WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) — U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday night made his final State of the Union speech predominated by political talk instead of specific proposals as the United States enters an election year.
“For my final address to this chamber, I don’t want to talk just about the next year. I want to focus on the next five years, ten years, and beyond,” said Obama, mindful of the fact that the remaining time of his presidency is too limited for him to achieve more specific goals in the year ahead.
In broad terms, Obama put forward “four big questions” that he thinks the United States has to answer in the future.
First, Obama said the United States has to give every citizen “a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy.”
“What is true — and the reason that a lot of Americans feel anxious — is that the economy has been changing in profound ways,” said Obama, after mentioning several economic achievements in his tenure, including reduced unemployment and a narrowed deficit.
To help Americans prepare for the new economy, he called for a continued reform of the U.S. education and training system, strengthening social security and medicare, as well as adjusting the role of government to make sure the system is not rigged in favor of the wealthiest and biggest corporations.
Second, Obama said the United States has to reignite the spirit of innovation to meet urgent challenges.
He mentioned several measures, from strengthening medical research to developing clean energy. Obama also announced “a new national effort” to cure cancer.
Third, Obama said Washington should keep the country safe and strong without either isolating itself or trying to rebuild any society that is unraveling.
Obama urged Congress to authorize the use of military force against the Islamic State group and defended his foreign policy record by touting so-called American leadership based on wise use of military power and mobilizing a global coalition to deal with challenges.
Fourth, Obama called for the United States to fix its politics to avoid the brinkmanship in Washington politics that has plagued his administration in the past years, an example being the federal government shutdown in 2013.
Obama admitted that the rancor and suspicion between Republicans and Democrats have gotten worse instead of better during his presidency, one of his few regrets.
In response to Obama’s address on behalf of the Republican Party, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley criticized the president for his stewardship in both economy and foreign policy, referring to a crushing national debt, a more expensive health care plan and a more dangerous terrorist threat.
“President Obama spoke eloquently about grand things. He’s at his best when he does that,” said Haley. “Unfortunately, the president’s record has often fallen far short of his soaring words.”