After walking down the center aisle in the congressional chamber for the final time, President Barack Obama delivered the 2016 State of the Union address. Senators, Congressmen, Supreme Court Justices, Joint Chiefs of Staff and dignitaries filled the room to hear the 44th President give his final State of the Union speech.
"For my final address to this chamber, I don't want to talk just about the next year," Obama said. "I want to focus on the next five years, ten years, and beyond."
Recurring themes throughout the President's 2016 State of the Union address included change, and optimism over fear.
"Our unique strengths as a nation — our optimism and work ethic, our spirit of discovery and innovation, our diversity and commitment to the rule of law — these things give us everything we need to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come," he said.
The President outlined numerous accomplishments during his two terms in office, including the recovery from the economic crisis, new benefits for veterans, marriage equality in all 50 states and the Affordable Care Act.
"Nearly eighteen million have gained coverage so far," Obama said. "Health care inflation has slowed. And our businesses have created jobs every single month since it became law."
The President also described his domestic agenda for his final year in office, which includes plans to help make college more affordable and establish greater corporate responsibility.
"Food Stamp recipients didn't cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did," Obama said, followed by a large applause inside the congressional chamber. "Immigrants aren't the reason wages haven't gone up enough; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns. It's sure not the average family watching tonight that avoids paying taxes through offshore accounts."
The President then turned his attention to science and innovation. He proposed more funding for the space program, for alternative energy and to combat climate change.
He also announced a bold plan to cure cancer, with Vice President Joe Biden helming the initiative.
"Tonight, I'm announcing a new national effort to get it done," he said. "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."
Turning to foreign affairs, the President addressed America's conflict with ISIL, as well as conflicting rhetoric from 2016 candidates about this issue. "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," he said. "That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn't pass muster on the world stage."
Obama also applauded America's role in stopping the spread of Ebola in West Africa, he praised the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and he spoke enthusiastically about reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. For his final year in office, he said he wants to end malaria in Africa and close down the Guantanamo Bay prison at last.
In what has become an increasingly toxic political climate at home, the President issued a call for tolerance and unity at home.
"When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid bullied, that doesn't make us safer," he said. "That's not telling it like it is. It's just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country."
The President said that he would like to improve America's political system by ending gerrymandering, reducing the influence of big money in politics and making it easier for people to vote.
He concluded his speech with a message of hope for the future.
"When I no longer hold this office," he said, "I'll be right there with you as a citizen — inspired by those voices of fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness that have helped America travel so far.Voices that help us see ourselves not first and foremost as black or white or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born; not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed. Voices Dr. King believed would have the final word — voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love."