US President Barack Obama has urged Americans to mend the differences dividing their country in his final State of the Union speech. He called on them to rekindle their belief in the promise of change.
In his seventh and final State of the Union address on Tuesday, US President Barack Obama dispensed with any combative comments, instead calling on supporters and opponents alike to work together to take the country forward.
"I hope we can work together this year on bipartisan priorities like criminal justice reform, and helping people who are battling prescription drug abuse," Obama said, citing examples of key issues requiring support from Democrats and Republicans alike.
The president used the speech to highlight many of his administration's accomplishments since taking office in 2009. For instance, he referenced education reform and the growing economy, as well as foreign policy successes like reopening diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Focus on the future
However, Obama was primarily concerned with looking at things that still needed to be done. He pointed to toughening gun laws, making college affordable, strengthening Social Security and Medicare and promoting clean energy as important domestic issues for the coming years.
The president also emphasized the need to make the world a safer place by fighting terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda and the so-called "Islamic State."
"If you doubt America's commitment - or mine - to see that justice is done, ask Osama bin Laden," Obama said in reference to these terrorist groups. Bin Laden, the man behind the September 11 terrorist attacks, was killed by US forces in 2011.
Calls to 'fix' US politics
Obama also took the opportunity to throw some subtle swipes at his critics, including those currently battling it out on the campaign trail in the race to succeed him as president.
"Anyone claiming that America's economy is in decline is peddling fiction," he said, referring to a typical line used by the likes of Donald Trump, a vociferous critic of Obama and current Republican frontrunner. Obama also said "we need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion" - another swipe at Trump, who has said he would bar Muslims from entering the US.
Obama ended his speech by calling on leaders to "fix our politics," insisting they must work together in order to give Americans "the future we want."
"It's one of the few regrets of my presidency - that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better," he said toward the end of the speech.
This year marks the final year of Obama's presidency. The next president will be elected in November.
blc/jm (Reuters, AP, dpa)