only advanced country on earth that doesn't guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers. 43 million workers have no paid sick leave. 43 million. think about that. and that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home. so i'll be taking new action to help states adopt paid leave laws of their own. and since paid sick leave won where it was on the ballot last
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november, let's put it to a vote right here in washington. send me a bill that gives every worker in america the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave. it's the right thing to do. it's the right thing to do. [applause] of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages. that's why this congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. [applause] it's 2015. it's time. we still need to make sure employees get the overtime they've earned.
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and to everyone in this congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, i say this: if you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. [applause] if not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in america a raise. [applause] these ideas won't make everybody rich, won't relieve every hardship. that's not the job of government. to give working families a fair shot, we still need more employers to see beyond next quarter's earnings and recognize that investing in their workforce is in their company's long-term interest. we still need laws that strengthen rather than weaken unions, and give american workers a voice.
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[applause] but things like child care and sick leave and equal pay; things like lower mortgage premiums and a higher minimum wage - these ideas will make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of families. that is a fact. and that's what all of us - republicans and democrats alike - were sent here to do. second, to make sure folks keep earning higher wages down the road, we have to do more to help americans upgrade their skills. [applause] america thrived in the 20th century because we made high school free, sent a generation
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of gi's to college, and trained the best workforce in the world. we were ahead of the curve. but other countries caught on. in a 21st century economy that rewards knowledge like never before, we need to up our game. we need to do more. by the end of this decade, two in three job openings will require some higher education. two in three. and yet, we still live in a country where too many bright, striving americans are priced out of the education they need. it's not fair to them, and it's sure not smart for our future. that's why i am sending this congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college to zero. [applause]
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forty percent of our college students choose community college. some are young and starting out. some are older and looking for a better job. some are veterans and single parents trying to transition back into the job market. whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt. understand, you've got to earn it - you've got to keep your grades up and graduate on time. tennessee, a state with republican leadership, and chicago, a city with democratic leadership, are showing that free community college is possible. i want to spread that idea all across america, so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in america as high school is today. [applause]
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let's stay ahead of the curve. and i want to work with this congress, to make sure americans already burdened with student loans can reduce their monthly payments, so that student debt doesn't derail anyone's dreams. [applause] thanks to vice president biden's great work to update our job training system, we're connecting community colleges with local employers to train workers to fill high-paying jobs like coding, and nursing, and robotics. tonight, i'm also asking more businesses to follow the lead of companies like cvs and ups, and offer more educational benefits and paid apprenticeships opportunities that give workers the chance to earn higher-paying jobs even if they don't have a higher education. and as a new generation of veterans comes home, we owe them every opportunity to live the american dream they helped defend. already, we've made strides towards ensuring that every
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veteran has access to the highest quality care. we're slashing the backlog that had too many veterans waiting years to get the benefits they need, and we're making it easier for vets to translate their training and experience into civilian jobs. joining forces, the national campaign launched by michelle andy jill biden -- and jill biden, thank you michelle, thank you jill, has helped nearly 700,000 veterans and military spouses get new jobs. [applause] so to every ceo in america, let me repeat: if you want somebody who's going to get the job done, hire a veteran. [applause]
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finally, as we better train our workers, we need the new economy to keep churning out high-wage jobs for our workers to fill. since 2010, america has put more people back to work than europe, japan, and all advanced economies combined. [applause] our manufacturers have added almost 800,000 new jobs. some of our bedrock sectors, like our auto industry, are booming. but there are also millions of americans who work in jobs that didn't even exist ten or twenty years ago - jobs at companies like google, and ebay, and tesla. so no one knows for certain which industries will generate the jobs of the future. but we do know we want them here in america. [applause]
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we know that. [applause] that's why the third part of middle-class economics is about building the most competitive economy anywhere, the place where businesses want to locate and hire. 21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure - modern ports, stronger bridges faster trains and the fastest internet. democrats and republicans used to agree on this. so let's set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. let's pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than thirty times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come. let's do it. get it done. [applause]
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let's get it done. [applause] 21st century businesses, including small businesses, need to sell more american products overseas. today, our businesses export more than ever, and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages. but as we speak, china wants to write the rules for the world's fastest-growing region. that would put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage. why would we let that happen? we should write those rules. we should level the playing field. that's why i'm asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect american workers, with strong new trade deals from asia to europe that aren't just free, but fair. the right thing to do. [applause]
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look, i'm the first one to admit that past trade deals haven't always lived up to the hype, and that's why we've gone after countries that break the rules at our expense. but 95% of the world's customers live outside our borders, and we can't close ourselves off from those opportunities. more than half of manufacturing executives have said they're actively looking to bringing jobs back from china. let's give them one more reason to get it done. 21st century businesses will rely on american science and technology, research and development. i want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of medicine - one that delivers the right treatment at the right time. [applause]
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in some patients with cystic fibrosis, this approach has reversed a disease once thought unstoppable. tonight, i'm launching a new precision medicine initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier. you can do this. -- we can do this. [applause] i intend to protect a free and open internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world. i want americans to win the race for the kind of discovered that
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unleash new jobs. converting sunlight into liquid fuel. creating prosthetic so a veteran can play catch with his kids again. pushing out into the solar system, not just to visit to stay. last month, we launched a new spacecraft. scott kelly will begin a year-long state in space. good luck, captain. be sure to instagram it. we are proud of you. [applause]
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now the truth is, when it comes to issues like infrastructure, i know there is bipartisan support. members of both parties have told me so. where we too often run into trouble is how to pay for this. we do not mind paying our fair share of taxes as long as everybody else does too. but for too long, lobbyists have rigged the tax code with loopholes that let some corporations pay nothing while others pay full freight. this year, we have an opportunity to change that. let's close loopholes so we stopped reporting those that keep prophets of god -- keep proftsit abroad and reward
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those who invest in america. let's use those savings to rebuild our infrastructure and make it more attractive for countries to bring jobs home. to make a small business owner able to file based on her bank statement rather than the numbers of accountants she can afford. and let's close the inequalities -- we can use that to help more pay for child care. we need a tax code that helps working americans get a leg up. we can achieve it together.
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[applause] helping hard-working families make ends meet. giving them the tools they need for good-paying jobs in this new economy. maintaining the conditions for growth and competitiveness. this is where america needs to go. i believe it's where the american people want to go. it will make our economy stronger a year from now 15 years from now, and deep into the century ahead. of course, if there's one thing this new century has taught us it's that we cannot separate our work at home from challenges beyond our shores. my first duty as commander-in-chief is to defend the united states of america. in doing so, the question is not whether america leads in the world, but how. when we make rash decisions, reacting to the headlines instead of using our heads; when the first response to a
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challenge is to send in our military - then we risk getting drawn into unnecessary conflicts, and neglect the broader strategy we need for a safer, more prosperous world. that's what our enemies want us to do. i believe in a smarter kind of american leadership. we lead best when we combine military power with strong diplomacy; when we leverage our power with coalition building; when we don't let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents. that's exactly what we're doing right now - and around the globe, it is making a difference. first, we stand united with people around the world who've been targeted by terrorists - from a school in pakistan to the streets of paris. we will continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their networks, and we reserve the right to act unilaterally, as
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we've done relentlessly since i took office to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to us and our allies. [applause] at the same time, we've learned some costly lessons over the last thirteen years. instead of americans patrolling the valleys of afghanistan we've trained their security forces, who've now taken the lead, and we've honored our troops' sacrifice by supporting that country's first democratic transition. instead of sending large ground forces overseas, we're partnering with nations from south asia to north africa to deny safe haven to terrorists who threaten america. in iraq and syria, american leadership - including our military power - is stopping isil's advance. instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the middle east, we are leading a broad
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coalition, including arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group. [applause] we're also supporting a moderate opposition in syria that can help us in this effort, and assisting people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism. this effort will take time. it will require focus. but we will succeed. and tonight, i call on this congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against isil. we need that authority. [applause] second, we are demonstrating the power of american strength and diplomacy. we're upholding the principle that bigger nations can't bully the small by opposing russian
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aggression and supporting ukraine's democracy, and reassuring our nato allies. [applause] last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies, as we were reinforcing our presence mr. pruden's aggression -- mr. putin's aggression was a masterful display of strategy and strength. well, today, it is america that stands strong and united with our allies, while russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters. that's how america leads - not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve. [applause]
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in cuba, we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date. [applause] when what you're doing doesn't work for fifty years, it's time to try something new. [applause] our shift in cuba policy has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere; removes a phony excuse for restrictions in cuba; stands up for democratic values; and extends the hand of friendship to the cuban people. and this year, congress should begin the work of ending the embargo. [applause] as his holiness, pope francis, has said, diplomacy is the work
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of "small steps." these small steps have added up to new hope for the future in cuba. and after years in prison, we're overjoyed that alan gross is back where he belongs. welcome home, alan. are glad you're here. -- we are glad you are here. [applause] our diplomacy is at work with respect to iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we've halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material. between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed iran;
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secures america and our allies - including israel; while avoiding yet another middle east conflict. there are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and i keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear iran. but new sanctions passed by this congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails - alienating america from its allies, making it harder to maintain sanctions, and ensuring that iran starts up its nuclear program again. it doesn't make sense. that is why i will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress. [applause] the american people expect us to only go to war as a last resort, and i intend to stay true to that wisdom. third, we're looking beyond the issues that have consumed us in
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the past to shape the coming century. no foreign nation, no hacker should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of american families, especially our kids. [applause] [applause] we are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism. and tonight, i urge this congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children's information. that should be a bipartisan effort. [applause] if we don't act, we'll leave our nation and our economy
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vulnerable. if we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe. in west africa, our troops, our scientists, our doctors, our nurses and healthcare workers are rolling back ebola - saving countless lives and stopping the spread of disease. [applause] i couldn't be prouder of them and i thank this congress for your bipartisan support of their efforts. but the job is not yet done and the world needs to use this lesson to build a more effective global effort to prevent the spread of future pandemics invest in smart development, and eradicate extreme poverty. in the asia pacific, we are modernizing alliances while making sure that other nations play by the rules - in how they trade, how they resolve maritime
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disputes, and how they participate in meeting common international challenges like nonproliferation and disaster relief. and no challenge, no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change. [applause] 2014 was the planet's warmest year on record. now, one year doesn't make a trend, but this does -- 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century. i've heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they're not scientists; that we don't have enough information to act. well, i'm not a scientist, either.
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but you know what - i know a lot of really good scientists at nasa, and noaa, and at our major universities. the best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we'll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. the pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. we should act like it. [applause] that's why, over the past six years, we've done more than ever before to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy to the way we use it. that's why we've set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history.
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and that's why i will not let this congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts. i am determined to make sure american leadership drives international action. [applause] in beijing, we made an historic announcement - the united states will double the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and china committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions. and because the world's two largest economies came together, other nations are now stepping up, and offering hope that, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to protect the one planet we've got. there's one last pillar to our leadership and that's the example of our values. as americans, we respect human dignity, even when we're
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threatened, which is why i've prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained. [applause] it's why we speak out against the deplorable anti-semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world. it's why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of muslims -- the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace. that's why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. we do these things not only because they're right, but because they make us safer. [applause]
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as americans, we have a profound commitment to justice - so it makes no sense to spend three million dollars per prisoner to keep open a prison that the world condemns and terrorists use to recruit. [applause] since i've been president, we've worked responsibly to cut the population of gitmo in half. now it's time to finish the job. and i will not relent in my determination to shut it down. it's not who we are. it is time to close gitmo. [applause] as americans, we cherish our civil liberties and we need to uphold that commitment if we want maximum cooperation from other countries and industry in our fight against terrorist networks. so while some have moved on from the debates over our
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surveillance programs, i have not. as promised, our intelligence agencies have worked hard, with the recommendations of privacy advocates, to increase transparency and build more safeguards against potential abuse. and next month, we'll issue a report on how we're keeping our promise to keep our country safe while strengthening privacy. looking to the future instead of the past. making sure we match our power with diplomacy, and use force wisely. building coalitions to meet new challenges and opportunities. leading always with the example of our values. that's what makes us exceptional. that's what keeps us strong. and that's why we must keep striving to hold ourselves to the highest of standards - our own.
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you know, just over a decade ago, i gave a speech in boston where i said there wasn't a liberal america, or a conservative america; a black america or a white america, but a united states of america. i said this because i had seen it in my own life, in a nation that gave someone like me a chance; because i grew up in hawaii, a melting pot of races and customs; because i made illinois my home - a state of small towns, rich farmland, and one of the world's great cities; a microcosm of the country where democrats and republicans and independents, good people of every ethnicity and every faith, share certain bedrock values. over the past six years, the pundits have pointed out more
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than once that my presidency hasn't delivered on this vision. how ironic, they say, that our politics seems more divided than ever. it's held up as proof not just of my own flaws of which there are many, but also as proof that the vision itself is misguided and naive, and that there are too many people in this town who actually benefit from partisanship and gridlock for us to ever do anything about it. i know how tempting such cynicism may be. but i still think the cynics are wrong. i still believe that we are one people. i still believe that together, we can do great things, even when the odds are long. [applause]

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