Nations that press ahead with economic revamp are placing more emphasis on maths and science, building their infrastructure and investing in clean energy, because they want to create jobs, President Barack Obama said in his State of the Union address.

“These nations aren’t standing still. These nations aren’t playing for second place. They’re putting more emphasis on maths and science. They’re rebuilding their infrastructure. They are making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs.” In his 69-minute speech, Mr. Obama said he would not accept a second place for America, the only superpower. “Well, I do not accept second place for the United States. As hard as it may be, as uncomfortable and contentious as the debates may be, it’s time to get serious about fixing the problems that are hampering our growth.”

The “worst of the storm has passed, but the devastation remains,” said Mr. Obama, who first State of the Union address came in the backdrop of the American public worried about the fallout of the meltdown.

The President said one in 10 Americans could still not find work, many businesses shuttered and small towns and rural communities hit especially hard. The recession also compounded the burdens of American families. “So I know the anxieties that are out there right now. They’re not new,” he said. “Some are frustrated; some are angry.”

To overcome the crisis, Mr. Obama proposed the $30-billion plan under which the money Wall Street banks have repaid would be used to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat. “These steps won’t make up for the seven million jobs we’ve lost over the last two years... The only way to move to full employment is to lay a new foundation for long-term economic growth.”

As for Afghanistan, Mr. Obama said the U.S. was increasing troops and training Afghan security forces so they could begin to take the lead in July 2011 and American troops could return home.

“The war is ending”

The U.S. would support the Iraqi government and continue to partner with the Iraqi people to promote regional peace and prosperity. “This war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home,” Mr. Obama said.

“We are working through the G-20 to sustain a lasting global recovery. We are working with Muslim communities around the world to promote science, education and innovation,” he said, pointing to his country’s pledge to reach out to the Islamic world.