Prior to President Barack Obama’s 2016 State of the Union address, many speculated that his speech would be delivered without restraint; in his final year of office, surely, President Obama would have nothing left to lose.
They were right.
The speech, delivered on Jan. 13, highlighted the successes of Obama’s presidency, praising the American resiliency to economic hardships among other struggles. And amidst the hope and esteem for the country lay the underlying mirth—the oh-so subtle slights against the 2016 presidential hopefuls.
Jabs at climate change-deniers and discriminatory politicians aside, the speech was rather reminiscent of Obama’s 2008 platform: optimistic and full of change. For sure, things have changed (for better or for worse) since 2008, but the future still remains uncertain.
President Obama’s envisioned future weighs heavily on American exceptionalism and seems almost disillusioned; how could there be hope, with so many conflicts on the political scene? Even without the divisions between the Republican and Democratic parties, there are even more crises internationally, what with the war-torn Middle East and the ever-enigmatic but threatening North Korea. Perhaps it is too much of a stretch to say that the Union is strong, given the current state of the world. Despite this, Obama’s proclamation of his belief in the American people is still admirable; he certainly has a way with pathos, encouraging the audience with the power of democracy. That said, his hopes may not be so justified in the end—what is already broken cannot be so easily fixed, even with the cleverest of rhetoric.
As for key statements, perhaps the most striking part of his speech is this:
“It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency—that the rancor and suspicion between the [main political] parties [have] gotten worse instead of better.”
With the rapidly approaching primaries and 2016 elections, this political division is of utmost importance. It leaves less room for compromise and opens the floor to conflict—conflict that inhibits the possibility of actually accomplishing something. Perhaps Obama could have changed this earlier, or perhaps it was inevitable. But regardless, his message urging for the unity of all Americans rings true.
All in all, the State of the Union address made for interesting analysis, showcasing Obama’s japes and recapping his presidency. His hopes for the future are yet to be validated, and only time will tell.
by Sydney Trieu