In his State of the Union address given Tuesday evening, President Barack Obama called for renewed American innovation and cooperation and pointed to the nation’s military as an example to follow.
“Look to Iraq, where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads held high; American combat patrols have ended; violence is down; and a new government has been formed,” the commander in chief said.
In Afghanistan, U.S. troops have taken Taliban strongholds and trained Afghan Security Forces, and will continue to deny al Qaeda the safe-haven that served as a launching pad for 9/11, he said.
“Thanks to our heroic troops and civilians, fewer Afghans are under the control of the insurgency,” Obama said. “There will be tough fighting ahead, and the Afghan government will need to deliver better governance.”
But U.S. and coalition efforts are strengthening Afghan capacity and building an enduring partnership with the Afghan people, he said.
“This year, we will work with nearly 50 countries to begin a transition to an Afghan lead. And this July, we will begin to bring our troops home,” the president said.
The nation has sent a message to all parts of the globe, Obama said: “We will not relent, we will not waver, and we will defeat you.”
Obama credited American leadership, especially in the New Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, for curbing the global nuclear threat.
Thanks to the treaty, he said, far fewer nuclear weapons and launchers will be deployed.
“Because we rallied the world, nuclear materials are being locked down on every continent so they never fall into the hands of terrorists,” he said.
America leads the world in the quest for freedom and security, the president said, and the nation must always remember “that the Americans who have borne the greatest burden in this struggle are the men and women who serve our country.”
The nation can repay that service, he said, “by giving them the equipment they need; by providing them with the care and benefits that they have earned; and by enlisting our veterans in the great task of building our own nation.”
American troops represent every creed, color, culture and geographical region in the nation, Obama said. And, he added, some are gay, and may now serve openly for the first time since the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law was overturned late last year.
“Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love,” he said. “And with that change, I call on all our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and ROTC. It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. It is time to move forward as one nation.”
First Lady Michelle Obama included among her guests for the address current and former military members, including Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, who received the Medal of Honor in November; Army Staff Sgt. Brian Mast, who lost both legs below the knee and suffered several other injuries in a roadside bomb blast while serving in Afghanistan; Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Nicole Mohabir, who has deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan; and Dr. Peter Rhee, a Navy veteran and former military surgeon, now director of medical trauma at the University Medical Center in Tucson, Ariz. Rhee oversaw the treatment of victims injured in the Jan. 8 Tucson shootings, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.