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State of the Union: Finally, an agenda for the 21st century?

He starts a two-day trip to lobby for his proposals from Tuesday night's State of the Union address
President talks taxes, education and veto threats in State of the Union address 02:58

Since the day he entered the White House, President Obama's prime focus has been on recuperating from the 2008 global economic meltdown -- correcting and making up for the mistakes of the past. But in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, the president made clear he's finally ready to set his sights squarely on the future.

State of the Union 2015: The complete address 00:00

"Fifteen years into this new century, we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and begun again the work of remaking America," Mr. Obama said to a joint session of Congress. "We've laid a new foundation. A brighter future is ours to write. Let's begin this new chapter - together - and let's start the work right now."

Citing the realities of this new "century" about a dozen times, Mr. Obama argued that his agenda will help propel America into a prosperous future -- or at least pull it into the present.

Calling for a law that ensures men and women receive equal pay for equal work, Mr. Obama simply said, "It's 2015. It's time."

State of the Union 2015: Time to raise the minimum wage 01:11
State of the Union 2015: Fix America's crumbling infrastructure 00:40
State of the Union 2015: Climate change is greatest threat to future 00:38

Mr. Obama's "21st Century" agenda includes enhanced cybersecurity and expanded broadband access, but it also includes traditional Democratic proposals like investing in physical infrastructure and boosting domestic manufacturing.

"Some of our bedrock sectors, like our auto industry, are booming," he said. "But there are also millions of Americans who work in jobs that didn't even exist 10 or 20 years ago - jobs at companies like Google, and eBay, and Tesla... So no one knows for certain which industries will generate the jobs of the future. But we do know we want them here in America."

To attract "21st Century businesses," he continued, the U.S. needs "21st Century infrastructure -- modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet."

Some activists were quick to point out that Mr. Obama's remarks overlooked some critical points about the new economy -- such as the high rate of youth unemployment. United Way president Stacey Stewart said in a statement that Mr. Obama needs to "go further" to help young people.

"As part of America's strategy to sustain a strong economy and boost higher education, the president should champion investment in solutions that work to help employ youth, like evidence-based apprenticeships, internships, and work-study programs," she said.

Promoting his plan to subsidize community college tuition, Mr. Obama said, "in a 21st century economy that rewards knowledge like never before, we need to up our game."

However, that proposal has also been criticized as ill-fitted for the new economy.

"The problem is he just wants to pour that additional money into the broken, existing system -- which a lot of people graduate with AA degrees that don't lead to anything but another four-year degree that may not lead to a job," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida -- a prospective 2016 presidential candidate -- suggested recently on CBS' Face the Nation. "What we need to do is create competition with alternative methods where people can acquire certification programs that take less than two years, and get you to work right away as a welder, electrician, and airplane mechanic. I wish he would spend more time on that, and less time trying to raise taxes and pour money into an outdated model that no longer works in the 21st Century."

Mr. Obama urged Congress to consider the demands of the century ahead as he touted his new "Precision Medicine Initiative" to research diseases like cancer and diabetes, and as he pressed for action on climate change.

"No challenge - no challenge - poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change," he said. "2014 was the planet's warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn't make a trend, but this does - 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century."

Mr. Obama even framed his foreign policy approach as modern. "If there's one thing this new century has taught us, it's that we cannot separate our work at home from challenges beyond our shores," he said.

President Obama proposing new cybersecurity legislation 01:37

Earlier in the month, Mr. Obama put forward a series of cyber-related proposals, including a plan to expand broadband access, create new online consumer protections, and enhance corporate and governmentcybersecurity measures.

On Tuesday night, the president did little to flesh out those proposals, simply declaring, "I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children's information."

Chris Calabrese of the Center for Democracy and Technology told CBS News that Mr. Obama's cyber proposals are a good start but incomplete. Specifically, the cybersecurity proposals leaves key privacy provisions to be written by the Department of Homeland Security, and "the devil's going to be very much in the details," Calabrese said. The proposals could end up allowing private companies to share any information related to a cyber threat, regardless of other privacy laws.

Mr. Obama also proposed a national data breach standard, giving consumers the right to know when their information has been compromised. However, this is one area where state lawmakers clearly entered the 21st Century ahead of Washington -- 48 states already have data breach laws on the books.

"We're worried a piece of federal legislation would end up undercutting those laws and actually substantially weakening them," Calabrese said.

Georgetown Prof. Betsy Sigman, an expert on data security, added that Mr. Obama's proposals only scratch the surface of critical cybersecurity issues.

"What is he doing to prevent a major hack of bank data? Or what steps is he outlining about how he's trying to prevent an attack on the electrical grid that could shut down the transfer of data so important to business in the U.S. today?" she asked. "These are huge threats he needs to address."

In addition to putting forward a 21st Century agenda, Mr. Obama on Tuesday night delivered his remarks in a very 21st-Century fashion. The White House encouraged online discussion of the address by promoting hashtags on Facebook and Twitter, such as #FreeCommunityCollege and #LeadOnLeave.

The White House also publicly released the full text of Mr. Obama's remarks on the website Medium, which allowed users to view charts and infographics as they read. In a somewhat snarky message, the White House stressed that publicly releasing the remarks before the president started speaking was unprecedented:

"There is a ritual on State of the Union night in Washington. A little before the address, the White House sends out an embargoed copy of the President's speech to the press... eventually everyone in Washington can read along, but the public remains in the dark. This year we change that."

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