Breaking News Emails
Another year, another State of the Union address by President Barack Obama.
On Tuesday, he’ll deliver his seventh – and next-to-last – such speech to the nation. This number counts his Feb. 2009 address to Congress (technically not a State of the Union, because he had been on the job for just a month).
And looking back on his past speeches, they serve as a kind of time stamp on his presidency, highlighting his goals and challenges. They also chronicle his graying hair and control of the U.S. House of Representatives (with Democrat Nancy Pelosi first sitting behind him, then Republican John Boehner).
Here are some past highlights:
2009: “[W]hile our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before” – Obama speaking in the midst of the country’s economic free fall and right after passage of the American Recovery Act, a.k.a., the stimulus.
2010: “Don't walk away from [health-care] reform. Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people. Let's get it done. Let's get it done” – Obama exhorting Congress (especially Democrats) after Scott Brown’s Senate victory in Massachusetts looked to imperil health-care reform.
2011:“Tonight I want to begin by congratulating the men and women of the 112th Congress, as well as your new Speaker, John Boehner. And as we mark this occasion, we’re also mindful of the empty chair in this chamber, and we pray for the health of our colleague – and our friend -– Gabby Giffords” – with the new GOP-controlled House and after then-Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., was shot.
2012:“For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country… We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules” – as Obama’s re-election message was coming into focus, especially with Mitt Romney as his likely Republican opponent.
2013: “The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek and Tucson and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence –- they deserve a simple vote. They deserve a simple vote” – after the Newtown, Conn., shootings.
2014: “For decades, few things exposed hard-working families to economic hardship more than a broken health care system. And in case you haven’t heard, we’re in the process of fixing that” – after the problems associated with HealthCare.Gov
Obama’s calls for action that were met
President Obama’s past State of the Unions also outlined his policy and political objectives. Some of them were accomplished:
Health care: “I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process. It will be hard. But I also know that nearly a century after Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform, the cost of our health care has weighed down our economy and the conscience of our nation long enough. So let there be no doubt: health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.” – 2009
Financial reform: “I ask Congress to move quickly on legislation that will finally reform our outdated regulatory system. It is time to put in place tough, new common-sense rules of the road so that our financial market rewards drive and innovation, and punishes short-cuts and abuse.” – 2009
Repealing “Don’t’ Ask, Don’t Tell”: “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. – 2010
Defeating Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda’s core leadership: “In Pakistan, al Qaeda’s leadership is under more pressure than at any point since 2001. Their leaders and operatives are being removed from the battlefield. Their safe havens are shrinking. And we’ve sent a message from the Afghan border to the Arabian Peninsula to all parts of the globe: We will not relent, we will not waver, and we will defeat you.” – 2011
Call for actions not met
Other objectives weren’t accomplished:
Cap and trade: “So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America.” – 2009
Closing Guantanamo: “That is why I have ordered the closing of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and will seek swift and certain justice for captured terrorists – because living our values doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us safer and it makes us stronger.” – 2009
Another jobs bill after the stimulus: “I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay.” – 2010
Ousting the Assad regime in Syria: “A year ago, Qaddafi was one of the world’s longest-serving dictators -– a murderer with American blood on his hands. Today, he is gone. And in Syria, I have no doubt that the Assad regime will soon discover that the forces of change cannot be reversed, and that human dignity cannot be denied.” – 2012
Passing immigration reform: “Finally, if we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement – and fix our broken immigration system... So let’s get immigration reform done this year.” – 2014
“The State of Our Nation Is….”
A final observation about Obama’s past State of the Union addresses: Each has had a slightly different way in describing the state of the nation.
2009: “We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.”
2010: “Despite our hardships, our union is strong.”
2011: “And tonight, more than two centuries later, it’s because of our people that our future is hopeful, our journey goes forward, and the state of our union is strong.”
2012: “The state of our Union is getting stronger. And we’ve come too far to turn back now.”
2013: “So, together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and we can say with renewed confidence that the State of our Union is stronger.”
2014: “Tonight, this chamber speaks with one voice to the people we represent: it is you, our citizens, who make the state of our union strong.”
The word game
The number of times Obama mentioned these words in his six previous addresses:
Health care: 38
NBC’s Rachel Witkin contributed to this article.