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President Obama Gives State of the Union One Last Shot

President Obama Delivers State Of The Union AddressPresident Obama Delivers State Of The Union Address
President Obama delivers last year's State of the Union in January 2015.Photograph by Mark Wilson — Getty Images

For a gifted orator, President Obama has never delivered a breakout State of the Union speech. He’s looking to change that with his final shot Tuesday night.

The President is scheduled to speak to Congress at 9 p.m. in what is likely his last speech on the floor of the House of Representatives. Instead of the typical laundry list of asks, Obama instead is looking to outline what he has accomplished in seven years and optimistically suggest that he can still get a few more things done before he leaves office on Jan. 20, 2017.

Obama is also taking some not-so-veiled swipes at the Republicans who want to replace him, chiefly bombastic frontrunner Donald Trump, who promises to “make American great again.”

“America has been through big changes before: wars and depression, the influx of immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, and movements to expand civil rights,” Obama will say, according to prepared remarks released before the speech. “Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change, promising to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control. And each time, we overcame those fears.”

Aides are trying to bill Obama’s last turn on the dais as an upbeat speech and hardly a farewell address. Even as eyes turn to the 2016 election, Obama’s Administration is still pushing an agenda that includes criminal justice reform—which has bipartisan support—and moves to reduce gun violence.

In a teaser video, Obama said he wants to talk about “not just the remarkable progress we’ve made, not just what I want to get done in the year ahead, but what we all need to do together in the years to come: The big things that will guarantee an even stronger, better, more prosperous America for our kids.”

Obama is set to return to that theme of the world America leaves to today’s children in excerpts the White House released.

“The future we want—opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids—all that is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates,” Obama said. “It will only happen if we fix our politics.”

But the speech is potentially Obama’s last big speech of his Presidency. His predecessors have used State of the Union speeches to outline enduring policies and ideals. James Monroe used his 1823 State of the Union to describe a American foreign that continues to guide the United States. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1941 speech gave the country the ideas of Four Freedoms. Lyndon Johnson introduced the country to a War on Poverty in 1964 and George W. Bush used his 2002 visit to Congress gave the world its Axis of Evil.

For his part, Obama’s speeches before Congress have often fallen flat. The man who rose to national prominence on the promise of his 2004 speech at the Democratic convention in Boston is looking for one last chance at redemption.

In a tweet sent from his political account, he quoted a song from the musical “Hamilton” about Alexander Hamilton drafting George Washington’s farewell address.

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