What did you think of the State of the Union speech?

Photo by Getty ImagesPhoto by Getty Images"We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world," President Barack Obama said last night. "We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business. We need to take responsibility for our deficit and reform our government. That's how our people will prosper. That's how we'll win the future."

"Winning the future" was the theme of this year's State of the Union speech, and Obama tried to inspire listeners by lauding America's achievements and setting lofty goals. Since he's halfway through his term, strategists noted that the speech was also the kickoff to his reelection campaign, and he was careful to sound moderate while appealing to both sides.

This year, instead of sitting in separate democratic and republican sections, members of the House and Senate were seated in politically mixed groups throughout the room. (A single seat was left vacant for Representative Gabrielle Gifford of Arizona, who is recovering from severe gunshot wounds after an assassination attempt in Tuscon earlier this month.) The effort, which some called "Kumbaya seating," was an attempt to avoid political cheerleading and to underscore the importance of bipartisan cooperation. "Instead of re-fighting the battles of the last two years," Obama said, "let's fix what needs fixing and let's move forward."

Did you miss the speech, or the responses to it? You can read the entire transcript at Whitehouse.gov (or watch the hour-long video instead), and you can find links to the transcripts of the Republican and Tea Party responses below. In the meantime, here are the highlights:

Obama called for greater investments in innovation, education, and infrastructure, serious cost-cutting and debt reduction, job creation, and a more streamlined government, urging Democrats and Republicans to work together to achieve these goals. He said that troops would begin withdrawing from Afghanistan in July, and said that the United States needed to "defeat determined enemies, wherever they are, and build coalitions that cut across lines of region and race and religion."

Innovation and education

He referenced the Soviet satellite, Sputnik, that inspired "a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs," and proposed paying for investments in biomedical research, information technology, and clean energy technology by eliminating "the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies... instead of subsidizing yesterday's energy, let's invest in tomorrow's." Through a combination of wind, solar, nuclear energy, "clean coal" and natural gas, he said he hopes to have 80 percent of the energy used in the U.S. come from "clean energy sources" by 2035.

Another key to winning the future, he said, was a commitment to education. "Over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school education. And yet, as many as a quarter of our students aren't even finishing high school," Obama said. He urged young adults to consider becoming teachers, pledged to make the tuition tax credit ($10,000 over four years) permanent, acknowledged the problem of illegal immigration but pointed out that non-citizens, both legal and illegal, are using their excellent American educations to compete against us-and asked both political parties to work together to address the issue.

"I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows," he said. "I know that debate will be difficult. I know it will take time. But tonight, let's agree to make that effort. And let's stop expelling talented, responsible young people who could be staffing our research labs or starting a new business, who could be further enriching this nation."

Cutting costs and lowering the deficit

He also addressed key Republican concerns, agreeing to work to lower the corporate tax rate, double America's exports by 2014, enforce trade agreements, address medical malpractice reform, and review and fix current rules that may put an unfair burden on businesses.

"Now, I have heard rumors that a few of you still have concerns about our new health care law," he said, smiling as the audience laughed. "So let me be the first to say that anything can be improved. If you have ideas about how to improve this law by making care better or more affordable, I am eager to work with you. We can start right now by correcting a flaw in the legislation that has placed an unnecessary bookkeeping burden on small businesses."

In terms of cost-cutting, Obama proposed freezing annual domestic spending for the next five years, a move that would reduce the deficit by $400 billion over the next decade. "This freeze will require painful cuts," he pointed out. "Already, we've frozen the salaries of hardworking federal employees for the next two years. I've proposed cuts to things I care deeply about, like community action programs. The Secretary of Defense has also agreed to cut tens of billions of dollars in spending that he and his generals believe our military can do without."

He also promised to streamline the government, saying that people need a government that's not only more affordable, but more competent and efficient as well. "In the coming months, my administration will develop a proposal to merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America," he said. "I will submit that proposal to Congress for a vote -- and we will push to get it passed."

Also on the table: simplifying the individual tax code, and eliminating pork-barrel legislation."Both parties in Congress should know this: If a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it," the President vowed, before bringing the focus back to unity and bipartisanship and reminding viewers that, as a nation, "We do big things."

The responses from the GOP and the Tea Party


The official response from the Republican party, given immediately after the speech by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, indicated cautious approval for some parts of Obama's plan and a willingness to work with him on them. "Tonight, the President focused a lot of attention on our economy in general - and on our deficit and debt in particular," Ryan said. "He was right to do so, and some of his words were reassuring. As chairman of the House Budget Committee, I assure you that we want to work with the President to restrain federal spending."

Perhaps in an effort to distance the GOP from the Tea Party movement, Ryan acknowledged that the economic crisis has been years in the making. "Our debt is the product of acts by many presidents and many Congresses over many years. No one person or party is responsible for it," he said. "There is no doubt the President came into office facing a severe fiscal and economic situation." He decried the "stimulus spending spree" and called the Health Care Reform Bill "a new open-ended health care entitlement" before urging viewers to join the GOP in confronting the fiscal crisis responsibly. "Americans are skeptical of both political parties, and that skepticism is justified-especially when it comes to spending," he said. "So hold all of us accountable."

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann's response on behalf of the Tea Party was less nuanced, and seemed to be more about anger, partisanship, and bashing the current administration than reacting specifically to the State of the Union speech. "Instead of a leaner, smarter government, we bought a bureaucracy that now tells us which lightbulbs to buy and which may put 16,500 IRS agents in charge of policing President Obama's health care bill," she pointed out before telling viewers that their calls, visits, and letters are important "to the maintenance of our liberties." (Though broadcast live on CNN, Bachmann faced the camera for the Tea Party Express website, so to most television viewers she appeared to be staring off-screen.)

She referenced Iwo Jima as an example of "all of America coming together to beat back a totalitarian aggressor" and offered up suggestions for ways Obama could fix the economy-some of which the president had already addressed in his speech moments earlier. "The president could support a balanced budget amendment. The president could agree to an energy policy that increases American energy production and reduces our dependence on foreign oil," she said. "The president could also turn back some of the 132 regulations put in place in the last two years, many of which will cost our economy $100 million or more. And the president should repeal Obamacare and support free-market solutions, like medical malpractice reform and allowing all Americans to buy any health care policy they like anywhere in the United States."

So, Shine readers, what did you think of the State of the Union speech, and of the response from the GOP and the Tea Party?