President Obama’s final State of the Union address

President Obama’s final State of the Union address

Overview

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The White House is once again making the full text of the State of the Union available online ahead of the speech, as prepared for delivery, continuing efforts to meet people where they are and make the speech as accessible as possible. On Medium, people can follow along with the speech as they watch in real time at WhiteHouse.gov/SOTU, view charts and infographics on key areas, share their favorite lines, and provide feedback.

President Barack Obama knocked Republican presidential candidates for anti-Muslim rhetoric and accused critics on Tuesday of playing into the hands of Islamic State in a speech aimed at setting an optimistic tone for his last year in office.

Obama, delivering his last State of the Union speech to Congress before leaving office next year, said it was fiction to declare the United States was in economic decline or getting weaker on the international stage.

In a direct slap at Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, Obama said insulting Muslims hurt the United States and “betrayed” its identity.

“When politicians insult Muslims … that doesn’t make us safer,” he said, drawing applause from the crowd in the House of Representatives chamber. “It’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals.”

EARLIER DEVELOPMENTS (ALL TIMES ET)

10:52:30 PMIn the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley took a softer tone on immigration than the harsh rhetoric often heard from her party’s presidential candidates.

“Immigrants have been coming to our shores for generations to live the dream that is America,” Haley said in a speech delivered from Columbia, the state capital.

Following Obama’s lead, she appeared to use the speech as an occasion to respond to Donald Trump, the front runner for the Republican nomination who has called for a ban on allowing Muslims to enter the United States.

“Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference,” she said. “That is just not true. Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume. When the sound is quieter, you can actually hear what someone else is saying. And that can make a world of difference.”

Haley’s speech was praised by both sides of politics. Former Obama strategist David Axelrod tweeted: “Really effective speech by @nikkihaley. Avoided the Response to SOTU curse.”

Republican pollster Frank Luntz said Haley, who is being touted as a possible Republican running mate, tested well with voters. “This is the highest we’ve ever tested a #SOTU response.”

10:25:44 PMPresident Obama wrapped up his final State of the Union address with a forceful statement of confidence in the future of the United States.

“I believe in change because I believe in you,” Obama said in his closing remarks, generating a standing ovation. “That’s why I stand here as confident as I have ever been that the State of our Union is strong.”

Obama received about a dozen standing ovations during his address, but just a handful were fully bipartisan.

In addition to the standing ovation that greeted the entry of First Lady Michelle Obama, the other bipartisan applause moments came after his comments on cutting red tape and outdated regulations, when he announced Vice President Joe Biden would lead a cancer “moonshot” initiative and when he lauded the U.S. military as the finest fighting force in the world.

Several more moments won big applause from the Democratic side of the chamber. Those included Obama’s remarks on:

* Making college affordable

* Food stamps not causing the financial crisis

* Biden securing new resources for National Institutes of Health

* His administration’s clean energy achievements

* The Islamic State not being representative of one of the world’s largest religions

* His request for new authorization to use military force

* Terrorists finding that Americans have long memories and the U.S. reach has no limits

* His assertion that “we are on track to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS

9:52:13 PMTwitter traffic on the hashtag #SOTU has exploded since President Obama started delivering his final State of the Union address, with more than 761,000 tweets using the tag, up by roughly 500,000 since Obama’s speech began.

Jeers at House Speaker Paul Ryan’s lack of participation counted heavily among the tweets. According to social media analytics firm Zoomph, #PaulRyan was among the top hashtags during the speech.

Ryan appeared only to have applauded Obama when the president mentioned U.S. military personnel.

Author and New York Times columnist Anand Giridharadas (@AnandWrites) tweeted: “After curing cancer, we should cure the problem that prevents Paul Ryan’s hands from joining even for things he agrees with. #SOTU.”

9:38:26 PM

While President Barack Obama was widely expected to focus on gun control in his final State of the Union address, the word “gun” appeared just once in the prepared text of his speech when he quickly summarized several proposals he’s already made.

Obama symbolically had a chair left empty in the box where First Lady Michelle Obama was sitting in honor of those who have died from gun violence. The hashtag #EmptySeat was trending heavily on Twitter in response to the gesture.

The single reference to “gun” compared with four mentions of “climate change” and 15 to the “economy.”

Obama apparently has delivered on his promise to keep this year’s speech shorter: The text of his speech unofficially comes in at 5,438 words versus 6,776 in his 2015 speech.

9:22:21 PM

The White House released a post (bit.ly/1Q3P2oz) by Vice President Joe Biden explaining his new task, heading an initiative to find a cure for cancer.

President Barack Obama was expected to detail Biden’s role during the State of the Union speech Tuesday night.

“I know that we can help solidify a genuine global commitment to end cancer as we know it today — and inspire a new generation of scientists to pursue new discoveries and the bounds of human endeavor,” Biden wrote.

9:13:00 PM

President Barack Obama has entered the U.S. House of Representatives to deliver his final State of the Union speech as U.S. commander in chief.

Obama has taken the podium and has begun.

He promises to keep this speech, his eighth, “a little shorter,” joking that many in the audience need to get to Iowa, site of the first U.S. party caucuses ahead of November’s presidential election.

According to an advance text of his speech, he will rebuff talk from critics that America is in economic decline as “political hot air.”

9:04:57 PM

President Barack Obama will call on Congress to end the practice of drawing congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters.

Too many Americans feel “the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest,” Obama said, according to a copy of the speech released by the White House.

First Lady Michelle Obama has arrived in the House chamber for her husband’s final State of the Union address, wearing a mustard-colored dress. Members of Obama’s cabinet have also arrived, as have the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. 8:56:55 PMThe White House has posted the text of President Obama’s speech (bit.ly/1nh7MFI) and he will describe ISIS militants as “killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down and destroyed.”

Separately, however, he said claims that the ISIS fight is World War III are “over the top.” Still, he urged Congress to pass authorizations to use military force against ISIS.

Obama is also expected to say that Vice President Joe Biden, whose son Beau died from a brain tumor, will lead a new effort to make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.