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State of the Union

January 22nd, 2015

President Obama delivering 2015 State of the Union. Photo credit/licensed: AP/Mandel Ngan/Pool

President Obama gave his State of the Union address on Tuesday night (January 20th).

It’s a speech given each year by the President of the United States to members of Congress on Capitol Hill. The speech is watched by millions of Americans.

The State of the Union is an update and accounting of how the country is doing, a little like a report card for the country. It’s also used to set some new goals.

It’s President Obama’s 6th time giving a State of the Union address (he won two 4-year terms and is halfway through his second and final term).

This was, however, the first time President Obama, a Democrat, has given a State of the Union address to a Congress controlled by Republicans. Congress (the branch of government where laws are made) is made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Who controls what is based on elections and this past November , the Democrats lost control of the Senate to Republicans. The House of Representatives was already Republican-controlled and stayed that way. But now this means that both the Senate and the House of Representatives are Republican-controlled, which made Tuesday’s speech a less friendly environment for President Obama than it has been in the past.

What did the President talk about?

A lot because it went on for an hour! Overall, he said that “the State of the Union is strong.” He spent the most time — 25 minutes — talking about the economy, mainly about  middle-class economics.

What’s that? Basically, middle-class Americans are those who aren’t super wealthy nor are they in poverty — they’re somewhere in the middle and it’s how the majority of American’s identify themselves .

The President used the example of one family, Rebekah and Ben, and how hard it had been for them namely because the economy had been bad for a few years. But, a combination of their hard work and opportunities helped make their lives better recently including, better jobs, lower taxes, better medical care, etc.  President Obama said, “That’s what middle-class economics is: the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

President Obama said the country is doing better with “a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production.”

Here’s a great (and entertaining) explanation of what the economy is and how it works from  WeTheEconomy.com .

Anything else?

One of the President’s special guests was astronaut Scott Kelly who is heading to the International Space Station for an entire year. Why so long? To see how being in space for that long impacts our bodies. His identical twin brother, Mark Kelly, also an astronaut, will stay on earth. Because they’re so similar, it will be valuable to study the long-term effects of being in space versus being on earth. This will help us prepare for longer and deeper space missions, including the possibility of sending an astronaut to Mars in your lifetime! Here’s Time ‘s cover story on this .

President Obama also talked about climate change and his commitment to the environment.

He talked about improving our relationship with Cuba , a communist island country just 90-miles off the coast of Florida that we haven’t been on good terms with for a long time.

He talked about how it’s time for women to be paid the same as men, saying, “It’s 2015 … it’s time!”

He also talked about how he wants the first two years of community college to be free, in the same way that school is free through high school now.

Then, in an otherwise tightly-scripted speech of about 6,500 words, President Obama said 8 unscripted ones that’s getting about as much attention as his carefully written words. He had started to say that he had no more campaigns to run when he was interrupted by some Republicans clapping (presumably because his presidency is coming to a close). President Obama replied, “I know because I won both of them.” It’s being described as an epic putdown.

After the speech, the Republican Party responded to President Obama’s speech. Iowa Senator, Joni Ernst, gave the official rebuttal . Republicans branched out and gave other rebuttals this year, too. The Democrats and Republicans have a very different vision for the U.S. so there’s a lot of back-and-forth as well as accusations. But Factcheck.org gave their assessment of the President’s speech as well, kind of like the state of the accuracy…

Here’s a complete transcript by the Washington Post .

Here’s more of the Republicans’ response .

Here are the White House’s “Can’t Miss Moments”

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