President Barack Obama's final State of the Union address was also his loosest. He knows he cannot win much from a Republican Congress amid a frenetic race to succeed him, and won't waste much energy trying.
Instead, the eighth-year chief directed his hour-long remarks to listeners with a longer time horizon — to future presidents and lawmakers and the voters who will elect them. His aim was shaping political argument beyond his own presidency.
"I want to focus on the next five years, 10 years, and beyond," he told his audience on television and in the House chamber Tuesday night. "So let's talk about the future, and four big questions that we as a country have to answer — regardless of who the next president is or who controls the next Congress."
He posed them this way: "First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy? Second, how do we make technology work for us, and not against us — especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change? Third, how do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman? And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what's best in us, and not what's worst?"