Obama: 'Let's Work Together and Win the Future'

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In a State of the Union address filled with symbolism, President Barack Obama urged a new wave of cooperation and bipartisanship on many of the issues that have brought him criticism throughout his presidency.

For the first time, Obama delivered the annual speech with a Republican speaker of the House over his shoulder -- a reminder of the challenges ahead. Now that the GOP holds the House majority, Obama admitted reaching common ground would be even tougher, but noted it must be done.

Click play to watch President Obama's State of the Union address.

He highlighted the unity in Washington following the tragic shooting in Tucson, Ariz., and asked Congress to keep that spirit alive.

"It's no secret that those of us here tonight have had our differences over the last two years. The debates have been contentious. We have fought fiercely for our beliefs. And that's a good thing," Obama began. "But there's a reason the tragedy in Tucson gave us pause."

"Amid all the noise and passions and rancor of our public debate, Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater -- something more consequential than party or political preference," he added.

Breaking with tradition, several lawmakers crossed party lines to sit with opposing colleagues for Tuesday night's address. One chair remained empty in honor of Ariz. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who's still recovering after the assassination attempt against her in Tucson that left six people dead.

"What comes of this moment is up to us," Obama said. "What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow."

Innovation for the Future

The president focused primarily on job creation and the economy, saying the U.S. will "win the future" by out-thinking other nations like China who are making strides in the business world.

To encourage growth and innovation, Obama called for increased investments in education, research, technology and clean energy. The new initiatives would be paid for by cutting funds to oil companies.

"We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I'm asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies," Obama said. "I don't know if you've noticed, but they're doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday's energy, let's invest in tomorrow's."

The much-debated Bush-era tax cuts also resurfaced. Late last year, Obama was forced to renege on a campaign promise, and temporarily extend tax breaks for the wealthy, but said a permanent extension is something the U.S. "simply cannot afford."

"Before we take money away from our schools, or scholarships away from our students, we should ask millionaires to give up their tax break," he said.

Spending and the exorbitant federal deficit are two major concerns for Republicans.

Obama acknowledged the deficit is a problem, and vowed to put an end to wasteful spending. He also proposed a freeze on domestic spending for the next five years.

He claimed this would, "Reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, and will bring discretionary spending to the lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was president."

Special guests for this State of the Union included a number of business leaders and entrepreneurs as well as members of the U.S. military, family members of the Tucson shooting victims, and Daniel Hernandez, the intern credited for saving Rep. Giffords' life.

As Obama prepares a team to work on his 2012 re-election campaign, this year's State of the Union marked a perfect opportunity for him to connect with voters.

Since Democrats took big losses in the midterm elections, the president has slowly stepped to the center on some of his policies, as evidenced by Tuesday night's address.

Not Without a Fight

Still, Republicans are expected to put up a fight against Obama's proposals, especially those that require an increased budget.

In the GOP response to Obama's speech, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., criticized the president and Democrats for failing to keep promises on the economy.

"Instead of restoring the fundamentals of economic growth, he engaged in a stimulus spending spree that not only failed to deliver on its promise to create jobs, but also plunged us even deeper into debt," Ryan said.

"Whether sold as 'stimulus' or repackaged as 'investment,'" he continued, "Their actions show they want a federal government that controls too much, taxes too much, and spends too much in order to do too much."

The new Republican leadership is promising a "renewed commitment to limited government" and an end to "business as usual." Ryan also vowed a continued fight against President Obama's health care reform law.

Rep. Michele Bachmann also delivered a rebuttal for Tea Party members.

"For two years President Obama made promises just like the ones we heard him make tonight," she said. "Yet still, we have high unemployment, devalued housing prices, and the cost of gasoline is skyrocketing."

Bachmann proposed repealing "Obamacare," reducing dependence on foreign oil, and stopping cap and trade legislation as ways to help the economy.

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Cicely Gosier

Cicely Gosier

CBN News Internet Producer

Cicely Gosier is an Internet News Producer at CBN News, and enjoys reporting on humanitarian efforts, as well as issues involving the family and today's youth.

Cicely obtained a M.A. in Journalism from Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va., and her B.A. in Print Journalism from Hampton University in Hampton, Va. She is also a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and the Society of Professional Journalists.