Hope -- Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope! In the end, that is God's greatest gift to us...A belief in things not seen. A belief that there are better days ahead.
I see Americans of every party, every background, every faith who believe that we are stronger together: black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American; young, old; gay, straight; men, women, folks with disabilities, all pledging allegiance under the same proud flag to this big, bold country that we love. That's what I see. That's the America I know!
And as John F. Kennedy described the ideals behind what would become the Peace Corps, he issued a challenge to the students who had assembled in Ann Arbor on that October night: on your willingness to contribute part of your life to this country, he said, will depend the answer whether a free society can compete. I think it can, he said.
We think of faith as a source of comfort and understanding but find our expressions of faith sowing division; we believe ourselves to be a tolerant people even as racial, religious, and cultural tensions roil the landscape.
We have an obligation and a responsibility to be investing in our students and our schools. We must make sure that people who have the grades, the desire and the will, but not the money, can still get the best education possible.
Everything is organized. If something is broken, I fix it. If something goes wrong, it's my own fault. If I have it, I send money to the family, and they can do with it what they want, and I won't depend on them, and they won't depend on me.
All too rarely do I hear people asking just what it is that we've done to make so many children's hearts so hard, or what collectively we might do to right their moral compass - what values we must live by.
My task over the last two years hasn't just been to stop the bleeding. My task has also been to try to figure out how do we address some of the structural problems in the economy that have prevented more Googles from being created.
A lot has happened over the years. And while this nation has been tested by war, and it's been tested by recession and all manner of challenges - I stand before you again tonight, after almost two terms as your president, to tell you I am more optimistic about the future of America than ever before.
One of the great strengths of the United States is... we have a very large Christian population - we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.
What I think is fair to say is that, coming out of the Republican camp, there have been efforts to suggest that perhaps I'm not who I say I am when it comes to my faith - something which I find deeply offensive, and that has been going on for a pretty long time.
That's what the Affordable Care Act is all about. It's about filling the gaps in employer-based care so that when we lose a job, or go back to school, or start that new business, we'll still have coverage.
And we have done more in the two and a half years that I've been in here than the previous 43 Presidents to uphold that principle, whether it's ending 'don't ask, don't tell,' making sure that gay and lesbian partners can visit each other in hospitals, making sure that federal benefits can be provided to same-sex couples.
This is the moment when we must build on the wealth that open markets have created, and share its benefits more equitably. Trade has been a cornerstone of our growth and global development. But we will not be able to sustain this growth if it favors the few, and not the many.
Millions of us, myself included, go back generations in this country, with ancestors who put in the painstaking work to become citizens. So we don't like the notion that anyone might get a free pass to American citizenship.
You can choose a future where more Americans have the chance to gain the skills they need to compete, no matter how old they are or how much money they have. Education was the gateway to opportunity for me. It was the gateway for Michelle. And now more than ever, it is the gateway to a middle-class life.
In December, I agreed to extend the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans because it was the only way I could prevent a tax hike on middle-class Americans. But we cannot afford $1 trillion worth of tax cuts for every millionaire and billionaire in our society. We can't afford it. And I refuse to renew them again.