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Highlights from Obama’s State of the Union address –with commentary

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The race for the presidential election began last night with the address before Congress by prospective candidate Barack Obama, billed by the White House as a State of the Union address. For those who could not, or perhaps chose, not to endure it, we present here selected highlights, with clarifying commentary in italics, as a public service. After all, it’s always a pleasure to hear the views of my good friend Sotero.

Amid all the noise and passion and rancor of our public debate, [the tragedy in] Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater - something more consequential than party or political preference. Which is why I mention it here, to score political points, and make it a part of politics rather than the actions of a crazed young man.

At stake right now is not who wins the next election - after all, we just had an election. And my butt still hurts from the kicking we got. At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country or somewhere else. Somewhere that will fund my next campaign, or pay for my retirement, or exile. It's whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded. Or taken by the government and given out like candy.

We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. After all, how far down could it go? The economy is growing again. As evidenced by the 9.4 percent unemployment rate, and the worst housing industry in 47 years.

Thanks to the tax cuts we passed, Americans' paychecks are a little bigger today. At least bigger than they would have been if I had my way and allowed George W. Bush’s tax cut to expire.

Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation. But because it's not always profitable for companies to invest in basic research, throughout our history, our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need. That's what planted the seeds for the Internet. And although the Internet only became a dominant force in our life when it was freed from the constraints of government, I’m going to ignore that since it does not fit my agenda. And besides, we’re trying to reign that sucker in again.

Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with … Sputnik, we had no idea how we would beat them to the moon. The science wasn't even there yet. NASA didn't exist. But …we didn't just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.

This is our generation's Sputnik moment. And in light of that, we have redirected NASA and defined its primary mission as an outreach program to the Muslim world, to take advantage of the great leaps they have made in science and technology.

[What] Americans have done for over 200 years [is reinvent] ourselves. And to spur on more success stories… we've begun to reinvent our energy policy. We're not just handing out money. Although if you’d gotten in line about a year and a half ago, we had bags of it ready.

With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. You know, those neat little things that elected officials can see from the safety of our limousines and SUVS?

We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I'm asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. Companies that pay three times more in taxes than they take in profits.

Maintaining our leadership in research and technology is crucial to America's success. But if we want to win the future - then we also have to win the race to educate our kids.

The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations. America has fallen to ninth in the proportion of young people with a college degree. All of this under the leadership of the Department of Education, and our partner, the teachers’ unions.

We need to teach our kids… that success is not a function of fame or PR but of hard work and discipline. The kind of hard work I exhibit on the golf course. The discipline I displayed in not conferring with members of my own cabinet for two years.

That's why we've ended the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that went to banks and used the savings to make college affordable for millions of students. These unwarranted charges by banks for services they performed in lending money to students are now paid in salaries to bureaucrats in Washington who can do the same job less efficiently and still allow us to control another sector of the economy.

Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail. For some trips, it will be faster than flying - without the pat-down. At least for now.

Because of a diplomatic effort to insist that Iran meet its obligations, the Iranian government now faces tougher sanctions, tighter sanctions than ever before. Sanctions that have prevented Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, or threatening Israel and peace in the Middle East.

We've reset our relationship with Russia, by allowing them to tell us how to defend ourselves, strengthened Asian alliances, by selling our future to the Chinese, built new partnerships with nations like India, by increasing our outsourcing of high technology jobs and manufacturing to them.

The United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia and supports the democratic aspirations of all people. Except Iranians.

Tonight, let us speak with one voice in reaffirming that our nation is united in support of our troops and their families. That’s why we’ve proposed a measly 1.5 percent raise, and asked them to pay for their own damn health care when they retire from service.

We may have differences in policy, but we all believe in the rights enshrined in our Constitution. We may have different backgrounds, but we believe in the same dream that says this is a country where anything is possible. No matter who you are. No matter where you come from. Whether it’s Honolulu or Mombasa. Or Seattle. Or Vancouver. Anywhere, or nowhere.

Thank you. God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America. He’d better, because I’m not done with it.

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