Optimistic Obama Stresses Unity, Progress in State of the Union Address

January 25, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015

U.S. President Barack Obama (C), flanked by Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), delivers his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Jan. 25 in Washington, DC. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais-Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama (C), flanked by Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), delivers his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Jan. 25 in Washington, DC. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais-Pool/Getty Images)
“The state of our union is strong,” President Barack Obama asserted near the conclusion of his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, speaking resolutely and ardently in his annual speech to Americans.

Despite a national unemployment rate hovering at 10 percent and skyrocketing debt, Obama rarely lingered on the country’s present-day struggles. Instead, he extensively outlined economic and debt-reduction goals, stressed education and innovation, urged national unity, and promised bipartisan cooperation with Republicans.

To kick-start a reduction of the national deficit, Obama proposed a freeze on domestic spending for five years, which he said would cut the deficit by “more than $400 billion over the next decade, and will bring discretionary spending to the lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was president.”

Calling the collective difficulties Americans face today “our generation’s Sputnik moment,” Obama envisioned a jobs and technology surge that mimics the “wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs” in the 1960s after the USSR beat the United States into space with the Sputnik 1 satellite.

“We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world,” Obama said, adding, “We are the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook. In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives. It’s how we make a living.”

Striking a conciliatory tone with the GOP, who made large gains, including overtaking control of the House in last November’s elections, Obama erred to a more moderate rhetoric compared to previous addresses, seemingly rebuffed by the midterm election’s referendum of his presidency.

While building a foundation for his 2012 re-election campaign, Obama faces a strengthened Republican Party that has objected vociferously to his deficit-cutting, health care reform, and other liberal plans.

But ultimately, Obama admitted, action had to come from a government that was “competent and efficient,” not a stagnant one “of the past.”

“So now is the time to act. Now is the time for both sides and both houses of Congress—Democrats and Republicans—to forge a principled compromise that gets the job done,” Obama said.