As a divisive 12-month legislative session comes to a close, President Obama said lawmakers can learn from the men and women who served in the war in Iraq.
"Every day, they meet their responsibilities to their families and their country," the president said of the troops who served in the nearly nine-year war. "Now it's time to meet ours - especially those of us who you sent to serve in Washington. This cannot be a country where division and discord stand in the way of our progress. This is a moment where we must come together to ensure that every American has the chance to work for a decent living, own their own home, send their kids to college, and secure a decent retirement."
With Republicans and Democrats still at odds over how to extend the payroll tax cut before it expires at the end of the year, the president said it's time for lawmakers to follow the example of the more than 1.5 million men and women who served in Iraq.
"They don't see themselves or each other as Democrats first or Republicans first. They see themselves as Americans first," the president said. "For all our differences and disagreements, they remind us that we are all a part of something bigger; that we are one nation and one people. And for all our challenges, they remind us that there is nothing we can't do when we stick together."
"This is a moment for us to build a country that lives up to the ideals that so many of our bravest Americans have fought and even died for. That is our highest obligation as citizens. That is the welcome home that our troops deserve," Obama said.
After years of rebuilding Iraq, the president said it's time to enlist veterans in the work of "rebuilding America."
"Today's generation of veterans - the 9/11 generation of veterans - is armed with the skills, discipline, and leadership to attack the defining challenge of our time: rebuilding an economy where hard work pays off, where responsibility is rewarded, where anyone can make it if they try," he said.