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Obama focuses on jobs, economy in first State of the Union

In Barack Obama’s first State of the Union address, he acknowledged problems he said he inherited, stayed hopeful for the future and proposed legislation that would address the needs of everyday Americans.

Obama’s statement to Congress, delivered to a joint session of Congress on Jan. 27, focused on the economy, jobs, higher education and military policy regarding gays.

During Obama’s introduction, he discussed jobs and how the economy has improved since his inauguration.

“The worst of the storm has passed…But the devastation remains: One in 10 Americans still can’t find work,” said Obama. “Jobs must be our number one focus in 2010.”

According to, the national unemployment rate has reached 10 percent — and more than seven million Americans have lost their jobs in the last two years.

In addition, Obama addressed the government bailout of financial institutions, saying, “We have recovered most of the money that we spent on the banks.” He proposed levying a fee  against the biggest banks in order to recover the rest of the money.

Even with the persistent problems, Obama remains optimistic.

“I have never been more hopeful about America’s future than I am tonight,” he said.

Obama also called for an adequate clean energy and climate bill, and for legislation aimed at helping colleges and students to have access to quality education.

“I urge the Senate to follow the House and pass a bill that will revitalize our community colleges,” said Obama.

Obama then said he wanted to compensate and reward parents and students that are paying for college. He proposed giving a $10,000 tax credit to pay for four years of college. He also wants to increase the amount of aid given through federal Pell Grants.

He also said that students paying off their loans will not have to pay more than 10 percent of their salary a year and that loans will be forgiven after 20 years.

In the speech Obama also mentioned the problem of the gender wage gap. He said his administration was going to clamp down on violations of the Equal Pay Law, so that women get equal pay for an equal day’s work.

Obama also made a pledge to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military. “I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are,” said Obama.

Overall, Obama sought unity during a turbulent time of bipartisanship and urged Congress to not “walk away from reform.”

In response to Obama’s speech, many GOP senators and representatives said that they are encouraged to hear Obama say that he is going to focus on job creation in 2010.

–To see a transcript of the entire speech, please go to: