President Obama addressed the country in his last State of the Union on Tuesday night. The much anticipated address was, as promised, shorter than most. According to the Washington Post, the address also received the second smallest amount of applause compared to his other addresses. The president spoke of the future, urging Americans not to be afraid and to embrace change. “For my final address to this chamber, I don’t want to talk just about the next year. I want to focus on the next five years, ten years, and beyond. I want to focus on our future.” he said.
He began by asking four main questions for the country to focus on moving forward. “First,” he said, “how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy?”
Citing 14 million new jobs since he’s taken office, President Obama said that the American economy is the toughest and most durable in the world. He referenced the unemployment rate which has been cut in half and the auto industry which just had it’s best year ever.
The president’s second question shifted focus to the future of problem solving. “Second,” he continued, “how do we make technology work for us, and not against us — especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change?” Obama spoke of the recent Paris talks on climate change in which, he said, the United States led the way. He insisted that even if you do not believe in the science behind the fact, “why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future?”
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) January 13, 2016
Turning to national security and America’s obligation to the world, Obama’s third question was, “How do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman?” The president referred to his controversial Iran nuclear deal and the assassination of Osama Bin Laden. He mentioned that our main focus should be on eliminating terrorist threats such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS but should not be on rebuilding every nation in need.
Obama moved to his final topic, “A better politics” with the question, “How can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?” He spoke of the negative impact polarizing partisan politics can have on our nation. Speaking directly to American citizens, Obama said he thinks congressional district lines need to be rewritten so that the people are electing their politicians, not the other way around. Obama spoke of the worst kept secret in Washington pressing the importance of getting money out of politics.
Obama spoke very little of the upcoming election, although he did manage to get a few indirect digs in against GOP candidates, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. “And then, as frustration [with politics] grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into our respective tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background,” Obama said, in a thinly veiled reference to Trump. “We can’t afford to go down that path. It won’t deliver the economy we want or the security we want, but most of all, it contradicts everything that makes us the envy of the world.”
He finished on a high note, emphasizing stories of Americans who set an example of the spirit of the nation. “That’s the country we love.” he said. “Clear-eyed. Big-hearted. Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future. Because of you. I believe in you. That’s why I stand here confident that the State of our Union is strong.”
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