US President Barack Obama delivers remarks on Jewish American History Month at the Adas Israel Congregation synagogue in Washington May 22, 2015. .
(photo credit: REUTERS / JONATHAN ERNST)
COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Barack Obama will cap his presidency on Tuesday night with his final State of the Union address, an expected victory lap for the progressive leader after a tumultuous seven years in office.
Entering his eighth and final year, Obama will praise sustained job growth each year throughout his presidency; implementation of healthcare reform; progress on his strategy to fight global climate change; and the brokerage of a nuclear deal with Iran, according to White House officials.
But the president will also acknowledge unfinished business on criminal justice reform, efforts to control gun sales in America and the fight against metastasizing terrorist organizations.
Late last year, officials in the Obama administration acknowledged that their attempts to negotiate a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians would not bear fruit during the remainder of his presidency. And both Obama and his team remain privately skeptical that negotiations toward peace in Syria will succeed, either.
But the administration remains enthusiastic that the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, will serve its stated purpose and prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Obama will deliver his speech just days before a report from the UN International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to declare Tehran in compliance with a key preliminary step in the deal.
After that report is published, implementation of the JCPOA may come in a matter of days.
Typically, a president addresses Congress at the beginning of each year to introduce a series of requests: Policy areas where the president hopes to coordinate with the US Congress.
This speech will be different, as the president has established a largely hostile relationship with a Republican-controlled legislature and expects little headway with them in his remaining time.
The president is also preparing to continue his use of executive authorities, including the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, after drawing the ire of Republican members for issuing executive orders furthering gun control last week.
While Obama will tout modest progress in the long fight against Islamic State, he also will attempt to address the tone and tenor of the race to succeed him among Republicans, some of whom have suggested a no-tolerance policy on accepting war refugees from Syria and Iraq. In response, the White House has invited Refaai Hamo, a Syrian refugee living in Michigan, to sit in First Lady Michelle Obama’s box during the address.
Also in the box will be one empty seat for the victims of gun violence.