Pres. Obama starts off his annual address striking an optimistic tone saying, "I believe this can be a breakthrough year for America. After five years of grit and determined effort, the United States is better-positioned for the 21st century than any other nation on Earth."
President lays down the gauntlet saying he will bypass Congress to advance his policies.
"What I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class. Some require Congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still – and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do."
Speaker John Boehner, along with Vice President Joe Biden, stand to salute First Lady Michelle Obama as the President acknowledges her work to advance military families and to battle childhood obesity.
Chamber cheers as POTUS acknowledges Speaker Boehner's roots, "I believe, that here in America, our success should depend not on accident of birth, but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams. It’s how ... how the son of a barkeeper is Speaker of the House; how the son of a single mom can be President of the greatest nation on Earth."
POTUS says, "I will act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible."
"We need to work together on tools like bipartisan trade promotion authority to protect our workers, protect our environment, and open new markets to new goods stamped 'Made in the USA.' China and Europe aren’t standing on the sidelines. Neither should we."
"Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth."
"If we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement – and fix our broken immigration system."
No, your eyes did not betray you. Minority Leader Eric Cantor and Speaker Boehner applauded the President's call for immigration reform.
"I’m also convinced we can help Americans return to the workforce faster by reforming unemployment insurance so that it’s more effective in today’s economy. But first, this Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people."
POTUS shifts to education... "It’s not enough to train today’s workforce. We also have to prepare tomorrow’s workforce, by guaranteeing every child access to a world-class education."
"The bottom line is, Michelle and I want every child to have the same chance this country gave us. But we know our opportunity agenda won’t be complete – and too many young people entering the workforce today will see the American Dream as an empty promise – unless we do more to make sure our economy honors the dignity of work, and hard work pays off for every single American."
POTUS pivots to income equality... "Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work."
That refrain drew a standing ovation from Republicans and Democrats.
"Because I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds."
"As a chief executive, I intend to lead by example ... In the coming weeks, I will issue an Executive Order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour – because if you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty."
Pres. Obama now talks health care reform... "That’s what health insurance reform is all about – the peace of mind that if misfortune strikes, you don’t have to lose everything."
POTUS now shifts from voting rights to gun reform laws... "And I know this chamber agrees that few Americans give more to their country than our diplomats and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces."
On Afghanistan, "Together with our allies, we will complete our mission there by the end of this year, and America’s longest war will finally be over."
"For while our relationship with Afghanistan will change, one thing will not: our resolve that terrorists do not launch attacks against our country."
In his fifth year in office, President Obama is still calling for the closing of the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
POTUS takes a full turn to foreign diplomacy... "American diplomacy is supporting Israelis and Palestinians as they engage in difficult but necessary talks to end the conflict there; to achieve dignity and an independent state for Palestinians, and lasting peace and security for the State of Israel – a Jewish state that knows America will always be at their side."
On Iran's nuclear development, POTUS says, "If John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet Union, then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with less powerful adversaries today."
POTUS pivots to why America is involved in working with countries around the globe.
"We do these things because they help promote our long-term security. And we do them because we believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation. And next week, the world will see one expression of that commitment – when Team USA marches the red, white, and blue into the Olympic Stadium – and brings home the gold."
"America has never come easy. Our freedom, our democracy, has never been easy. Sometimes we stumble; we make mistakes; we get frustrated or discouraged. But for more than 200 years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress – to create and build and expand the possibilities of individual achievement; to free other nations from tyranny and fear; to promote justice, and fairness, and equality under the law, so that the words set to paper by our founders are made real for every citizen."
POTUS concludes with hopeful call:
"The America we want for our kids – a rising America where honest work is plentiful and communities are strong; where prosperity is widely shared and opportunity for all lets us go as far as our dreams and toil will take us – none of it is easy. But if we work together; if we summon what is best in us, with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow – I know it’s within our reach."
Night folks! And thanks for tuning in. We'll see you again right here next time!