President Barack Obama addressed the nation in his sixth State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 20.
He spoke optimistically, asserting, “The shadow of crisis has passed, and the state of the Union is strong.”
Obama cited figures that show everything from high school graduation rates to economic growth at record highs for the past several decades. He said unemployment has dipped lower than it was prior to the recession.
He also spoke out about partisan politics and called on Americans to demand legislation that would elevate the middle class.
“We need to set our sights higher than just making sure government doesn’t halt the progress we’re making,” he said. “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.”
Part of Obama’s proposed plan to bolster the middle class is to completely subsidize tuition for community college. “This plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt,” he said. “Understand, you’ve got to earn it — you’ve got to keep your grades up and graduate on time.”
Obama said he has incorporated these and other requests into the budget he will present to Congress in two weeks. He cited past funding disputes, loopholes and breaks for middle class families as reasons to update the tax code.
He said renewed economic strength in the United States puts the nation in place for smarter international leadership. “We lead best when we combine military power with strong diplomacy, when we leverage our power with coalition building.”
Much of this leadership will come from dismantling terrorist organizations. Obama entreated Congress to approve added measures against ISIL, the terrorist organization that controls much of Iraq and Syria. “This effort will take time,” he said. “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.”
Obama’s final request was for greater cooperation between both major parties. Social issues particularly require generous, elevated debate. “If we’re going to have arguments, let’s have arguments, but let’s make them debates worthy of this body and worthy of this country.”