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Gun control, jobs, terror... Signs of Obama's new agenda

Last updated on: February 13, 2013 12:22 IST

Gun control, jobs, terror... Signs of Obama's new agenda

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President Barack Obama on Tuesday staked his second term political capital on an ambitious bid to strengthen America at home by reigniting its economic engine, cutting gun murders and fixing immigration.

Here are highlights of Obama's first State of the Union Address of his second term:

Grasping for a note of optimism in still grim economic times, Obama recalled how in his first term, America had rebounded from the worst economic crisis in generations, before delivering a speech packed with policy initiatives.

"Together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is stronger," Obama said

Obama said America's key task was working to stabilise its budget, and said looming automatic spending cuts due to hit in March which could throw the economy into chaos and increase unemployment were "a really bad idea."

"A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs - that must be the North Star that guides our efforts. It is our generation's task, then, to reignite the true engine of America's economic growth -- a rising, thriving middle class."

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Image: US President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), delivers his State of the Union speech before a joint session of Congress at the US Capitol
Photographs: Charles Dharapak-Pool/Getty Images

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Warning for North Korea and Iran

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On Iran and North Korea

Obama warned both North Korea and Iran to meet the international obligations regarding their controversial nuclear programme or else face isolation and action.

Obama termed the nuclear explosion of North Korea as "provocative" and vowed to take "firm action" against Pyongyang.

"The regime in North Korea must know that they will only achieve security and prosperity by meeting their international obligations. Provocations of the sort we saw last night will only isolate them further, as we stand by our allies, strengthen our own missile defence, and lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats," he said.

He also told Iranian leaders it was time to end the standoff over Tehran's nuclear programme, saying the diplomatic option for Islamic republic is still open.

"The leaders of Iran must recognise 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," he said.

"At the same time, we will 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," Obama said.

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Photographs: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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America's challenges don't end with Al Qaeda

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On war against terrorism

Obama said the US under him would help countries to fight terrorism, and would join its allies in eradication of global poverty.

"Today the organisation that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self. 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," he said.

"Instead, we will need to help countries like Yemen, 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," he said in his address.

Noting that America's challenges don't end with Al Qaeda, Obama said America will continue to lead the effort to prevent the spread of the world's most dangerous weapons.

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Photographs: Charles Dharapak-Pool/Getty Images

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'America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom'

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On US being a beacon of freedom

The US, Obama said, will join with its allies to eradicate extreme poverty in the next two decades: by connecting more people to the global economy and empowering women; by giving young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve and helping communities to feed, power, and educate themselves.

"Above all, 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 -- 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'," he said.

In defence of freedom, the US will remain the anchor of strong alliances from the Americas to Africa; from Europe to Asia, he said.

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Image: Flanked by US Vice President Joe Biden (Left) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) (Right), Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech
Photographs: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

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'We will support stable transitions to democracy'

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On Middle East crisis

"In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy. 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," he said.

"We will 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 will deliver when I travel to the Middle East next month," said Obama, who would be travelling to the region next month.

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Photographs: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

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'By the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over'

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On US withdrawal from Afghanistan

Obama announced the withdrawal 34,000 American troops from war-torn Afghanistan in the next one year and showed confidence of ending a decade long war by the end of 2014.

"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," Obama said.

"This drawdown will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over," he said.

Beyond 2014, America's commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of its commitment will change, Obama said.

"We are 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 counter-terrorism efforts that allow us to pursue the remnants of Al Qaeda and their affiliates," he said.

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Photographs: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

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'Real reform means strong border security'

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On immigration reform

Obama advocated a "comprehensive immigration" reform by establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship; and by developing a system to attract the best talent of the world to the US.

"Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants. And right now, leaders from the business, labour, law enforcement, and faith communities all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform,"

Real immigration reform, he said means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods, reduce bureaucracy, and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow the American economy.

"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," he said.

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Photographs: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Tags: , Obama , US , American

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Threat from the cyber-attack has been growing rapidly

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On cyber threats

Obama announced that he had signed an executive order and adopted a slew of measures to protect America's critical infrastructure from cyber threats from foreign countries, hackers and other enemies.

Obama said that threat from the cyber-attack has been growing rapidly.

"Our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, and 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," he said.

Obama announced that he signed a new executive order that will strengthen the country's cyber defences by increasing information sharing, and developing standards to protect its national security, jobs, and privacy.

"Now, Congress must act as well, by passing legislation to give our government a greater capacity to secure our networks and deter attacks," he said.

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Photographs: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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Time for commonsense reform of gun laws

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On gun control

Obama emphasised the need for more background checks for gun buyers in his State of the Union address, saying that overwhelming majorities of Americans favor the proposal as a way to keep firearms from criminals.

"This time it's different," Obama said over the debate about gun control.

Imploring Congress to tighten the country's gun laws, Obama said: "In this chamber tonight, there are more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote."

"Overwhelming majorities of Americans -- Americans who believe in the 2nd Amendment -- have come together around commonsense reform -- like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun," Obama said.

"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 they are tired of being outgunned," he said.

"Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. 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, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun," he said.

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Image: A relative wipes away a tear as she holds up a picture of gun violence victim Justin Murray during US President Barack Obama's discussion of gun control legislation
Photographs: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
Tags: Obama , Congress

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'We should follow the example of a police officer named Brian Murphy'

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Remembering the Winsconsin Gurdwara shootout

Obama remembered the victims of several tragic shootouts in the country including that of Oak Tree Gurudwara, seeking tougher gun control laws to prevent such incidents.

First Lady Michelle had invited police officer Brian Murphy, the hero of the Oak Tree shootout where six Sikh worshippers were killed, for Obama's first State of the Union Address in his second innings at the White House.

"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 twelve bullet wounds," Obama said.

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Photographs: Jason Reed/Reuters

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'We will ensure equal treatment for all'

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On same-sex rights

Obama continued his trend of including references to LGBT people in his State of the Union address.

Early in the one-hour speech, he told Congress and the national television audience, "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, what you look like, or who you love."

Later, in talking about the military, he said, "We will ensure equal treatment for all service members, and equal benefits for their families -- gay and straight."


Photographs: Jason Reed/Reuters
Tags: LGBT , Congress , Obama

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