State of the Union: What Biden had to say about these key topics

President Joe Biden addressed Americans on Thursday night for the annual State of the Union Address, delivering a defiant argument for a second term and hitting at GOP front-runner Donald Trump for his "resentment, revenge and retribution."

Without mentioning Trump by name, instead referring to him as "my predecessor," Biden raised his voice as he tried to quell voter concerns about his age and job performance while sharpening the contrast with his all-but-certain November rival.

"I know I may not look like it, but I’ve been around a while," Biden deadpanned. "And when you get to my age, certain things become clearer than ever before."

Noting he was born during World War II and came of political age during the upheaval of the 1960s, Biden declared: "My lifetime has taught me to embrace freedom and democracy. A future based on the core values that have defined America: honesty, decency, dignity, equality. To respect everyone. To give everyone a fair shot. To give hate no safe harbor. Now some other people my age see a different story: an American story of resentment, revenge, and retribution. That’s not me."


US President Joe Biden during a State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, US, on Thursday, March 7, 2024. (Photographer: Shawn Thew/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The president linked Trump's praise for those who overran the Capitol in an attempt to subvert the 2020 election with antidemocratic threats abroad.

"Freedom and democracy are under attack both at home and overseas at the very same time," Biden said as he appealed for Congress to support Ukraine's efforts to defend itself against Russia's two-year-old invasion. "History is watching."

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Biden's remarks were followed by Sen. Katie Britt, who delivered the GOP’s rebuttal

Here are other key topics Biden discussed in his address:

The border crisis

  • The issue: The number of people who are illegally crossing the U.S. border has been rising for years, for reasons that include climate change, war and unrest in other nations, the economy, and cartels that see migration as a cash cow.
  • Why it matters to Biden: Immigration has emerged as a central issue in the 2024 presidential campaign, which is widely expected to be a Biden-Trump rematch, and each man is seeking to use the border problems to his own political advantage.
  • What do Republicans say: Former President Trump declared that migrants arriving at the border were criminals and some were terrorists, a dialed-up version of the accusations he often used during the 2016 campaign. Britt, the youngest Republican woman elected to the Senate, painted a picture of a nation that "seems to be slipping away" in her rebuttal. "Right now, our commander-in-chief is not in command. The free world deserves better than a dithering and diminished leader," Britt said, speaking deliberately in an address from her home kitchen. "America deserves leaders who recognize that secure borders, stable prices, safe streets, and a strong defense are the cornerstones of a great nation."
  • What did Biden say: One of the most contentious moments of his speech came during his remarks on immigration, when Biden was running down the endorsements by conservative groups of the bipartisan border legislation that Republicans killed last month. Some in the audience appeared to yell and interject, and Biden shot back, "I know you know how to read." As Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, decked out in pro-Trump paraphernalia, continued to shout at Biden, the president held up a white button that the Georgia Republican had handed him earlier bearing the name of Laken Riley, who authorities say was killed by a Venezuelan national who unlawfully crossed into the U.S. in September 2022. "Laken Riley," Biden said, calling her an "innocent young woman who was killed by an illegal." He expressed condolences to her family, saying his heart goes out to them.

RELATED: Biden mentions Laken Riley discussing immigration during State of the Union; calls her 'Lincoln Riley'

The economy is improving but not Biden’s approval ratings

  • The issue: Voters’ confidence in the economy could be a pivotal factor in this year’s presidential election as it is consistently rated as a top issue. Recent data on the economy has shown that growth accelerated last year.
  • Why it matters to Biden: The evidence of a stronger economy has yet to spill over into greater support for Biden. Voters judge the economy based on their grocery bills and prices at the gasoline pump. Others assess the economy based on their appreciating investments. Housing prices mattered, and so did job prospects for their adult children and the upward trajectory of the federal debt.
  • What do Republicans say? The Republican counter to Biden has been to dismiss the positive economic data and focus on how voters are feeling. As the annual inflation rate has fallen, GOP messaging has focused instead on multi-year increases in consumer prices without necessarily factoring in wage gains. And Republican lawmakers have argued that people should trust their gut on the economy instead of the statistics cited by Biden.
  • What did Biden say: The president sought to remind voters of the situation he inherited when he entered office in 2021 amid a raging pandemic and a contracting economy. Biden also raised the problems of "shrinkflation" – companies putting fewer pretzels in the jar and less yogurt in sealed cups — and so-called "junk fees" on services. He unveiled an expanded plan to raise corporate taxes and use the proceeds to trim budget deficits and cut taxes for the middle class.

Israel-Hamas conflict: Biden pushes for ceasefire 

  • The issue: In the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, Israel’s air, sea and ground campaign in Gaza has killed tens of thousands of people, obliterated large swaths of the urban landscape and displaced 80% of the battered enclave’s population.
  • Why it matters to Biden: The issue has divided many Democrats with the Michigan primary being proof. While Biden won the state with more than 618,000 votes, more than 100,000 Michigan Democratic primary voters cast ballots for "uncommitted" in the race. The uncommitted delegates came from the 6th District, centered around Ann Arbor, and the other from the 12th District, which includes Detroit suburbs with large blocs of Arab Americans, who believe he hasn’t done enough to end the violence in Gaza.
  • What do Republicans say? Trump has not said much about Gaza. However, he said Israel needs to "finish the problem" in its war against Hamas in Gaza when he recently called into "FOX and Friends." A package aimed at giving $17.6 billion to Israel failed to pass the House of Representatives last month.
  • What did Biden say: Biden announced in his address that he has directed the U.S. military to establish a temporary port on the Gaza coast aimed at increasing the flow of aid into the beleaguered territory. The president also issued an emphatic call for lawmakers to pass sorely needed defense assistance for Ukraine. Acute ammunition shortages have allowed Russia to retake the offensive in the 2-year-old war.

Abortion rights

  • The issue: Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion in 2022, voters in seven states have either protected abortion rights or defeated attempts to curtail them in statewide votes. Democrats have pledged to make the issue a central campaign topic this year for races up and down the ballot, and the recent Supreme Court ruling in Alabama has expanded the conversation to include IVF.
  • Why it matters to Biden: Biden’s reelection team is preparing a nationwide series of events and an advertising campaign focused on the battle over abortion rights, highlighting what Democrats believe will be a potent political weapon against Trump. Biden’s campaign said its advertising campaign would focus on how abortion restrictions have affected women and health care providers.
  • What do Republicans say? Many Republican voters have expressed their support for abortion rights, but Republicans in Congress have blocked legislation aiming to preserve abortion rights and IVF access at the federal level. Trump has repeatedly refused to back any specific limits on abortion as he campaigns, though he has called himself "the most pro-life president in American history."
  • What did Biden say: Access to abortion and fertility treatments was a key component of Biden's speech, especially in light of a controversial ruling from Alabama’s Supreme Court. One of first lady Jill Biden's guests for the speech was Kate Cox, who sued Texas, and ultimately left her home state, to obtain an emergency abortion after a severe fetal anomaly was detected. "If Americans send me a Congress that supports the right to choose I promise you: I will restore Roe v. Wade as the law of the land again," Biden said. Several House Democratic women were wearing white -- a symbol of women’s suffrage -- to promote reproductive rights.

This story was reported from Los Angeles. FOX News and the Associated Press contributed.