Friday, February 15, 2013

Watch: President Obama Answers Your Questions in a Google+ Hangout

Earlier this evening, President Obama sat down with Americans from across the country to discuss his State of the Union address and his plan to create jobs and strengthen the middle class.
During the virtual conversation, the President answered questions about a range of topics, from steps to reduce gun violence to his plan to reward hard work by raising the minimum wage. The President also addressed some more personal questions from participants on recommended reading, Valentine’s Day plans and baby names.

President Obama participates in a Fireside Hangout on Google+
President Barack Obama participates in a “Fireside Hangout” on Google+ with Americans from around the country to discuss his State of the Union Address, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. February 14, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Check out the full video of the President’s Hangout below. And if you have thoughts about the State of the Union, you can share your Citizen Response with the White House using a new online tool.

The Fireside Hangout was moderated by Steve Grove, Head of Community Partnerships at Google+ and the participants, chosen by Google, included:
  • Limor Fried, New York: Limor is a popular Google+ user as well as an accomplished engineer and the CEO of a robotics manufacturing firm in NYC that makes innovative use of the web to connect with audiences and customers.
  • John Green, Indiana: With his brother Hank, John built a popular YouTube channel called the “Vlogbrothers.” "The videos spawned a community of people called 'nerdfighters” whose catch phrase is “don’t forget to be awesome.” 
  • Kira Davis, California: Kira is a blogger and mother who has become popular voicing her opinions on YouTube. Kira’s website is dedicated to arguing and defending conservative values and principle in politics and pop culture.
  • Lee Doren, Virgina: In December 2008, Lee launched the YouTube channel “How the World Works.” Since then, it has become one of the largest “News and Politics” channels on YouTube.
  • Jacky Guerrero, California: Jacky started an online magazine with several other members of the LGBT Latino youth community. Jacky currently works at a foundation, which focuses on social justice issues.
This event is the latest in a series of Fireside Hangouts and White House engagement programs on Google+. Follow the White House on Google+ for the latest updates and opportunities to engage with the President and his administration.

    Published on Feb 15, 2013
    In a virtual Q&A live from the White House, Bruce Reed, Chief of Staff to Vice President Biden, answers questions submitted by citizens via Twitter, Google+ and Facebook about the President's plan to reduce gun violence.
What is the chance of two intergalactic objects coming to visit our little third planet from the Sun?
Well, the citizens of Russia got a rude wake up call this morning with a meteorite that streaked across their sky. And then early this afternoon, Asteroid 2012 DA14 will pass close enough to Earth by some 17,000 miles.
Wow, that is quite a coincidence!

Hundreds injured as meteor fireball screams across the sky in Russia

A fireball lit up the Russian sky, shocking onlookers and causing damage to buildings. Reports indicate it may have been caused by meteorites.'s Keva Andersen explains.

A huge meteorite flared through the skies over Russia's Chelyabinsk region early Friday, triggering a powerful shock wave that injured hundreds of people.

"Preliminary indications are that it was a meteorite [shower]," the RIA-Novosti news agency quoted an emergency official as saying. "We have information about a blast at 10,000-meter (32,800-foot) altitude."

The Associated Press quoted a spokesman for the Russian Interior Ministry, Vadim Kolesnikov, as saying that the fireball caused an explosion and sonic boom that broke windows in Chelyabinsk, 930 miles (1,500 kilometers) east of Moscow. Reuters cited figures from Russia's Emergencies Ministry saying that 514 people had sought medical help, mainly for light injuries caused by flying glass, and that 112 of those were hospitalized.

The astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City talks about the meteorite that hit the Ural Mountains area in Russia, saying such an event could happen "perhaps once a decade," and explaining that it was the shock wave as the meteorite entered the atmosphere and exploded that broke so much glass.

The meteor, which was reportedly 10 tons, cut a blazing ribbon across the horizon, leaving a long white trail in its wake that could be seen 125 miles (200 kilometers) away in Yekaterinburg. The Russian Academy of Sciences said in a statement that the space rock entered Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of at least 33,000 mph, according to the AP. Some authorities in Russia, however, have said that the event was a meteor shower, and not a single meteor.

The ministry said helicopter teams surveyed the area, looking for signs of damage and the remains of the meteorite. In a Web update, it reported that the shock wave caused the roof of a zinc factory's warehouse to collapse, but no fatalities were reported.
In Russia and around the world, observers marveled at the fireball and its aftermath. "There have never been any cases of meteorites breaking up at such a low level over Russia before," Yuri Burenko, head of the Chelyabinsk branch of the Emergencies Ministry, told Reuters.

Multiple videos were posted from the scene. Several included the sound of a loud boom, followed by a cacophony of car alarms. One video showed the hurried evacuation of an office building in Chelyabinsk.

Meteor streaks over Siberia

Landing spot
A photo provided by the Russian Interior Ministry's Chelyabinsk regional branch shows people standing near a 26-foot-wide hole in the ice of Chebarkul Lake, reportedly created by a meteorite that fell to Earth on Feb. 15

"I was standing at a bus stop, seeing off my girlfriend," Andrei, a local resident who did not give his second name, told Reuters. "Then there was a flash and I saw a trail of smoke across the sky and felt a shock wave that smashed windows."

The meteorite raced across the horizon, leaving a long white trail in its wake that could be seen 125 miles (200 kilometers) away in Yekaterinburg. "I was driving to work, it was quite dark, but it suddenly became as bright as if it was day," Viktor Prokofiev, 36, a resident of Yekaterinburg, told Reuters. "I felt like I was blinded by headlights."

News reports indicated that President Vladimir Putin, who was due to host Finance Ministry officials from the Group of 20 nations in Moscow, and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev were informed.

The arc of the fireball's trail can be seen in this Chelyabinsk video.

A YouTube video documents Friday's fireball, witnessed in the skies over Chelyabinsk.

Loud booms and alarms can be heard in this video from Chelyabinsk.

This video records the sound of an explosion and car alarms in the Chelyabinsk region.

The Chelyabinsk blast creates a sensation in this video.

RT reports on the meteor blast in Chelyabinsk.
The fireball reports spread just hours before a 150-foot-wide asteroid was due to make a close flyby, coming within 17,200 miles of Earth. It's unlikely that there's any connection between the fireball and the encounter asteroid, known as 2012 DA14. However, a bright flash and explosion in midair would be consistent with the atmospheric entry and breakup of a large meteoroid.

Fire in the sky
A meteor streaks across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Feb. 15, causing explosions and reportedly injuring hundreds of people.

If 2012 DA14 were to hit Earth, the scenario might play out in a similar way, but with a far more powerful impact.

In 1908, a massive explosion shook a remote region of Siberia and knocked down millions of trees over an 820-square-mile area. Experts concluded that the blast, known as the Tunguska event, was caused by the midair explosion of a 150-foot-wide asteroid falling to Earth.More about cosmic impacts:

Asteroid's close shave ranks among Earth's biggest hits (and misses)


Scientists will be keeping an eye on asteroid 2012 DA14 - seen here in an eerie animation from Analytical Graphics Inc. - when it comes within 17,200 miles of Earth on Feb. 15.'s Dara Brown reports.

By Alan Boyle, Science Editor, NBC News

When the asteroid known as 2012 DA14 zooms within 17,200 miles of our planet on Friday, it'll mark the closest approach by a massive space rock in more than a century (although the meteor that flared through the skies over Russia's Chelyabinsk region early Friday injured hundreds of people, it is only a fragment of the size of these monsters). Fortunately, the 150-foot-wide object will pose absolutely no risk to Earth — but over the course of millennia, other asteroids have literally rocked our world.

As safe as Friday's encounter will be, it's a reminder that Earth has been vulnerable to cosmic impacts in the past, and will continue to be in the future. That's why NASA and other agencies are spending millions of dollars to detect more of the estimated 1 million near-Earth objects that could be as threatening as 2012 DA14.

"We are looking at all kinds of partnership possibilities, across universities, space institutions and with the Air Force," said Lindley Johnson, program executive for the Near-Earth Object Observations Program at NASA Headquarters. This week, Johnson and other experts are gathering at a U.N.-sponsored conference in Vienna to discuss the creation of an international asteroid warning network.

Vienna is actually one of the places where 2012 DA14 can be seen in the night sky on Friday — not with the naked eye, but with binoculars or a small telescope. The best viewing opportunities will be available in Asia, Australia and Europe. (Follow the instructions at the bottom of this article to find out if it'll be visible from your location.)

The closest approach comes at 2:44 p.m. ET, when the asteroid will be zooming past at a speed of almost 17,500 mph, directly above the eastern Indian Ocean. It'll come 5,000 miles within the ring of communications satellites in geosynchronous Earth orbit, but those satellites are so widely distributed that experts say the chance of a collision is extremely remote.

NASA / JPL-Caltech
A NASA chart shows how asteroid 2012 DA14 will be deflected by Earth's gravitational field. Experts say the space rock will be put into a safer orbit after this week's encounter.

If 2012 DA14 were on a collision course, the shock of its rapid fall through Earth's atmosphere would cause it to explode, unleashing the power of a 2.4-megaton atomic bomb. In the worst-case scenario, that would be enough energy to destroy an entire city. A similar cosmic blast in 1908 laid waste to 820 square miles of Siberian forest in the Tunguska region.

It's possible that other such blasts have occurred over the course of Earth's history without being recorded. Based on a statistical analysis, NASA estimates that asteroids the size of 2012 DA14 strike Earth every 1,200 years or so. The only reason we know about this encounter is because the capabilities for tracking near-Earth objects have improved so much in recent years.

A Spanish observation team discovered 2012 DA14 just last year during a more distant flyby. "We probably would not have found DA14 10 years ago," said Don Yeomans, the head of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Now that they know it's there, astronomers will be monitoring the asteroid with optical and radio telescopes, including the Arecibo Observatory's 1,000-foot-wide dish in Puerto Rico and NASA's Goldstone radio antenna in California.

Radar observations could provide insights into the space rock's shape and spin, while an analysis of the optical data could reveal what 2012 DA14 is made of. Think of Friday's encounter as a practice run for identifying and tracking the unknown asteroids that actually could threaten us in the years to come — and an incentive to figure out ways to deflect them in case we have to.

To get a better sense of how 2012 DA14 rates, here are a dozen more hits and misses involving near-Earth objects:

65 million B.C.: The most infamous asteroid is the 6-mile-wide rock that smashed into Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula 65 million years ago, sparking the global catastrophe that did in the dinosaurs. Experts say the explosion released as much energy as 100 trillion tons of TNT.

35 million B.C.: Geologists say a roughly kilometer-wide (0.6-mile-wide) asteroid or comet struck America's Eastern Seaboard millions of years ago, contributing to the formation of Chesapeake Bay and creating a biological crisis. Studies have shown that microbes deep underground in the blast zone are still adjusting to the ancient shock.

Asteroid's close shave ranks among Earth's biggest hits (and misses)

Barringer Impact Crater in Arizona — also known as Meteor Crater — is captured in this image taken in 1995 by space shuttle astronauts.

50,000 B.C.: A 150-foot-wide iron-nickel meteorite hits Arizona, creating the 0.75-mile-wide Meteor Crater. Asteroid 2012 DA14 is thought to be the same size as this meteorite, but made of less dense stuff that would break up before it hits the ground.

1490: Chinese accounts tell of a meteor shower during which "stones fell like rain" on the Qingyang (Ch'ing-Yang) district of Shaanxi Province (now Gansu Province), killing as many as 10,000 people. Experts are doubtful about the reported death toll, but they don't doubt that a dramatic event occurred, perhaps involving the breakup of an asteroid.

1908: The Tunguska event in Siberia, which flattened millions of trees, is thought to have been caused by an asteroid similar to 2012 DA14 in size and composition. Tunguska has become a watchword for asteroid activists. "The greatest danger from an asteroid strike is from the ones we haven't yet found," former NASA astronaut Ed Lu, chairman and CEO of the B612 Foundation, told NBC News. "Of the asteroids larger than the one that struck Tunguska in 1908, we know less than 1 percent."

1937: Asteroid Hermes is observed to miss Earth by a distance of just 460,000 miles. Decades later, scientists found out that Hermes occasionally comes even closer to Earth, and in fact consists of two space rocks flying in tandem. Each of the objects is thought to be about 1,300 feet (400 meters) wide.

1972: The Great Daylight Fireball is witnessed blazing over the Rocky Mountains from the U.S. Southwest to Canada. Scientists say it was an Earth-grazing meteoroid that passed within 35 miles (57 kilometers) of Earth’s surface.

Footage shows the Great Daylight Fireball of 1972.

1997: Astronomers report that a mile-wide asteroid known as 1997 XF11 had a chance of hitting Earth in 2028. The report touched off a media tempest, but further observations reduced the chance of collision to zero. The news came amid a spate of asteroid disaster flicks, including "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon" as well as the TV miniseries "Asteroid."

2004: An 885-foot-wide asteroid known as 2004 MN4, later named Apophis, is initially given a 1-in-40 chance of hitting Earth in 2029. That collision risk was ruled out relatively quickly, but it took years longer to analyze the risk posed by a later encounter in 2036. Just last month, astronomers announced that Apophis will pose no threat to Earth in the foreseeable future.

2008: Asteroid 2008 TC3 explodes during atmospheric entry above Sudan’s Nubian Desert. The event marked the first time that a near-Earth object’s impact was successfully predicted, several hours in advance. 2008 TC3 was 2 to 5 meters wide, and broke up into fragments that were later recovered from the desert.

2011: Asteroid 2011 CQ1 makes the closest-ever flyby of Earth for a cataloged asteroid, passing within 3,400 miles of Earth’s surface. The asteroid was discovered just 16 hours before its super-close encounter, but because it's only a meter wide, it would have burned up in the atmosphere if it had been on a direct course.

2011: An asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier, 2005 YU55, sails past Earth at a distance of 198,000 miles, which is closer than the orbit of the moon. Earthlings marked the asteroid's passage with a barrage of picture-taking.
More about the asteroid encounter:

President Obama: High Quality Pre-K Is "Good Bang for your Educational Buck"

President Obama at the Decatur Community Recreation Center, Feb. 14, 2013.
President Barack Obama delivers remarks on early education and his plan to ensure high-quality preschool for every child, at the Decatur Community Recreation Center in Decatur, Ga., Feb. 14, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Obama laid out a plan for reigniting the true engine of America’s economic growth: a thriving, growing, rising middle class. A key component of that plan is making sure that every American has the skills they need for the competitive global job market, which means that education must begin at the earliest possible age.
The President proposed working with states like Georgia to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America, and today he paid a visit to that state to see firsthand how the programs they have put in place are making a difference in the lives of our youngest citizens:
Study after study shows that the earlier a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road.  But here’s the thing:  We are not doing enough to give all of our kids that chance. The kids we saw today that I had a chance to spend time with in Mary's classroom, they're some of the lucky ones -- because fewer than 3 in 10 four-year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. 
Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool. And for the poor children who need it the most, the lack of access to a great preschool education can have an impact on their entire lives. And we all pay a price for that. And as I said, this is not speculation. Study after study shows the achievement gap starts off very young. Kids who, when they go into kindergarten, their first day, if they already have a lot fewer vocabulary words, they don’t know their numbers and their shapes and have the capacity for focus, they're going to be behind that first day. And it's very hard for them to catch up over time.  
President Obama visited College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center in Decatur, where 200 children are spending full days in classrooms staffed by highly qualified teachers who focus on interactive learning, math, writing, and storytelling -- the kind of program the President said offers "good bang for your educational buck."
On Tuesday night, the White House launched a new tool that enables Americans to find the passages in the President's speech that highlight the issues they believe are most important, and then offers the chance to let us know why.  And improving opportunities for early education for all Americans is an issue that has seen a passionate support from people who wrote in.

President Obama sings with the students at the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center, Feb. 14, 2013
President Barack Obama joins in a music program with the students at the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center in Decatur, Ga., Feb. 14, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

As Amy, who lives near Decatur and  described herself as a prospective teacher, told us, "We can't ever forget that having educated citizens will have a positive impact on our country's quality of life for years to come. Too often education is pushed to the side because it's problems seem overwhelming, but we can't stop working to give all of our students the high level of education that they deserve."

President Barack Obama visits a pre-kindergarten classroom at the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center in Decatur, Ga., Feb. 14, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Fact Sheet: The President’s Plan to Make America a Magnet for Jobs by Investing in Manufacturing

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

President Obama is committed to making America a magnet for jobs and manufacturing so we continue to build things the rest of the world buys. After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 over the past three. Manufacturing production has grown since the end of the recession at its fastest pace in over a decade.
The President’s plan builds on that momentum by investing in American manufacturing. The President has outlined a concrete agenda to train American workers for high-tech manufacturing jobs, end tax breaks to ship jobs overseas and make the U.S. more competitive, bring jobs back, and level the playing field for our workers by opening new markets for American-made products.
  • Partnering with businesses and communities to invest in American-made technologies and American workers through a network of new Manufacturing Innovation Institutes: The President has proposed a one-time $1 billion investment to create a network of 15 manufacturing innovation institutes across the country, and urges Congress to act on this proposal. But to make progress right away, he is also acting through executive authority to launch three new institutes, which are partnerships among business, universities and community colleges, and government, to develop and build manufacturing technologies and capabilities that will help U.S.-based manufacturers and workers create good jobs.    
  • Ending tax breaks to ship jobs overseas and making the U.S. more competitive: To support our manufacturers and encourage companies to invest in the U.S., the President has proposed to reform our business tax code, lowering the rate for manufacturers to 25 percent, expanding and making permanent the research and development tax credit, and putting in place a global minimum tax to prevent a race to the bottom in corporate tax rates.
  • Bringing Jobs Back: The President has proposed a new partnership with communities to attract manufacturers and their supply chains, especially to hard hit manufacturing towns. The President is also proposing to expand SelectUSA, a program designed to partner with our governors and mayors to bring in business investment from around the world, ensuring that America can compete globally and bring jobs and investment to our shores.
  • Leveling the playing field and opening markets for American-made products: In addition to the President’s efforts to double exports, including through new steps to open markets in Asia and Europe to American-made goods, the President will continue to enforce trade laws to protect American workers from unfair trade practices and strengthen the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center launched last year.

The President’s Commitment to Revitalize American Manufacturing and Bring Jobs Back

In his State of the Union, the President outlined a comprehensive agenda to attract more jobs to our shores. As part of this effort, he is committed to investing in U.S. manufacturing:

Partnering with businesses and communities to invest in American-made technologies and American workers

  • Transforming communities across the country into global centers of advanced manufacturing: To support investment in U.S. manufacturers’ competitiveness and accelerate innovation in manufacturing, the President is proposing a one-time, $1 billion investment to launch a network of 15 manufacturing innovation institutes across the country. Leveraging the strengths of a particular region, each institute will bring together companies, universities and community colleges, and government to co-invest in the development of world-leading manufacturing technologies and capabilities that U.S.-based manufacturers can apply in production. In August 2012, the Administration launched a pilot institute in Youngstown, Ohio with a $45 million funding commitment from five Federal agencies, led by the Department of Defense. The winning partnership of firms and universities from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia was one of twelve teams that applied.
    • While the President will continue to push Congress to act on his broader proposal, he will take executive action to launch three new manufacturing innovation institutes in 2013: To build on the success of a pilot institute, the President announced a plan to launch three new manufacturing innovation institutes this year, a co-investment between Federal agencies, led by the Departments of Defense and Energy, and the private sector, with an initial focus on manufacturing technologies that also address critical national security and energy needs.
  • Creating a Community College to Career Fund: Co-administered by the Department of Labor and the Department of Education, this Fund will help forge new partnerships between community colleges and businesses to train two million workers for good-paying jobs in high-growth and high-demand industries, including advanced manufacturing. These investments will give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers where people learn skills that local manufacturers are looking for now, and ensure that employers can find the skilled workers they need and workers are gaining credentials to build strong careers.

Ending Tax Breaks to Ship Jobs Overseas and Making the U.S. more competitive

  • Making the U.S. more competitive for manufacturing by reforming our tax code: To encourage innovation and investment in the U.S. as part of the President’s broader commitment to business tax reform, the President is proposing to lower tax rates for manufacturers to 25 percent, expand and make permanent the research and development tax credit, put in place an “offshoring tax” that would set a minimum tax on offshore earnings to prevent a race to the bottom in corporate tax rates, and extend and enhance key incentives to invest in U.S. clean energy through a permanent, refundable production tax credit and a reauthorization of the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit that provides an incentive for clean energy manufacturing at home.
  • Strengthening manufacturing supply chains through the Manufacturing Extension Partnership: The Department of Commerce’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) provides a range of business services to small manufacturers and is enhancing the program to help companies focus on technology transition which requires deep supply chain expertise. The President’s Budget will propose a $25 million increase to launch Manufacturing Technology Acceleration Centers (MTACs), which will be industry-specific centers that can serve as a coordination point within key supply chains. The Administration is also announcing plans to pilot two new centers in 2013 using existing resources.

Bringing Jobs Back

  • Investing in manufacturing communities and bringing jobs back: Today, we are better positioned to attract new manufacturing investment in the U.S. and bring jobs back. But some communities are still hard-hit by the recession, particularly after closure of factories in places like Detroit, Michigan and Rochester, New York. The President is announcing new steps to partner with and help strengthen communities, including:
    • Launching an “Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership”: The President is directing Federal agencies to provide coordinated assistance to manufacturing communities through a new partnership designed to strengthen communities’ ability to attract investment. To support the Partnership, the President’s Budget will propose $113 million to provide targeted financial assistance for about five manufacturing communities while leveraging non-Federal funds on a 2 to 1 matching basis to co-invest in state of the art infrastructure projects and research facilities. These efforts will aim to attract manufacturers and their supply chain of local parts innovators, producers, and distributors, creating new jobs and strengthening the local economy. In addition, the Partnership, through multiple Federal agencies, will provide technical support to redevelop manufacturing communities that have had major plant closings, in partnership with local leaders, workers, and businesses.
    • Expanding Federal efforts to attract investment to the U.S.: In 2011, the President launched SelectUSA at the Department of Commerce, creating the first Federal effort to actively attract business investment in the United States. To help our governors and mayors compete with foreign countries, the President will propose in his Budget to significantly expand SelectUSA. The Administration will host a SelectUSA Investment Summit this year, matching businesses from around the world with local leaders to attract jobs and investment to our shores.
    • Proposing a Manufacturing Communities Tax Credit: The President is proposing incentives for communities facing concentrated job losses – particularly hard-hit manufacturing communities – to help attract new investment and jobs. The incentives will help prevent the downward spiral that can occur following mass layoff events.

Leveling the playing field and opening markets for American-made products

  • Boosting U.S. exports: The President is committed to doubling American exports and has taken steps to expand market access for American-made products through trade agreements with South Korea, Columbia, and Panama. To boost exports, the President will launch talks on a comprehensive trade agreement with the European Union with the goal of promoting free and fair trade across the Atlantic to support millions of good-paying American jobs, and will complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  • Strengthening our capabilities to enforce trade laws and support American workers: The President has aggressively enforced trade rules to ensure that American workers are competing on a level playing field with firms from around the world, doubling the rate of WTO challenges against China compared to the previous Administration, and applying the “Section 421” against China to address a surge in Chinese tires. Last year, the President launched an Interagency Trade Enforcement Center (ITEC) with resources devoted exclusively to ensuring our trading partners are playing by the rules, and he is calling for dedicated funds beyond existing resources to provide the support needed by ITEC to ensure American workers are competing on a level playing field .
  • Ensuring U.S. leadership in clean energy and advanced vehicle manufacturing: Building on the President’s historic investments in clean energy and the fuel efficiency standards put in place through 2025, the Obama Administration has proposed a comprehensive approach to advanced vehicle manufacturing, including incentives for consumers and businesses to lower the cost of advanced vehicles, investments in partnership with communities to address the local barriers to deployment of advanced vehicles at critical mass, and increased investments in advanced vehicle technologies through the Department of Energy’s EV Everywhere grand challenge. The President will also continue to call on Congress to reauthorize the successful and oversubscribed 48C Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit.  
  • Supporting innovative, advanced manufacturing technologies through increased Federal R&D: The President’s Budget will propose increases in key advanced manufacturing R&D programs across Federal agencies. Investments include supporting innovative manufacturing processes that dramatically reduce energy use and strengthening investments in platform technologies like nano-manufacturing, bio-manufacturing, robotics through the National Robotics Initiative, advanced materials through the Materials Genome Initiative, and defense technologies to fundamentally change the way we build things and dramatically reduce the time from design to production.

A Plan to Revitalize American Manufacturing


President Barack Obama delivers remarks regarding manufacturing policy
President Barack Obama delivers remarks regarding manufacturing policy, after he tours the Linamar Corporation auto-parts plant in Arden, N.C., Feb. 13, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Last night President Obama used his State of the Union address to lay out his plan to strengthen the middle class. Today he was in Asheville, NC to talk more specifically about his committment to making America a magnet for jobs and manufacturing so we continue to build things the rest of the world buys:
A few years ago, manufacturing comebacks in North Carolina, a manufacturing comeback in Asheville may not have seemed real likely, because Volvo had just left town. This plant had gone dark -- 228 jobs had vanished. And that was a big blow for this area, because part of what happens is when those manufacturing jobs go away, then suddenly the restaurant has fewer customers, and suppliers for the plant start withering. And it's hard for everybody. It has a ripple effect.

But then local officials started reaching out to companies, offering new incentives to take over this plant. Some of the workers who got laid off, like Stratton, went back to school and they learned new skills.  And then, a year later, Linamar showed up.  They were looking for a place to build some big parts. And these parts are big, I got to say, hubs and wheels and anchors for 400-ton mining trucks.  And while they could have gone any place in the world, they saw this incredible potential right here in Asheville. They saw the most promise in this workforce, so they chose to invest in Asheville, in North Carolina, in the United States of America.  
So to date, Linamar has hired 160 workers. It will be 200 by the end of the year, and it's just going to keep on going after that. So the folks at Linamar said, they came to Asheville to grow their business. They came here to stay and put down some roots.
And the good news is what’s happening here is happening all around the country. Because just as it’s becoming more and more expensive to do business in places like China, America is getting more competitive and more productive.  
The President’s plan builds on that momentum by investing in American manufacturing. Training American workers for high-tech manufacturing jobs, ending tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas and opening new markets for American-made products will make the U.S. more competitive and will create new jobs and bring jobs back to our shores. 

President Barack Obama tours the Linamar Corporation auto-parts plant
President Barack Obama tours the Linamar Corporation auto-parts plant in Arden, N.C., Feb. 13, 2013. Jeffrey Brower and Dwayne Moore explain the machining of the large axel components for Caterpillar’s large mining trucks. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

On Tuesday, President Obama offered four concrete proposals to revitalize our manufacturing industry: Create a network of 25 manufacturing Innovation Institutes;  reform our business tax code, lowering the rate for manufacturers to 25 percent, expanding and making permanent the research and development tax credit, and putting in place a global minimum tax; building new partnerships with communities to attract manufacturers and their supply chains, especially to hard hit manufacturing towns; and a dual effort to both open new markets for American-made goods and strengthen the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center launched last year. 

President Barack Obama listens to Jeffrey Brower and Dwayne Moore explain the machining of the axle components made for Caterpillar’s large mining trucks during a tour of the Linamar Corporation auto-parts plant in Arden, North Carolina, Feb. 13, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The 2013 State of the Union Address (Enhanced Version)

Your Response to the State of our Union
President Obama's State of the Union address is just the beginning; now we want to hear from you. Highlight a passage of the speech that was meaningful to you and tell the President how you're connected to that issue. Then share that part of the speech with your friends.

President Barack Obama's 2013 State of the Union Address — as delivered

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, fellow citizens:

Fifty-one years ago, John F Kennedy declared to this chamber that “the Constitution makes us not rivals for power but partners for progress.” “It is my task,” he said, “to report the State of the Union -- to improve it is the task of us all.”

Tonight, thanks to the grit and determination of the American people, there is much progress to report. After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home. After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created over six million new jobs. We buy more American cars than we have in five years, and less foreign oil than we have in 20. Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding, and consumers, patients, and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever before.

So, together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and we can say with renewed confidence that the State of our Union is stronger.

But we gather here knowing that there are millions of Americans whose hard work and dedication have not yet been rewarded. Our economy is adding jobs -- but too many people still can’t find full-time employment. Corporate profits have skyrocketed to all-time highs -- but for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged.

It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth -- a rising, thriving middle class.

It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country -- the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like, or who you love.

It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation.

The American people don’t expect government to solve every problem. They don’t expect those of us in this chamber to agree on every issue. But they do expect us to put the nation’s interests before party. They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can. For they know that America moves forward only when we do so together, and that the responsibility of improving this union remains the task of us all.

Our work must begin by making some basic decisions about our budget -- decisions that will have a huge impact on the strength of our recovery.

Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion -- mostly through spending cuts, but also by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. As a result, we are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances.

Now we need to finish the job. And the question is, how?

In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars’ worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year. These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness. They’d devastate priorities like education, and energy, and medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs. That’s why Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists have already said that these cuts, known here in Washington as the sequester, are a really bad idea.

Now, some in Congress have proposed preventing only the defense cuts by making even bigger cuts to things like education and job training, Medicare and Social Security benefits. That idea is even worse.

Yes, the biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost of health care for an aging population. And those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms -- otherwise, our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children, and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement for future generations.

But we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and the most powerful. We won’t grow the middle class simply by shifting the cost of health care or college onto families that are already struggling, or by forcing communities to lay off more teachers and more cops and more firefighters. Most Americans -- Democrats, Republicans, and independents -- understand that we can’t just cut our way to prosperity. They know that broad-based economic growth requires a balanced approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue, and with everybody doing their fair share. And that’s the approach I offer tonight.
On Medicare, I’m prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission.

Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs. And the reforms I’m proposing go even further. We’ll reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors. We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital; they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive. And I am open to additional reforms from both parties, so long as they don’t violate the guarantee of a secure retirement. Our government shouldn’t make promises we cannot keep -- but we must keep the promises we’ve already made.

To hit the rest of our deficit reduction target, we should do what leaders in both parties have already suggested, and save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and the well-connected. After all, why would we choose to make deeper cuts to education and Medicare just to protect special interest tax breaks? How is that fair? Why is it that deficit reduction is a big emergency justifying making cuts in Social Security benefits but not closing some loopholes? How does that promote growth?

Now is our best chance for bipartisan, comprehensive tax reform that encourages job creation and helps bring down the deficit. We can get this done. The American people deserve a tax code that helps small businesses spend less time filling out complicated forms, and more time expanding and hiring -- a tax code that ensures billionaires with high-powered accountants can’t work the system and pay a lower rate than their hardworking secretaries; a tax code that lowers incentives to move jobs overseas, and lowers tax rates for businesses and manufacturers that are creating jobs right here in the United States of America. That’s what tax reform can deliver. That’s what we can do together.

I realize that tax reform and entitlement reform will not be easy. The politics will be hard for both sides. None of us will get 100 percent of what we want. But the alternative will cost us jobs, hurt our economy, visit hardship on millions of hardworking Americans. So let’s set party interests aside and work to pass a budget that replaces reckless cuts with smart savings and wise investments in our future. And let’s do it without the brinksmanship that stresses consumers and scares off investors. The greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next. We can't do it.

Let’s agree right here, right now to keep the people’s government open, and pay our bills on time, and always uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America. The American people have worked too hard, for too long, rebuilding from one crisis to see their elected officials cause another.

Now, most of us agree that a plan to reduce the deficit must be part of our agenda. But let’s be clear, deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan. A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs -- that must be the North Star that guides our efforts. Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills they need to get those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?

A year and a half ago, I put forward an American Jobs Act that independent economists said would create more than 1 million new jobs. And I thank the last Congress for passing some of that agenda. I urge this Congress to pass the rest. But tonight, I’ll lay out additional proposals that are fully paid for and fully consistent with the budget framework both parties agreed to just 18 months ago. Let me repeat -- nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime. It is not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth. That's what we should be looking for.

Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing. After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three. Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan. Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico. And this year, Apple will start making Macs in America again.

There are things we can do, right now, to accelerate this trend. Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. There’s no reason this can’t happen in other towns.

So tonight, I’m announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Department of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. And I ask this Congress to help create a network of 15 of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is made right here in America. We can get that done.

Now, if we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas. Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy -- every dollar. Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s. They’re developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs; devising new material to make batteries 10 times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. We need to make those investments.

Today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy. After years of talking about it, we’re finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar -- with tens of thousands of good American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before -- and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.

But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods -- all are now more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science -- and act before it’s too late.

Now, the good news is we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it. And we’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year -- let’s drive down costs even further. As long as countries like China keep going all in on clean energy, so must we.

Now, in the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. We need to encourage that. And that’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. That’s got to be part of an all-of-the-above plan. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and our water.

In fact, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together. So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good. If a nonpartisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we. Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long.

I’m also issuing a new goal for America: Let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20 years. We'll work with the states to do it. Those states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make that happen.

America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair. Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire -- a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and Internet; high-tech schools, self-healing power grids. The CEO of Siemens America -- a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina -- said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they’ll bring even more jobs. And that’s the attitude of a lot of companies all around the world. And I know you want these job-creating projects in your district. I’ve seen all those ribbon-cuttings.

So tonight, I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods, modern pipelines to withstand a storm, modern schools worthy of our children. Let’s prove that there’s no better place to do business than here in the United States of America, and let’s start right away. We can get this done.

And part of our rebuilding effort must also involve our housing sector. The good news is our housing market is finally healing from the collapse of 2007. Home prices are rising at the fastest pace in six years. Home purchases are up nearly 50 percent, and construction is expanding again.

But even with mortgage rates near a 50-year low, too many families with solid credit who want to buy a home are being rejected. Too many families who never missed a payment and want to refinance are being told no. That’s holding our entire economy back. We need to fix it.

Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates. Democrats and Republicans have supported it before, so what are we waiting for? Take a vote, and send me that bill. Why would we be against that? Why would that be a partisan issue, helping folks refinance? Right now, overlapping regulations keep responsible young families from buying their first home. What’s holding us back? Let’s streamline the process, and help our economy grow.

These initiatives in manufacturing, energy, infrastructure, housing -- all these things will help entrepreneurs and small business owners expand and create new jobs. But none of it will matter unless we also equip our citizens with the skills and training to fill those jobs.

And that has to start at the earliest possible age. Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road. But today, fewer than 3 in 10 four year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for a private preschool. And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives. So tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America. That's something we should be able to do.

Every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood education can save more than seven dollars later on -- by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own. We know this works. So let’s do what works and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind. Let’s give our kids that chance.

Let’s also make sure that a high school diploma puts our kids on a path to a good job. Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges. So those German kids, they're ready for a job when they graduate high school. They've been trained for the jobs that are there. Now at schools like P-Tech in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York Public Schools and City University of New York and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate's degree in computers or engineering.
We need to give every American student opportunities like this.

And four years ago, we started Race to the Top -- a competition that convinced almost every state to develop smarter curricula and higher standards, all for about 1 percent of what we spend on education each year. Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. And we’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering and math -- the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill the jobs that are there right now and will be there in the future.

Now, even with better high schools, most young people will need some higher education. It’s a simple fact the more education you’ve got, the more likely you are to have a good job and work your way into the middle class. But today, skyrocketing costs price too many young people out of a higher education, or saddle them with unsustainable debt.

Through tax credits, grants and better loans, we’ve made college more affordable for millions of students and families over the last few years. But taxpayers can’t keep on subsidizing higher and higher and higher costs for higher education. Colleges must do their part to keep costs down, and it’s our job to make sure that they do.

So tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid.And tomorrow, my administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria -- where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.

Now, to grow our middle class, our citizens have to have access to the education and training that today’s jobs require. But we also have to make sure that America remains a place where everyone who’s willing to work -- everybody who’s willing to work hard has the chance to get ahead.

Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants. And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, faith communities -- they all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Now is the time to do it. Now is the time to get it done. Now is the time to get it done.

Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my administration has already made -- putting more boots on the Southern border than at any time in our history and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.

Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship -- a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.

And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy.

In other words, we know what needs to be done. And as we speak, bipartisan groups in both chambers are working diligently to draft a bill, and I applaud their efforts. So let’s get this done. Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away. And America will be better for it. Let’s get it done. Let’s get it done.

But we can’t stop there. We know our economy is stronger when our wives, our mothers, our daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace, and free from the fear of domestic violence. Today, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act that Joe Biden originally wrote almost 20 years ago. And I now urge the House to do the same. Good job, Joe. And I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a living equal to their efforts, and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year.

We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages. But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong. That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, 19 states have chosen to bump theirs even higher.

Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour.We should be able to get that done.

This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead. For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets. And a whole lot of folks out there would probably need less help from government. In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher. So here’s an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year -- let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.

Tonight, let’s also recognize that there are communities in this country where no matter how hard you work, it is virtually impossible to get ahead. Factory towns decimated from years of plants packing up. Inescapable pockets of poverty, urban and rural, where young adults are still fighting for their first job. America is not a place where the chance of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny. And that’s why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them.

Let’s offer incentives to companies that hire Americans who’ve got what it takes to fill that job opening, but have been out of work so long that no one will give them a chance anymore. Let’s put people back to work rebuilding vacant homes in run-down neighborhoods. And this year, my administration will begin to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet. We’ll work with local leaders to target resources at public safety, and education, and housing.

We’ll give new tax credits to businesses that hire and invest. And we’ll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples, and do more to encourage fatherhood -- because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one. And we want to encourage that. We want to help that

Stronger families. Stronger communities. A stronger America. It is this kind of prosperity -- broad, shared, built on a thriving middle class -- that has always been the source of our progress at home. It’s also the foundation of our power and influence throughout the world.

Tonight, we stand united in saluting the troops and civilians who sacrifice every day to protect us. Because of them, we can say with confidence that America will complete its mission in Afghanistan and achieve our objective of defeating the core of al Qaeda.

Already, we have brought home 33,000 of our brave servicemen and women. This spring, our forces will move into a support role, while Afghan security forces take the lead. Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan. This drawdown will continue and by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.

Beyond 2014, America’s commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of our commitment will change. We're negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government that focuses on two missions -- training and equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not again slip into chaos, and counterterrorism efforts that allow us to pursue the remnants of al Qaeda and their affiliates.

Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self. It's true, different al Qaeda affiliates and extremist groups have emerged -- from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa. The threat these groups pose is evolving. But to meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad or occupy other nations. Instead, we'll need to help countries like Yemen, and Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali. And where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.

Now, as we do, we must enlist our values in the fight. That's why my administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism efforts. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts. I recognize that in our democracy, no one should just take my word for it that we’re doing things the right way. So in the months ahead, I will continue to engage Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.

Of course, our challenges don’t end with al Qaeda. America will continue to lead the effort to prevent the spread of the world’s most dangerous weapons. The regime in North Korea must know they will only achieve security and prosperity by meeting their international obligations. Provocations of the sort we saw last night will only further isolate them, as we stand by our allies, strengthen our own missile defense and lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats.

Likewise, the leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations, and we will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon

At the same time, we’ll engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals, and continue leading the global effort to secure nuclear materials that could fall into the wrong hands -- because our ability to influence others depends on our willingness to lead and meet our obligations.

America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber-attacks. Now, we know hackers steal people’s identities and infiltrate private emails. We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, our air traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.

And that’s why, earlier today, I signed a new executive order that will strengthen our cyber defenses by increasing information sharing, and developing standards to protect our national security, our jobs, and our privacy.

But now Congress must act as well, by passing legislation to give our government a greater capacity to secure our networks and deter attacks. This is something we should be able to get done on a bipartisan basis.

Now, even as we protect our people, we should remember that today’s world presents not just dangers, not just threats, it presents opportunities. To boost American exports, support American jobs and level the playing field in the growing markets of Asia, we intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership. And tonight, I’m announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union -- because trade that is fair and free across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs.

We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all -- not only because it creates new markets, more stable order in certain regions of the world, but also because it’s the right thing to do. In many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day. So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades by connecting more people to the global economy; by empowering women; by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve, and helping communities to feed, and power, and educate themselves; by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths; and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation, which is within our reach.

You see, America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom during this period of historic change. I saw the power of hope last year in Rangoon, in Burma, when Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed an American President into the home where she had been imprisoned for years; when thousands of Burmese lined the streets, waving American flags, including a man who said, “There is justice and law in the United States. I want our country to be like that.”

In defense of freedom, we’ll remain the anchor of strong alliances from the Americas to Africa; from Europe to Asia. In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy.

We know the process will be messy, and we cannot presume to dictate the course of change in countries like Egypt, but we can -- and will -- insist on respect for the fundamental rights of all people. We’ll keep the pressure on a Syrian regime that has murdered its own people, and support opposition leaders that respect the rights of every Syrian. And we will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace.

These are the messages I'll deliver when I travel to the Middle East next month. And all this work depends on the courage and sacrifice of those who serve in dangerous places at great personal risk –- our diplomats, our intelligence officers, and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. As long as I’m Commander-in-Chief, we will do whatever we must to protect those who serve their country abroad, and we will maintain the best military the world has ever known.

We'll invest in new capabilities, even as we reduce waste and wartime spending. We will ensure equal treatment for all servicemembers, and equal benefits for their families -- gay and straight. We will draw upon the courage and skills of our sisters and daughters and moms, because women have proven under fire that they are ready for combat.

We will keep faith with our veterans, investing in world-class care, including mental health care, for our wounded warriors -- (applause) -- supporting our military families; giving our veterans the benefits and education and job opportunities that they have earned. And I want to thank my wife, Michelle, and Dr. Jill Biden for their continued dedication to serving our military families as well as they have served us. Thank you, honey. Thank you, Jill.

Defending our freedom, though, is not just the job of our military alone. We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home. That includes one of the most fundamental right of a democracy: the right to vote. When any American, no matter where they live or what their party, are denied that right because they can’t afford to wait for five or six or seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals.

So tonight, I’m announcing a nonpartisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. And it definitely needs improvement. I’m asking two long-time experts in the field -- who, by the way, recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney’s campaign -- to lead it. We can fix this, and we will. The American people demand it, and so does our democracy.

Of course, what I’ve said tonight matters little if we don’t come together to protect our most precious resource: our children. It has been two months since Newtown. I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different. Overwhelming majorities of Americans -- Americans who believe in the Second Amendment -- have come together around common-sense reform, like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun. Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because these police chiefs, they’re tired of seeing their guys and gals being outgunned.

Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. Now, if you want to vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun -- more than a thousand.

One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton. She was 15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette. She was so good to her friends they all thought they were her best friend. Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.

Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote. They deserve a vote. Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote.The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek and Tucson and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence –- they deserve a simple vote. They deserve a simple vote.

Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country. In fact, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all the challenges I’ve outlined tonight. But we were never sent here to be perfect. We were sent here to make what difference we can, to secure this nation, expand opportunity, uphold our ideals through the hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government.

We were sent here to look out for our fellow Americans the same way they look out for one another, every single day, usually without fanfare, all across this country. We should follow their example.

We should follow the example of a New York City nurse named Menchu Sanchez. When Hurricane Sandy plunged her hospital into darkness, she wasn’t thinking about how her own home was faring. Her mind was on the 20 precious newborns in her care and the rescue plan she devised that kept them all safe.

We should follow the example of a North Miami woman named Desiline Victor. When Desiline arrived at her polling place, she was told the wait to vote might be six hours. And as time ticked by, her concern was not with her tired body or aching feet, but whether folks like her would get to have their say. And hour after hour, a throng of people stayed in line to support her -- because Desiline is 102 years old. And they erupted in cheers when she finally put on a sticker that read, “I voted.

We should follow the example of a police officer named Brian Murphy. When a gunman opened fire on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and Brian was the first to arrive, he did not consider his own safety. He fought back until help arrived and ordered his fellow officers to protect the safety of the Americans worshiping inside, even as he lay bleeding from 12 bullet wounds. And when asked how he did that, Brian said, “That’s just the way we’re made.”

That’s just the way we’re made. We may do different jobs and wear different uniforms, and hold different views than the person beside us. But as Americans, we all share the same proud title -- we are citizens. It’s a word that doesn’t just describe our nationality or legal status. It describes the way we’re made. It describes what we believe. It captures the enduring idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations, that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter of our American story.

Thank you. God bless you, and God bless these United States of America.