Three presidents have opted not to deliver their final speech in person; President Obama was not the fourth, tonight giving what was his last State of the Union address. He kicked it off with a wide grin, noting that for "this final one I'm going to try to make it a little shorter. I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa." Over the next 70 minutes he explained "I don't just want to talk about next year. I want to focus on the next five years, the next 10 years, and beyond." Indeed, as the New York Times observes, the speech "was more a broad statement of his vision rather than a policy prescription" (though he did announce a new effort to cure cancer led by Joe Biden). At the center of that vision: What the AP terms an "implicit call" to give Democrats a third consecutive term in the White House.
He "sought to contrast Republicans’ bleak appraisals of the state of the nation with his own upbeat argument," per the Times, as evidenced in lines like "anyone claiming that America's economy is in decline is peddling fiction." He also made what some are seeing as subtle references to Donald Trump:
- "Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change, promising to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control. And each time, we overcame those fears. We did not, in the words of Lincoln, adhere to the 'dogmas of the quiet past.' Instead we thought anew, and acted anew."
- "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."
- "The future we want ... is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates. It will only happen if we fix our politics."
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