In his final State of the Union address, President Barack Obama sought to defend the consequences of his time in office and leave the address on a firmly optimistic note.
He clearly is unhappy with the current presidential race and its negative overtone. He also called America the “strongest, most durable economy in the world”.
The address has drawn responses from many. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said his record “had fallen short of his soaring words”. Donald Trump called it “boring” and “rambling”. Jeb Bush also clearly did not agree that America was safer after Obama’s time in office.
Obama was sure to reject claims that America’s economy is getting weaker and more unstable. He did mention however that “the reason that a lot of Americans feel anxious – is that the economy has been changing in profound ways.”
His three focuses seemed to be income inequality, national security and climate change. He added that a major regret of his time in office was that Republicans and Democrats had become more hostile towards one another.
Obama’s plans for the coming year are thus:
- Close Guantanamo Bay
- Criminal Justice reform
- Tackle prescription drug abuse
- Fight IS
- Lift the embargo on Cuba
He also announced that Vice-President Joe Biden will be leading a new national cancer research initiative. He only mentioned guns very briefly and a chair was left empty in the hall to symbolise the victims of gun violence.
President Obama’s aims for the coming year look suspiciously similar to what he was planning at the start of his presidency. They all look within reach but we should also remember the hurdles and challenges that he faces in a Democracy. This is not to absolve Obama nor vilify the Republicans but he is facing some serious challenges to push through his attempts at reforms and changes. Also, as much as the president may well be the most powerful man in America, if not the world, he still has to work within his system to implement these changes. Thus we can’t look on what he has not done as failings but instead we should look upon the reality for millions of ordinary Americans – it might just be a bit better than before he got into office.
Image credit: flickr.com/realjameso16