Barack Obama's seventh and final State of the Union address is underway and though he's promised a shorter address than previous years it will not be lacking in substance. The president took a moment to talk about achievements and progress like marriage equality, which got a standing ovation, but also pointed out the long road ahead. Obama mentioned criminal justice reform, fixing the immigration system, gun violence, and raising the minimum wage, as issues he will continue to strive for.
Here's the four questions the POTUS said need to be answered as the country goes forward:
- 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?
Discussing how during his term he has alleviated student debt, partially by forgiving the debt of students "swindled" by colleges, Obama reiterated his ongoing efforts for education reform and making college affordable once again: two free years of community college. The plan first proposed during the last SOTU address.
Obama puts Vice President Joe Biden in charge of Mission Control saying, "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." This is a subtle nod to Biden's son Beau who recently passed away from brain cancer.
While acknowledging ISIS Obama was not only hopeful about combating the terroristic entity but confident. The POTUS said: "But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands. Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks and twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages pose an enormous danger to civilians and must be stopped. But they do not threaten our national existence. That’s the story ISIL wants to tell; that’s the kind of propaganda they use to recruit. We don’t need to build them up to show that we’re serious, nor do we need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie that ISIL is representative of one of the world’s largest religions. We just need to call them what they are — killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed."
Here's how confident he is: "If you doubt America’s commitment — or mine — to see that justice is done, ask Osama bin Laden. Ask the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, who was taken out last year, or the perpetrator of the Benghazi attacks, who sits in a prison cell."
That one-liner, as Wesley Lowery pointed out, was an official drop mic moment to top last year's memorable one.
The POTUS also used his final address to remind the American people what some Republican candidates have been passing off as "strategy" to deal with ISIS isn't a strategy at all. "The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and 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."
Obama said that in helping others the U.S. is not providing charity but helping create a better future and "protecting our children" such as striking a climate change deal. Obama said, "When we help African countries feed their people and care for the sick, that prevents the next pandemic from reaching our shores. Right now, we are on track to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS, and we have the capacity to accomplish the same thing with malaria—something I'll be pushing this Congress to fund this year."
Among Obama's plans is the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison, which he described as "a recruitment brochure for our enemies," because it's expensive and "unnecessary."
Obama, knowing that America has lost faith in politics and democracy because it's rallying behind the current presidential frontrunner (which he took digs at during his speech), called Americans to action:
"So, my fellow Americans, whatever you may believe, whether you prefer one party or no party, our collective future depends on your willingness to uphold your obligations as a citizen. To vote. To speak out. To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us. To stay active in our public life so it reflects the goodness and decency and optimism that I see in the American people every single day."
Reinvigorating the country to persevere on with a positive outlook Obama's final address comes to an end.
The only person less impressed than the little guy above? Fellow child, Donald Trump.
Read Barack Obama's final address in full here.