Tuesday night marked the last time President Barack Obama took the podium in the House Gallery to deliver a State of the Union address, and for many, he did not disappoint.
Setting a vision for America’s future, the president — in what was his shortest speech in two terms — put policy aside to focus on the gains the country has made in the economy, health care, and education in the past seven years.
But, harping back on his own time in the White House — one he obtained with a promise of bipartisanship and hope — the president took responsibility for the division between parties, saying “that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better.” That, the president said, “is one of the few regrets” of his time in office.
The rest of the president’s hour-long address remained upbeat, hopeful and full of change; no doubt a full circle moment for the Obama who ran the 2008 campaign.
Here, we gathered eleven statements made by the president last night that we won’t soon forget.
When he inserted himself in the upcoming presidential election by presenting four points for America’s future:
“So let’s talk about the future, and four big questions that we as a country have to answer — regardless of who the next President is, or who controls the next Congress. First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy? Second, how do we make technology work for us, and not against us — especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change? Third, how do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman? And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?”
When he addressed his GOP critics by stating the facts about the nation’s current position in the economy:
“Let me start with the economy, and a basic fact: the United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world. We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history. More than 14 million new jobs; the strongest two years of job growth since the ‘90s; an unemployment rate cut in half. Our auto industry just had its best year ever. Manufacturing has created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years. And we’ve done all this while cutting our deficits by almost three-quarters.”
When he tackled both racism and politicians who perpetuate fear and discrimination without explicitly saying any names (we’re looking at you, Donald Trump):
“When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid bullied, that doesn’t make us safer. That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country.”
And then again when he said:
“Our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet bomb civilians. That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage.”
“Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future…promising to restore past glory…”
“We need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This isn’t a matter of political correctness.”
When he set college affordability as a goal for America’s shining future:
“And we have to make college affordable for every American. Because no hardworking student should be stuck in the red. We’ve already reduced student loan payments to ten percent of a borrower’s income. Now, we’ve actually got to cut the cost of college. Providing two years of community college at no cost for every responsible student is one of the best ways to do that, and I’m going to keep fighting to get that started this year.”
When he called out climate change-deniers:
“Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. You’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.”
When he discussed the government’s role in making sure the system is not rigged to protect the wealthiest Americans while ignoring those living in poverty:
“I think there are outdated regulations that need to be changed, and there’s red tape that needs to be cut. But after years of record corporate profits, working families won’t get more opportunity or bigger paychecks by letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules at the expense of everyone else; or by allowing attacks on collective bargaining to go unanswered. Food Stamp recipients didn’t cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did. Immigrants aren’t the reason wages haven’t gone up enough; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns.”
When he, in what was an emotional moment for Vice President Joe Biden after losing his son to cancer, put his friend in charge of “mission control” for future cancer research:
“Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer. Last month, he worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources they’ve had in over a decade. Tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done. And because he’s gone to the mat for all of us, on so many issues over the past forty years, I’m putting Joe in charge of Mission Control. For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the family we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all. Medical research is critical. We need the same level of commitment when it comes to developing clean energy sources.”
When he told America to get more focused with foreign policy:
“We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis. That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately weakens us. It’s the lesson of Vietnam, of Iraq — and we should have learned it by now.”
And when he told Americans to believe, despite cynicism, that they can change this country and change the face of politics.
“If we want a better politics, it’s not enough to just change a President. We have to change the system.”
“It won’t be easy. Our brand of democracy is hard. But I can promise that a year from now, when I no longer hold this office, I’ll be right there with you as a citizen — inspired by those voices of fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness that have helped America travel so far. Voices that help us see ourselves not first and foremost as black or white or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born; not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed. Voices Dr. King believed would have the final word — voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love.”
You can read the president’s full transcript, here.
SOURCE: The White House | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty