In an aggressive speech Tuesday night that was partly reminiscent of the State of the Union address he delivered last year, President Barack Obama outlined plans to revive the American economy by encouraging Congress to avoid across-the-board budget cuts, rebuilding a thriving middle class with the creation of jobs, placing emphasis on better educational opportunities for the nation's youth and solidifying the country's infrastructure and thrusts aimed at helping struggling homeowners hold on to their homes.
Speaking before a joint session of the Congress for just over an hour, Obama who focused most of his talk on the creation of jobs, said however, that by the end of 2014, America would have completed its mission in Afghanistan. He added that at that time, some 34,000 U.S. troops would be back home with their families.
"By the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over," Obama said.
Overall, the president said that since last year -- and despite episodes of gun violence in this country -- there still has been much progress to report.
"After years of a grueling recession, [millions] of new jobs have been created . . . the stock and housing markets are rebounding. [But while] the state of our union is strong, wages and incomes have barely budged," Obama said. "We need to restore the basic bargain that built this country . . . to make sure government works on behalf of many, not just a few."
Also, having touched upon other key points amid rounds of applause, Obama went on to state that the country needs to reach its deficit goal of $4 trillion, and that according to some lawmakers on Capitol Hill, the Sequester legislation is seen as a bad idea.
On the matter of health care, Obama said people who care about issues such as Medicare, must be willing to embrace modest reforms, and that "the wealthy and most powerful" must do their share to help.
"Most Americans understand that we can't cut our way to prosperity," Obama said. "Everyone has to do their share."
He said that while the Affordable Healthcare Act helps to slow the growth of healthcare costs, he's open to additional reforms from both parties. At the same time, "we must keep promises we already made,"Obama said.
Obama added that now is also the best time for tax reform, saying that Americans deserve a better tax code that lowers rates for small businesses as opposed to supporting a shift to jobs overseas. Along those lines, Obama said it has become necessary to set party interests aside to save jobs and to increase the U.S. economy.
Said Obama: "Deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan. The North Star that guides our efforts is the creation of more jobs."
In rounding out his speech, Obama who referred to the recent shooting death of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton in Chicago and the December massacre of 20 Newtown, Conn., elementary school students, urged the Congress's vote on gun control proposals in order to honor "Americans whose lives have been torn apart" by mass violence.
"They deserve a vote," Obama said.