President Barack Obama has given his last State of the Union address last night defending his legacy while striking an optimistic note for America’s future.
Barack Obama criticized the negative tone of the current presidential race, arguing the US has the “strongest, most durable economy in the world”.
“Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction,” he told lawmakers in Washington.
The speech to Congress highlighted Barack Obama’s accomplishments such as health reform.
He adds that with just a year to go and a Republican Congress, there is neither the time nor the votes to get much done.
Republicans attacked many of Barack Obama’s assertions, with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley saying in the party’s official response his record “had fallen short of his soaring words”.
“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, 10 years, and beyond,” Barack Obama said.
The president rejected suggestions by politicians and commentators that America’s economy is getting weaker.
However, Barack Obama added: “What is true – and the reason that a lot of Americans feel anxious – is that the economy has been changing in profound ways.”
He focused on the need to tackle income inequality, use technology to combat climate change and maintain national security while not becoming mired in foreign conflicts.
The president called on voters and politicians to change the divisive tone of politics and to “change the system to reflect our better selves”.
Barack Obama said a major regret of his presidency was that Republicans and Democrats had become more hostile towards each other.
“Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get all the attention,” he said.
He took indirect aim to Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump who has been criticized for his comments about Muslims and immigrants.
“When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid bullied, that doesn’t make us safer,” BarackObama said.
“That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong… And it betrays who we are as a country.”
For 2016, Barack Obama said he wanted to: close the Guantanamo Bay prison; achieve meaningful criminal justice reform; address rising tide of prescription drug abuse; authorize the use of military force against ISIS and lift the embargo on Cuba.
He also announced a new national cancer research initiative that Vice-President Joe Biden will be leading.
Barack Obama only mentioned guns briefly, despite a recent policy push for executive actions on gun control, though a chair was left empty in the chamber to symbolize victims of gun violence.