U.S. President Barack Obama, in his second-to-last State of the Union address, declares the nation is strong. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: U.S. President Barack Obama opened his State of the Union speech on Tuesday (January 20) with an optimistic message for Americans. "We are fifteen 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," Obama said. The President said the economy is growing, the unemployment rate is lower than it was before the financial crisis and the combat mission in Afghanistan is over. "America, for all that we've 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," he said. The President is using his annual address to challenge a skeptical Republican-led Congress to back tax increases on the wealthy to help lift up middle-class Americans in a State of the Union speech that outlines his vision for his last two years in office. Obama was expected to say it is time to convert a recent surge in the U.S. economy into improvements for the middle class, many of whom are still experiencing hard times and propose tax increases of $320 billion over the next 10 years to pay for expanded tax credits and educational benefits for the middle class. The idea of raising the top capital gains and dividends tax rate to 28 percent from 23.8 percent is popular with Democrats who are looking beyond Obama's tenure to the 2016 elections. But it seems dead on arrival with Republicans who control both houses of Congress since their big election wins in November. For Obama, seeking to burnish his legacy with two years left in office, the speech is his best opportunity of the year to talk to millions of Americans watching on television about the improved economy six years into his tenure, which began with the Democrat facing a crippling financial crisis. The White House has taken some of the suspense away from the speech this year, sending Obama on the road during the past two weeks to roll out themes he plans to highlight, like the need to beef up cybersecurity and invest in infrastructure. Obama will travel to Idaho and Kansas this week to continue to promote his ideas.