President Barack Obama’s tenure as Head of State is coming to an end.
On Tuesday Jan. 12 he gave his final State of the Union Address and downplayed his accomplishments in favor of his hopes for the future of America.
While it was mostly an hour long speech filled with the usual circumlocutory, Obama managed a few moments of political acumen only a man who has blazed the trails of bi-partisan politics could possess.
The issues at the forefront, for instance, were of interest to both parties, such as immigration, protecting citizens from gun violence, raising the minimum wage and attacking terrorist networks overseas.
“It is up to us to help, the United States of America, to help remake that system. And to do that well, it means that we’ve got set our priorities,” Obama said. “Priority number one is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks.”
This was met with fanfare from both sides of the aisle but the inevitable single-side standing ovation was apparent as he addressed voter expectations and campaign financing.
Regardless, at the core of Obama’s address he spoke about the American citizen—the citizen as the individual and the pioneer—even going so far as using the Space Race to illustrate the innovative spirit of the American people.
“America is Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers and George Washington Carver …” he said. “That’s who we are, and over the past seven years, we’ve nurtured that spirit.”
However, this is the rhetoric of a man with not much left to say, as he has spent seven years trying to get his message across to both his own constituents and his adversaries in an often turbulent political environment where his attention shifted from campaign issues to pressing national concerns.
As such, perhaps it is too soon to commend him for an eloquent speech when, locally, Detroit remains one of the most impoverished cities in America, according to Detroit News, and what aid the national government can offer is being sent to Flint to assist with its water crisis.
As the New York Times stated, “National Guard troops could begin arriving in the city today to distribute water filters and bottled water to residents with lead-tainted drinking water.” With little oversight, Flint’s problems have become the quintessential example of State Government run amok.
Nevertheless, Obama remained positive and aside from a few disparaging remarks towards Republican Candidate Donald Trump, he was not on the attack; rather, he enjoyed a warm conversation about solidarity regardless of the icy stares from the wrong side of the aisle.
An argument could be made that he has earned a mild-mannered speech after years of political backlash and resentment from the Conservative party. But, his victories have not been small, as he pushed healthcare reform, gave the order to assassinate Osama bin Laden, and has dealt with both national and foreign tragedies in stride, while still holding the mantel of the American spirit over his head.
Nonetheless, Obama is leaving the White House soon, and will return as a citizen in a world partially forged by his own administration; but, his reservations were quite visible, as he was unable to achieve all that he had sought to accomplish during his time in office. Past failures aside, it did not keep him from looking ahead.
“The future we want … opportunity and security for our families, a rising standard of living, a sustainable peaceful planet for our kids—all that is within our reach,” he said. “But it will only happen if we work together. If we have rational, constructive debates. It will only happen if we fix our politics.”
Yet, underneath the transparent politico, Obama seemed prepared to hand his title over to the next politician in line, whether that be Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton, or Bernie Sanders. No matter who becomes the next President of the United States, however, the 2016 State of the Union showed that Obama’s initial message of hope will leave a lasting impression.