WASHINGTON (BP) — The United States is “getting stronger,” President Obama declared Tuesday in the final State of the Union speech of his first, and possibly only, term.
The president’s annual address to a joint session of Congress and a national television audience provided a litany of policy proposals, many regarding the economy, but social and moral issues were largely absent. He did not address abortion funding, marriage or religious liberty — all issues on which social conservatives view his administration as a grievous failure.
It was a speech many even in the news media saw as an effort to gain momentum in his bid for re-election in November.
In the Republican response to Obama, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels also stayed away from moral and social issues.
Daniels, who called for preserving the “safety net” by repairing Medicare and Social Security, disagreed with the president’s assessment of the country’s condition.
“[W]hen President Obama claims that the state of our union is anything but grave, he must know in his heart that this is not true,” Daniels said.
Much as he had done last year, Obama called for unity in the cause of strengthening America.
“This nation is great because we get each other’s backs,” he said at the close of his 66-minute speech. “And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great, no mission too hard.”
Obama spoke about reclaiming “American values,” but a pro-family leader said afterward the president failed “to mention the very core of American values — the family.”
“The family is the economic engine that drives the country,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, in a written statement. “The President’s agenda does not reflect the values of faith, family and freedom. It is not an ‘American value’ to force Americans to pay for the aborting of unborn children. It is not an ‘American value’ to trample on religious freedom by forcing all insurance plans to carry abortifacient drugs and contraceptives even if employers are morally opposed.”
Obama’s call for every state to mandate all students remain in school until they graduate or turn 18 met resistance from a leading home schooling organization.
The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) expressed shock at the proposal. HSLDA President Michael Smith said the organization “has consistently protected homeschool families from the harmful effects of compulsory attendance education in their states, reinforcing the parental right to choose the method and duration of education most fitting to the individual needs and gifts of their children.”
The president addressed his administration’s continued effort to expand civil rights for homosexuals only in the context of the military. When calling for unity, he said of the armed services, “When you put on that uniform, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, Asian, Latino, Native American, conservative, liberal, rich, poor, gay, straight.”
One of the guests sitting with First Lady Michelle Obama was Air Force Col. Ginger Wallace, a lesbian. Wallace’s partner, Kathy Kopf, attended her promotion ceremony in December and participated in the “pinning on” of her rank, according to the White House. It was the first such ceremony reported after the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a law that prohibited open homosexuality in the military.
The president presented a “blueprint for an economy that’s built to last.” In it, he called for restoring American manufacturing, including by providing tax cuts for corporations that stay in the United States.
He urged development of new energy, proposing the end of “taxpayer giveaways” for oil companies while calling for the country to “double-down” on clean energy. He acknowledged, however, that Congress is probably unable to pass comprehensive climate-change legislation.
He requested tax reform that would mean those who make $1 million a year would pay at lest 30 percent in taxes.
Obama again called for comprehensive immigration reform. Appearing to admit that was unlikely, he urged Congress to pass a bill that would make citizenship possible for those who came to this country as children of illegal immigrants.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.