And here's another number: zero. Because of this law, no American — none — zero — can ever again be dropped or denied coverage for a preexisting condition like asthma, or back pain, or cancer. No woman can ever be charged more just because she's a woman. And we did all this while adding years to Medicare's finances, keeping Medicare premiums flat, and lowering prescription costs for millions of seniors.
Now, I do not expect to convince my Republican friends on the merits of this law. But I know that the American people are not interested in refighting old battles. So, again, if you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, increase choice — tell America what you'd do differently. Let's see if the numbers add up. But let's not have another 40-something votes to repeal a law that's already helping millions of Americans like Amanda.
The first 40 were plenty. We all owe it to the American people to say what we're for, not just what we're against. And if you want to know the real impact this law is having, just talk to Gov. Steve Beshear of Kentucky, who's here tonight. Now Kentucky is not the most liberal part of the country. That's not where I got my highest vote totals. But he's like a man possessed when it comes to covering his commonwealth's families. They are our neighbors and our friends, he said. "They're people we shop and go to church with, farmers out on the tractor, grocery clerks. They're people who go to work every morning praying they don't get sick. No one deserves to live that way."
Steve is right. That's why, tonight, I ask every American who knows someone without health insurance to help them get covered by March 31st. Help them get covered. Moms, get on your kids to sign up. Kids, call your mom and walk her through the application. It will give her some peace of mind -- plus, she'll appreciate hearing from you.
After all, that's the spirit that has always moved this nation forward. It's the spirit of citizenship -- the recognition that through hard work and responsibility, we can pursue our individual dreams but still come together as one American family to make sure the next generation can pursue its dreams as well.
Citizenship means standing up for everyone's right to vote. Last year, part of the Voting Rights Act was weakened, but conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are working together to strengthen it. And the bipartisan commission I appointed, chaired by my campaign lawyer and Governor Romney's campaign lawyer, came together and have offered reforms so that no one has to wait more than a half hour to vote. Let's support these efforts. It should be the power of our vote, not the size of our bank accounts that drives our democracy.
Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day. I've seen the courage of parents, students, pastors, police officers all over this country who say "we are not afraid." And I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters, in our shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook.
Citizenship demands a sense of common purpose; participation in the hard work of self-government; an obligation to serve our communities. And I know this chamber agrees that few Americans give more to their country than our diplomats and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.
Tonight, because of the extraordinary troops and civilians who risk and lay down their lives to keep us free, the United States is more secure. When I took office, nearly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, all our troops are out of Iraq. More than 60,000 of our troops have already come home from Afghanistan. With Afghan forces now in the lead for their own security, our troops have moved to a support role. Together with our allies, we will complete our mission there by the end of this year, and America's longest war will finally be over.
After 2014, we will support a unified Afghanistan as it takes responsibility for its own future. If the Afghan government signs a security agreement that we have negotiated, a small force of Americans could remain in Afghanistan with NATO allies to carry out two narrow missions: training and assisting Afghan forces, and counterterrorism operations to pursue any remnants of al-Qaida. For while our relationship with Afghanistan will change, one thing will not: our resolve that terrorists do not launch attacks against our country.
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