Brownsville Man Gets Convicted in Drug Smuggling Case in Corpus Christi

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Smuggler Sentenced to Federal Prison In Brownsville Stash House Case

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Mexican Citizen Sentenced in Smuggling Case That Resulted in Death

Mexican Man Gets 15 Years for Transporting Illegal Aliens Resulting in Death
McALLEN, Texas – Eduardo Moreno-Gonzalez, 22, a Mexican citizen illegally present in the U.S., has been ordered to federal prison following his conviction of transporting illegal aliens that resulted in the death of one of the aliens, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson. Moreno-Gonzalez pleaded guilty Oct. 3, 2014.
 
At time of this offense, Moreno-Gonzalez was on supervised release for a previous conviction in another alien-transporting case in which he was driving the vehicle and lost control, resulting in a rollover. Today, U.S. District Judge Randy Crane revoked that supervised release as part of his 180-month sentence in this case. He is expected to face deportation proceedings following his prison sentence. 
 
On April 2, 2014, Border Patrol (BP) agents observed a group of vehicles the agents suspected to be involved in illegal activity near San Isidro. Agents investigate further and observed the vehicles turn off onto a dirt and gravel road. When agents approached, they saw dust and dirt in the air and later saw taillights spinning in the dust. Upon arrival, they encountered Moreno-Gonzalez trapped under the vehicle he was driving, which had lost control and flipped. Moreno-Gonzalez was transporting 21 illegal aliens.  In the crash, one of the aliens was ejected from the vehicle and died as a result.
 
Moreno-Gonzalez has been in federal custody since his arrest where he will remain pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future. 
Homeland Security Investigations and BP investigated the case, which was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) Joseph Leonard and former AUSA Grady J. Leupold.

Prison Time for Man Who Rammed Border Patrol Vehicle

Local Man Heads to Prison for Ramming Border Patrol Vehicle while Transporting Marijuana
 
MCALLEN, Texas – A Rio Grande City man is now serving a significant sentence for possessing with the intent to distribute marijuana, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson today. Issac Medina, 29, of Rio Grande City, pleaded guilty June 26, 2014.
 
Today, U.S. District Judge Randy Cane sentenced Medina to 135 months of federal imprisonment to be immediately followed by a four-year-term of supervised release.
 
On March 14, 2014, Border Patrol (BP) agents observed Medina drive his vehicle down to the Rio Grande River where it was loaded with 34 large bundles that later tested positive for marijuana. Medina then headed north at a high rate of speed. A BP agent attempted to intercept the defendant and pulled onto a road where the agent observed Medina’s vehicle come to rest. Medina began to exit but then accelerated his vehicle forward striking the agent’s vehicle head-on. 
 
The agent, hearing Medina accelerating his engine, feared being pushed into the roadway and discharged his service weapon. At that time, Medina surrendered and was taken into custody.
 
Judge Crane enhanced Medina’s sentence for use of a deadly weapon (the motor vehicle), use of violence against the agent and acting in a manner creating substantial risk of serious bodily injury.
 
Medina has been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
 
The investigation was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, Border Patrol and the Pharr Police Department. 
 
Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) Steven Schammel and former AUSA Juan Villescas prosecuted the case.
 

Insurance Fraud Scheme Involved Federal Agent

Federal Agent Pleads Guilty in Insurance Fraud Scheme

McALLEN, Texas – Reynaldo Gonzalez, 38, has pleaded guilty to wire fraud, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson. Gonzalez is a deputy U.S. Marshal in San Antonio who was previously assigned to the Southern District of Texas. He is currently on administrative leave.

Gonzalez was charged in April 2014. He was set to begin trial next week, but opted to plead guilty today.

Gonzalez purchased an accident-only insurance plan from the American Family Life Assurance Company (Aflac) in May 2005. The plan is commonly known as supplemental insurance and is designed to mitigate expenses incurred by policyholders during injuries that are not otherwise covered by major medical insurance. 

As part of his plea, Gonzalez admitted that on or about March 24, 2009, he faxed a claim form containing false and fraudulent information to Aflac headquarters in Columbus, Ga., indicating he had been examined by a physician for ankle pain four days prior. To accomplish the fraud, Gonzalez used a physician’s signature and tax identification number without the physician’s knowledge or consent.

Gonzalez admitted that he was not, in fact, seen by this physician on that date. Further, the last time he was examined by this physician was actually in October 2007.

U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez, who accepted the plea today, has set sentencing for April 23, 2015, at which time he faces up to 20 years of federal imprisonment and a possible $250,000 maximum fine. He was permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI with assistance from the Office of the Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorneys Linda Requénez and Michael Day are prosecuting the case.

President Obama Talks Middle-Class Economics in Idaho

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

ON MIDDLE-CLASS ECONOMICS

Boise State University

Boise, Idaho

3:05 P.M. CST

     THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Boise State!  (Applause.)  Oh, it’s good to be back!  (Applause.)  Can everybody please give Camille a big round of applause for that introduction?  (Applause.)  I love young people who are doing science.  And I especially love seeing young women in sciences.  And so, a great job that Camille is doing.  (Applause.)     

A couple other people I want to mention.  Your Mayor, Mayor Bieter, is here.  (Applause.)  Where is he?  Where is he?  There he is.  Flew back with me on Air Force One.  (Applause.)  And he didn’t break anything.  (Laughter.)  It was amazing, though.  When we were coming back he was telling me the story about his grandfather, an immigrant from the Basque Region, coming here and how he would herd sheep.  And for five years, he would be up in the mountains and the hills, and then come down to town for like two months a year, and the rest of the time he was up there.  And I figured his dad was a pretty tough guy, because I’ll bet it gets kind of cold up in the hills.  (Laughter.) 

Another person I want to mention — this is somebody who I actually have known for a really long time.  He was the lieutenant governor in Illinois, now is your outstanding president here at Boise State — President Kustra.  Give him a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  There he is.  It’s good to see Illinoisans do something with their lives.  (Laughter.)  We’re proud of them. 

Thanks to all the Broncos for having me.  (Applause.)  And thanks for the balmy weather.  I thought it was going to be a little colder around here.  (Laughter.)

So, last night, I gave my State of the Union address.  (Applause.)  Today, I’m going to be shorter.  I won’t be too short, just a little shorter.  (Laughter.)  And I focused last night on what we can do, together, to make sure middle-class economics helps more Americans get ahead in the new economy.  And I said that I’d take these ideas across the country.  And I wanted my first stop to be right here in Boise, Idaho. (Applause.)

Now, there are a couple reasons for this.  The first is because, last year, Michelle and I got a very polite letter from a young girl named Bella Williams — who is here today.  Where’s Bella?  There she is right there.  Wave, Bella.  (Applause.)  Bella is 13 now, but she was 12 at the time.  So she wrote me a letter and she said, “I know what you’re thinking — Wow, what’s it like in Boise, Idaho?”  (Laughter.)  So she invited me to come visit.  And she also invited me to learn how to ski or snowboard with her.  (Applause.)  Now, as somebody who was born in Hawaii, where there’s not a lot of snow — let me put it this way — you do not want to see me ski.  (Laughter.)  Or at least the Secret Service does not want to see me ski.  (Laughter.)

But what I do know about Boise is that it’s beautiful.  I know that because I’ve been here before.  I campaigned here in 2008.  (Applause.)  It was really fun.  And the truth is, because of the incredible work that was done here in Idaho, it helped us win the primary.  And I might not be President if it weren’t for the good people of Idaho.  (Applause.)  Of course, in the general election I got whupped.  (Laughter.)  I got whupped twice, in fact.  But that’s okay — I’ve got no hard feelings.  (Laughter.)

In fact, that’s exactly why I’ve come back.  Because I ended my speech last night with something that I talked about in Boston just over a decade ago, and that is there is not a liberal America or a conservative America, but a United States of America.  (Applause.)

And today, I know it can seem like our politics are more divided than ever.  And in places like Idaho, the only “blue” turf is on your field.  (Applause.)  And the pundits in Washington hold up these divisions in our existing politics and they show, well, this is proof that any kind of hopeful politics, that’s just naïve.  But as I told you last night, I still believe what I said back then.  I still believe that, as Americans, we have more in common than not.  (Applause.)

I mean, we have an entire industry that’s designed to sort us out.  Our media is all segmented now so that instead of just watching three stations, we got 600.  And everything is market-segmented, and you got the conservative station and the liberal stations.  So everybody is only listening to what they already agree with.  And then you’ve got political gerrymandering that sorts things out so that every district is either one thing or the other.  And so there are a lot of institutional forces that make it seem like we have nothing in common.

But one of the great things about being President is you travel all across the country and I’ve seen too much of the good and generous and big-hearted optimism of people, young and old — folks like Bella.  I’ve seen how deep down there’s just a core decency and desire to make progress together among the American people.  (Applause.)  That’s what I believe.

So I’ve got two years left and I am not going to stop trying — trying to make our politics work better.  That’s what you deserve.  That’s how we move the country forward.  (Applause.)   And, Idaho, we’ve got big things to do together.  I may be in the fourth quarter of my presidency, but here, at the home of the team with the most famous “Statue of Liberty” play in history — (applause) — I don’t need to remind you that big things happen late in the fourth quarter.  (Applause.)

So here’s where we’re starting in 2015.  Our economy is growing.  Our businesses are creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999.  Our deficits have been cut by two-thirds.  Our energy production is booming.  Our troops are coming home.  (Applause.)  We have risen from recession better positioned, freer to write our own future than any other country on Earth.

But as I said last night, now we’ve got to choose what future we want.  Are we going to accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  Or can we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and opportunities for everybody who’s willing to try hard?  (Applause.)

For six years, we’ve been working to rebuild our economy on a new foundation.  And what I want people to know is, thanks to your hard work and your resilience, America is coming back.  And you’ll recall, when we were in the midst of the recession, right after I came into office, there was some arguments about the steps we were taking.  There were questions about whether we were doing the right thing.  But we believed we could reverse the tide of outsourcing, and draw new jobs back to America.  And over the past five years, our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs.  (Applause.)

We believed that with smart energy policies, we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet.  Today, America is number one in oil production and gas production and wind production.  (Applause.)  And every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008.  (Applause.) And meanwhile, thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the average family this year should save about 750 bucks at the pump.  (Applause.) 

We believed we could do better when it came to educating our kids for a 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 young people like folks right here at Boise State are finishing college than ever before.  (Applause.) 

We figured sensible regulations could encourage fair competition and shield families from ruin, and prevent the kind of crises that we saw in 2007, 2008.  And today, we have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts.  And in the past year alone, about 10 million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage, including right here in Idaho.  (Applause.) 

Now, sometimes you’d think folks have short memories, because at every step of the way, we were told that these goals were too misguided, or they were too ambitious, or they’d crush jobs, or they’d explode deficits, or they’d destroy the economy. You remember those, right?  Every step we took, this is going to be terrible.  And instead, we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade.  And we’ve seen the deficits, as I said, go down by two-thirds.  And people’s 401[k]s are stronger now because the stock market has doubled.  And health care inflation is at the lowest rate in 50 years.  (Applause.)  Lowest rate in 50 years.

Here in Boise, your unemployment rate has fallen below 4 percent — and that’s almost two-thirds from its peak five years ago.  (Applause.)

So the verdict is clear.  The ruling on the field stands.  (Laughter.)  Middle-class economics works.  Expanding opportunity works.  These policies will keep on working, as long as politics in Washington doesn’t get in the way of our progress.  (Applause.)  We can’t suddenly put the security of families back at risk by taking away their health insurance.  We can’t risk another meltdown on Wall Street by unraveling the new rules on Wall Street.  I’m going to stand between working families and any attempt to roll back that progress.  (Applause.) 

Because today, thanks to a growing economy, the recovery is touching more and more lives.  Wages are finally starting to go up.  More small business owners plan to raise their employees’ pay than at any time since 2007.  So we need to keep on going. Let’s do more to restore the link between hard work and opportunity for every single American.  (Applause.)  That’s our job.  That’s our job.  Let’s make sure all our people have the tools and the support that they need to go as far as their dreams and their effort will take them.

That’s what middle-class economics is — the idea that this country does best when everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody is doing their fair share, and everybody is playing by the same set of rules.  We don’t want to just make sure that everybody shares in America’s success — we actually think that everybody can contribute to America’s success.  (Applause.)  And when everybody is participating and given a shot, there’s nothing we cannot do.  (Applause.)

So here’s what middle-class economics requires in this new economy.  Number one, it means helping working families feel more secure in a constantly changing economy.  It means helping folks afford child care, and college, and paid leave at work, and health care, and retirement.  (Applause.)  And I’m sending Congress a plan that’s going to help families with all of these issues — lowering the taxes of working families, putting thousands of dollars back into your pockets each year.  (Applause.)  Giving you some help.

Number two, middle-class economics means that we’re going to make sure that folks keep earning higher wages down the road, and that means we’ve got to do more to help Americans upgrade their skills.  And that’s what all of you are doing right here at Boise State.  You heard Camille’s story — she’s a Mechanical Engineering major.  She’s a great example of why we’re encouraging more women and more minorities to study in high-paying fields that traditionally they haven’t always participated in — in math and science and engineering and technology.  (Applause.)  Camille has done research for NASA.  She’s gotten real job experience with industry partners.  She’s the leader of your Microgravity Team.  And, by the way, she’s a sophomore.  (Applause.)  So by the time she’s done — she might invent time travel by the time she’s done here at Boise.  (Laughter.)

But the point is, I want every American to have the kinds of chances that Camille has.  Because when we’ve got everybody on the field, that’s when you win games.  I mean, think about if we had as many young girls focused and aspiring to be scientists and astronauts and engineers.  That’s a whole slew of talent that we want to make sure is on the field.  (Applause.)

So we’ve been working to help more young people have access to and afford college, with grants and loans that go farther than before.  And when I came into office, we took action to help millions of students cap payments on their loans at 10 percent of their income — (applause) — so that they could afford to, let’s say, take a research job after graduation and not be overburdened by debt.  That’s why I want to work with Congress to make sure every student already burdened with loans can reduce your monthly payments by refinancing.  (Applause.)

But there are a lot of Americans who don’t always have the opportunity to study someplace like Boise State.  They need something that’s local; they need something that’s more flexible. You’ve got older workers looking for a better job.  Or you got veterans coming back and trying to figure out how they can get into the civilian workforce.  You got parents who are trying to transition back into the job market, but they’ve got to work and pay the rent and look after their kids, but they still want to make something of themselves.  So they can’t always go full-time at a four-year institution.  And that’s why I’m sending Congress a bold, new plan to lower the cost of community college to zero. (Applause.)  To zero.

The idea is, in the new economy, we need to make two years of college as free and as universal in America as high school is today.  Because that was part of our huge advantage back in the 20th century.  We were the first out of the gate to democratize education and put in place public high schools.  And so our workforce was better educated than any other country in the world.  The thing is, other countries caught up.  They figured it out.  They looked at America and said, why is America being so successful?  Their workers are better educated.  We were on the cutting-edge then; now we’ve got to be pushing the boundaries for the 21st century.

And just like we pick up a tool to build something new, we can pick up a skill to do something new.  And that’s something that you’re doing right here at Boise.  Every year, you sponsor HackFort — (applause) — which is, for those of you who are not aware, this is a tech festival that brings the community together to share knowledge and new skills with one another.  And I know we’ve got some folks from some of Boise’s dozen or so tech “meetups” here today.

Here at Boise State innovation is a culture that you’re building.  And you’re also partnering with companies to do two things — you help students graduate with skills that employers are looking for, and you help employees pick up the skills they need to advance on the job.  So you’re working together.  And you’re seeing progress, and it’s contributing to the economic development of the city and the state, as well as being good for the students.

And that’s why my administration is connecting community colleges with local employers to train workers to fill high-paying jobs like coding, or robotics, as well as traditional fields like nursing.  And today, we’re partnering with business across the country to “Upskill America” — to help workers of all ages earn a shot at better, higher-paying jobs, even if they don’t have a higher education.  We want to recruit more companies to help provide apprenticeships and other pathways so that people can upgrade their skills.  We’re all going to have to do that in this new economy.  But it’s hard to do it on your own, especially if you’re already working and supporting a family.

Now, as we better train our workers, we need the new economy to keep churning out high-wage jobs for those workers to fill.  And that’s why the third part of middle-class economics is about building the most competitive economy in the world.  We want good jobs being created right here in the United States of America, not someplace else.  (Applause.)

And we’ve got everything it takes to do it.  Just to go back to Bella’s question — “Wow, what’s it like in Boise, Idaho”  — well, one of the answers is, you’re the cutting-edge of innovation.

I had a chance to tour your New Product Development lab, and I’ve got to say this was not the stuff I was doing in college.  (Laughter.)  So one group was showing me how they 3D-printed a custom handle that a local student with developmental disabilities could access his locker independently, without anybody’s help.  (Applause.)  But this whole 3D-printing concept was creating prototypes, so that if you have a good idea you don’t have to have a huge amount of money.  You can come and students and faculty are going to work with you to develop a prototype that you may then be able to sell as a product at much lower cost.

Another group is working with a local company, Rekluse, to manufacture parts for high-performance motorcycles.  Now, that excites Vice President Biden.  (Laughter.  I might bring him with me the next time I come to Boise.  (Applause.)  Some of your faculty and students are working with next-generation materials like graphene, which is a material that’s thinner than paper and stronger than steel.  It’s amazing.

And the work you do here is one of the reasons why Boise is one of our top cities for tech startups.  (Applause.)  And that means we shouldn’t just be celebrating your work, we should be investing in it.  We should make sure our businesses have everything they need to innovate, expand in this 21st century economy.

The research dollars that leads to new inventions.  The manufacturers who can make those inventions here in America.  The best infrastructure to ship products, and the chance to sell those products in growing markets overseas.  A free and open Internet that reaches every classroom, and every community — (applause) — so this young generation of innovators and entrepreneurs can keep on remaking our world.

Now, those of you who were watching last night know that I made these arguments before Congress.  Most of these are ideas that traditionally were bipartisan.  I was talking to Bob.  Bob was a Republican lieutenant governor, but I’m not sure he’d survive now in a primary.  (Laughter.)  But the ideas I just talked about, those are things that traditionally all of us could agree to.  I mean, after all, the state we come from, Illinois, that’s the “land of Lincoln,” and Lincoln was the first Republican President.  And he started land-grant colleges, and he built railroads and invested in the National Science Foundation. And he understood that this is what it takes for us to grow together.

But watching last night, some of you may have noticed, Republicans were not applauding for many of these ideas. (Laughter.)  They were kind of quiet.  But when it comes to issues like infrastructure and research, I think when you talk to them privately, when they’re not on camera — (laughter) — they generally agree that it’s important.  Educating our young people, creating good jobs, being competitive, those things shouldn’t be controversial.  But where too often we run onto the rocks, where the debate starts getting difficult, is how do we pay for these investments.  Because it requires dollars.  The labs here and the infrastructure that we need, those things don’t just pop up for free.

And the private sector, which is the heartbeat of our economy, it doesn’t build roads; it doesn’t create ports; it doesn’t lay down all the Internet lines — or the broadband lines that are required to reach remote communities.  So we have to make some investments; we’ve got to figure out how to pay for it.

And as Americans, we don’t mind paying our fair share of taxes, as long as everybody else does.  (Applause.)  Where we get frustrated is when we know that lobbyists have rigged the tax code with loopholes, so you’ve got some corporations paying nothing while others are paying full freight.  You’ve got the super rich getting giveaways they don’t need, and middle-class families not getting the breaks that they do need.  (Applause.)

So what I said last night to Congress is we need to make these investments, we need to help families, we need to build middle-class economics.  And here’s how we can pay for it.  Let’s close those loopholes.  Let’s stop rewarding companies that keep profits abroad; let’s reward companies that are investing here in America.  (Applause.)

Let’s close the loopholes that let the top 1 or .1 or .01 percent avoid paying certain taxes, and use that money to help more Americans pay for college and child care.  The idea is, let’s have a tax code that truly helps working Americans, the vast majority of Americans, get a leg up in the new economy.  (Applause.)

That’s what I believe in.  That’s what I believe in.  I believe in helping hardworking families make ends meet.  And I believe in giving all of us the tools we need so that if we work hard we can get good-paying jobs in this new economy.  And I believe in making sure that our businesses are strong and competitive and making the investments that are required.

That’s where America needs to go.  And I believe that’s where Americans want America to go.  (Applause.)  And if we do these things, it will make our economy stronger — not just a year from now, or 10 years from now, but deep into the next century.

Now, I know there are Republicans who disagree with my approach.  I could see that from their body language yesterday.  (Laughter.)  And if they do disagree with me, then I look forward to hearing from them how they want to pay for things like R&D and infrastructure that we need to grow.  (Applause.)  They should put forward some alternative proposals.

I want to hear specifically from them how they intend to help kids pay for college.  (Applause.)  It is perfectly fair for them to say, we’ve got a better way of meeting these national priorities.  But if they do, then they’ve got to show us what those ideas are.  (Applause.)  And what you can’t do is just pretend that things like child care or student debt or infrastructure or basic research are not important.  And you can’t pretend there’s nothing we can do to help middle-class families get ahead.  There’s a lot we can do.  (Applause.)

Some of the commentators last night said, well, that was a pretty good speech, but none of this can pass this Congress.  But my job is to put forward what I think is best for America.  The job of Congress, then, is to put forward alternative ideas, but they’ve got to be specific.  They can’t just be, no.  (Laughter and applause.)  I’m happy to start a conversation.  Tell me how we’re going to do the things that need to be done.  Tell me how we get to yes.  (Applause.)

I want to get to yes on more young people being able to afford college.  I want to get to yes on more research and development funding.  I want to get to yes for first-class infrastructure to help our businesses succeed.  I want to get to yes!  (Applause.)  But you’ve got to tell me, work with me here. (Applause.)  Work with me!  Come on!  Don’t just say no!  (Applause.)  You can’t just say no.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Si, se puede!

THE PRESIDENT:  Si, se puede!  Yes, we can!  (Applause.)

Look, we may disagree on politics sometimes.  Not “may” — often.  All the time disagree.  That’s the nature of a democracy But we don’t have to be divided as a people.  We’re on the same team.  (Applause.)  When the football team divides up into offense and defense, they probably go at it pretty hard during practice, but they understand, well, we’re part of the same team. We’re supposed to be rooting for each other.  If a quarterback controversy arises and there’s a competition, I’m going to be fighting real hard to get that starting spot.  But if I don’t get it, I’m going to be rooting for the team.  (Applause.)

Whoever we are — whether we are Republican, or Democrat, or independent, or young or old, or black, white, gay, straight —  we all share a common vision for our future.  (Applause.)  We want a better country for your generation, and for your kids’ generation.  And I want this country to be one that shows the world what we still know to be true — that we are not just a collection of red states and blue states; we are still the United States of America.  (Applause.)  That’s what we’re fighting for. That’s what we’re pushing for.

And if you agree with me, then join me, and let’s get to work.  We’ve got a lot of stuff to do in this new century.

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

State of the Union Address by President Obama

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

_________________________________________________________________

For Immediate Release                            January 20, 2015

REMARKS BY THE PRESDIENT

IN STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS

U.S. Capitol

Washington, D.C.

9:10 P.M. EST

     THE PRESIDENT:  Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:

     We are 15 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.)  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.)  And 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.  (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.  (Applause.)  We are humbled and grateful for your service.

     America, for all that we have 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, 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 15 years and for decades to come.

     Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?  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.  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.  (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 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 and 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.  They represent the millions who have worked hard and scrimped, and sacrificed and retooled.  You are the reason that I ran for this office.  You are 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 has been your resilience, your effort 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.)

     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.  (Applause.)  And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save about $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.)

     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 10 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 two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health care inflation at its lowest rate in 50 years.  (Applause.)  This is good news, people.  (Laughter and 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 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 have earned 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 screw things up; that government doesn’t 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.)

     Because families like Rebekah’s still need our help.  She and Ben are working as hard as ever, but they’ve had to forego vacations and a new car so that they can pay off student loans and save for retirement.  Friday night pizza, that’s 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.  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.

     And 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, 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 and their dreams 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.)  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 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.  So it’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or as a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us.  (Applause.)  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 are the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers.  Forty-three 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 November, let’s put it to a vote right here in Washington.  (Applause.)  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.  (Laughter.)  It’s time.  We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they’ve earned.  (Applause.)  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, try it.  If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.  (Applause.)

     Now, 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.  (Applause.)

But you know, things like childcare 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’s 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 of GIs to college, trained the best workforce in the world.  We were ahead of the curve.  But other countries caught on.  And 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’m sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college — to zero.  (Applause.)   

     Keep in mind 40 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.)  Let’s stay ahead of the curve.  (Applause.)  And I want to work with this Congress to make sure those 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 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.  And Joining Forces, the national campaign launched by Michelle and Jill Biden — (applause) — thank you, Michelle; thank you, Jill — has helped nearly 700,000 veterans and military spouses get a new job.  (Applause.)  So to every CEO in America, let me repeat:  If you want somebody who’s going to get the job done and done right, hire a veteran.  (Applause.)

     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 10 or 20 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.  We know that.  (Applause.)  And that’s why the third part of middle-class economics is all about building the most competitive economy anywhere, the place where businesses want to locate and hire.

Twenty-first century businesses need 21st century infrastructure — modern ports, and 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 30 times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come.  (Applause.)  Let’s do it.  Let’s get it done.  Let’s get it done.  (Applause.)

     Twenty-first 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 our 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 are also fair.  It’s the right thing to do.  (Applause.)

     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 percent of the world’s customers live outside our borders.  We can’t close ourselves off from those opportunities.  More than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking to bring jobs back from China.  So let’s give them one more reason to get it done.

     Twenty-first 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.)

In some patients with cystic fibrosis, this approach has reversed a disease once thought unstoppable.  So 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.  We can do this.  (Applause.)

     I intend to protect a free and open Internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community — (applause) — 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 kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs — converting sunlight into liquid fuel; creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a veteran who gave his arms for his country can play catch with his kids again.  (Applause.)  Pushing out into the solar system not just to visit, but to stay.  Last month, we launched a new spacecraft as part of a reenergized space program that will send American astronauts to Mars.  And in two months, to prepare us for those missions, Scott Kelly will begin a year-long stay in space.  So good luck, Captain.  Make sure to Instagram it.  We’re proud of you.  (Applause.)

     Now, the truth is, when it comes to issues like infrastructure and basic research, I know there’s bipartisan support in this chamber.  Members of both parties have told me so.  Where we too often run onto the rocks is how to pay for these investments.  As Americans, we don’t mind paying our fair share of taxes as long as everybody else does, too.  But for far too long, lobbyists have rigged the tax code with loopholes that let some corporations pay nothing while others pay full freight.  They’ve riddled it with giveaways that the super-rich don’t need, while denying a break to middle-class families who do.

     This year, we have an opportunity to change that.  Let’s close loopholes so we stop rewarding companies that keep profits abroad, and reward those that invest here in America.  (Applause.)  Let’s use those savings to rebuild our infrastructure and to make it more attractive for companies to bring jobs home.  Let’s simplify the system and let a small business owner file based on her actual bank statement, instead of the number of accountants she can afford.  (Applause.)  And let’s close the loopholes that lead to inequality by allowing the top one percent to avoid paying taxes on their accumulated wealth.  We can use that money to help more families pay for childcare and send their kids to college.  We need a tax code that truly helps working Americans trying to get a leg up in the new economy, and we can achieve that together.  (Applause.)  We can achieve it together.

     Helping hardworking families make ends meet.  Giving them the tools they need for good-paying jobs in this new economy.  Maintaining the conditions of 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 here 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 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 have been targeted by terrorists — from a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris.  (Applause.)  We will continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their networks, and we reserve the right to act unilaterally, as we have 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 13 years.  Instead of Americans patrolling the valleys of Afghanistan, we’ve trained their security forces, who have 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 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.

     Now, 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’re demonstrating the power of American strength and diplomacy.  We’re upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small — by opposing Russian 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 with frontline states, Mr. Putin’s aggression it was suggested was a masterful display of strategy and strength.  That’s what I heard from some folks.  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.)

In Cuba, we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date.  (Applause.)  When what you’re doing doesn’t work for 50 years, it’s time to try something new.  (Applause.)  And our shift in Cuba policy has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere.  It removes a phony excuse for restrictions in Cuba.  It 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 of “small steps.”  These small steps have added up to new hope for the future in Cuba.  And after years in prison, we are overjoyed that Alan Gross is back where he belongs.  Welcome home, Alan.  We’re glad you’re 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, 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.  And that’s why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress.  (Applause.)  The American people expect us only to 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 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.)  So we’re 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 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, our health care workers are rolling back Ebola — saving countless lives and stopping the spread of disease.  (Applause.)  I could not 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 disputes, 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.  But you know what, I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and at NOAA, and at our major universities.  And the best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we don’t 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 and 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.)

     And that’s why, over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever 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.  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 that American leadership drives international action.  (Applause.)

     In Beijing, we made a 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.

     And there’s one last pillar of our leadership, and that’s the example of our values.

     As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I have 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.  (Applause.)  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 are the right thing to do, but because ultimately they will make us safer.  (Applause.)

     As Americans, we have a profound commitment to justice.  So it makes no sense to spend $3 million 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 is time to finish the job.  And I will not relent in my determination to shut it down.  It is not who we are.  It’s 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 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.  That’s why we have to keep striving to hold ourselves to the highest of standards — our own.

     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, 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 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, naïve, 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.)

I believe this because over and over in my six years in office, I have seen America at its best.  I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates from New York to California, and our newest officers at West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs, New London.  I’ve mourned with grieving families in Tucson and Newtown, in Boston, in West Texas, and West Virginia.  I’ve watched Americans beat back adversity from the Gulf Coast to the Great Plains, from Midwest assembly lines to the Mid-Atlantic seaboard.  I’ve seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in 10 Americans call home.  (Applause.)

     So I know the good, and optimistic, and big-hearted generosity of the American people who every day live the idea that we are our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper.  And I know they expect those of us who serve here to set a better example.

     So the question for those of us here tonight is how we, all of us, can better reflect America’s hopes.  I’ve served in Congress with many of you.  I know many of you well.  There are a lot of good people here, on both sides of the aisle.  And many of you have told me that this isn’t what you signed up for — arguing past each other on cable shows, the constant fundraising, always looking over your shoulder at how the base will react to every decision.

     Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns.  Imagine if we did something different.  Understand, a better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine.  A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears.  A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues and values, and principles and facts, rather than “gotcha” moments, or trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives.  (Applause.)

     A politics — a better politics is one where we spend less time drowning in dark money for ads that pull us into the gutter, and spend more time lifting young people up with a sense of purpose and possibility, asking them to join in the great mission of building America.

     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.  We still may not agree on a woman’s right to choose, but surely we can agree it’s a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows, and that every woman should have access to the health care that she needs.  (Applause.)

     Yes, passions still fly on immigration, but surely we can all see something of ourselves in the striving young student, and agree that no one benefits when a hardworking mom is snatched from her child, and that it’s possible to shape a law that upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.  I’ve talked to Republicans and Democrats about that.  That’s something that we can share.

     We may go at it in campaign season, but surely we can agree that the right to vote is sacred; that it’s being denied to too many — (applause) — and that on this 50th anniversary of the great march from Selma to Montgomery and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we can come together, Democrats and Republicans, to make voting easier for every single American.  (Applause.)

     We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York.  But surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed.  And surely we can understand the wife who won’t rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift.  (Applause.)  And surely we can agree that it’s a good thing that for the first time in 40 years, the crime rate and the incarceration rate have come down together, and use that as a starting point for Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law enforcement, to reform America’s criminal justice system so that it protects and serves all of us.  (Applause.)

     That’s a better politics.  That’s how we start rebuilding trust.  That’s how we move this country forward.  That’s what the American people want.  And that’s what they deserve.

     I have no more campaigns to run.  (Applause.)  My only agenda — (laughter) — I know because I won both of them.  (Applause.)  My only agenda for the next two years is the same as the one I’ve had since the day I swore an oath on the steps of this Capitol — to do what I believe is best for America.  If you share the broad vision I outlined tonight, I ask you to join me in the work at hand.  If you disagree with parts of it, I hope you’ll at least work with me where you do agree.  And I commit to every Republican here tonight that I will not only seek out your ideas, I will seek to work with you to make this country stronger.  (Applause.)

     Because I want this chamber, I want this city to reflect the truth — that for all our blind spots and shortcomings, we are a people with the strength and generosity of spirit to bridge divides, to unite in common effort, to help our neighbors, whether down the street or on the other side of the world.

     I want our actions to tell every child in every neighborhood, your life matters, and we are committed to improving your life chances as committed as we are to working on behalf of our own kids.  (Applause.)  I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we’re a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen — man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino, Asian, immigrant, Native American, gay, straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability.  Everybody matters.  I want them to grow up in a country that shows the world what we still know to be true:  that we are still more than a collection of red states and blue states; that we are the United States of America.  (Applause.)

     I want them to grow up in a country where a young mom can sit down and write a letter to her President with a story that sums up these past six years:  “It’s amazing what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who’s made it through some very, very hard times.”

     My fellow Americans, we, too, are a strong, tight-knit family.  We, too, have made it through some hard times.  Fifteen years into this new century, we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and begun again the work of remaking America.  We have laid a new foundation.  A brighter future is ours to write.  Let’s begin this new chapter together — and let’s start the work right now.  (Applause.)

     Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless this country we love.  Thank you.  (Applause.)