Obama’s state of the union address: US must seize ‘Sputnik moment’

President appeals to Republicans for co-operation to ‘win the future’ and warns that rise of China is threat to US influence

Chris McGreal in Washington
Highlights from the US president Barack Obama’s annual state of the union address before a joint session of Congress and the supreme court on Capitol Hill Link to this video
In the annual state of the union address, the US president appealed for the Republicans to co-operate to “win the future” and said the present generation faces its “Sputnik moment”, requiring government investment in research, infrastructure and education.
He said that would be paid for, in part, by eliminating subsidies to hugely profitable oil companies.
“Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik, we had no idea how we’d beat them to the moon,” he told congress. “The science wasn’t there yet. Nasa didn’t even exist.
“But after investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets – we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.
This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country or somewhere else.
“It’s whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded. It’s whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but a light to the world.”
The president’s call – in a speech that ostensibly called for unity but laid bare the ideological divide with the Republicans – was swiftly rejected by his opponents, who said that the real threat to US global dominance was the country’s rapidly deepening debt.
They said that what Obama called investment, they call borrowing and spending.
But instant polling on CNN showed a rise in support for the president’s policies, with more than three-quarters of respondents saying they had a favourable view of the speech. A similar number said they were more optimistic after the address.

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