Obama vows for ‘focus on future’

Washington, Jan 13 (IANS) US President Barack Obama vigorously defended his legacy while striking an optimistic tone for the future in his final State of the Union address on Wednesday.

He pushed back against the negative tone of the current presidential race, arguing the US has the “strongest, most durable economy in the world”, BBC reported.

His focus was on cementing his legacy rather than unveiling new policies.

The speech highlighted his team’s accomplishments such health reform and rapprochement with Cuba.

“For my final address to this chamber, I don’t want to talk just about the next year,” he said. “I want to focus on our future.”

Government benefit programmes like Medicare and Social Security should be strengthened, not weakened, he said.

Obama touted his signature health care law and said there must be ways Democrats and Republicans can work together to boost economic security, despite disagreements.

For the current year, he urged Congress to pass legislation on criminal justice reform and prescription drug abuse.

Paid leave and raising the minimum wage were also mentioned as policy objectives, along with making higher education more affordable and improving education.

He urged for the importance of work on climate change.

“If anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it,” he said.

“You’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.”

Speaking about the IS and its fighters, he said they are dangerous, but they do not threaten the country’s national existence.

He urged for Congress to pass authorisation of military force against the so-called IS.

“But the American people should know that with or without Congressional action, (IS) will learn the same lessons as terrorists before them. If you doubt America’s commitment?-or mine?-to see that justice is done, ask Osama bin Laden,” he said.

Authorise using force against IS: Obama urges Congress

US President Barack Obama on Tuesday called on Congress to authorise the use of military force against the extremist group Islamic State (IS).

“If this Congress is serious about winning this war, and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, you should finally authorise the use of military force against ISIL,” Obama said in his final State of the Union address, using an alternate acronym for the IS.

Addressing a joint session of Congress, Obama admitted that Al-Qaeda and IS pose “a direct threat” to Americans, saying that even a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life can do a lot of damage, Xinhua news agency reported.

However, he stressed that the IS does not “threaten our national existence”.

Leading a coalition of more than 60 countries, the US has been fighting against the IS for more than a year, carrying out nearly 10,000 air strikes, he told the lawmakers.

The military action was taken under authorization provided after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In the address, Obama reaffirmed his pledge to destroy the IS, vowing that the group’s militants have to be “rooted out, hunted down and destroyed’.

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