What to expect from Obama's final State of the Union speech

TODAY at the White House: Watch the Highlights!

In his final State of the Union speech tonight, President Obama has promised to focus on "the big things" in "the years to come" and is expected to tout recent positive job numbers as proof that the economy has recovered. He also will likely spotlight his recent executive actions on gun violence and recent progress in the fight against ISIS.

Part of his goal in highlighting his accomplishments is to set the stage for the Democratic nominee in the presidential election and to combat the Republican talking points that portray his administration as a failure.

"I want us to be able, when we walk out this door, to say, 'We couldn't think of anything else that we didn't try to do ... that we weren't timid or got tired or somehow thinking about the next thing because there is no next thing,' " he said in a pre-State of the Union video released on Monday.

Click through some memorable State of the UnionMoments from the past:

Memorable State of the Union Moments from the Past
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What to expect from Obama's final State of the Union speech

2011 -

It took tragedy to restore civility.

Obama's address came just 17 days after a gunman fired on a congresswoman and her constituents at a gathering in Tucson, Arizona. Six people died and 13 were wounded, including Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head.

(Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images)

2011 -

Images from the House chamber that night were haunting: Lawmakers wearing black-and-white ribbons in memory of the casualties. An empty seat to honor Giffords.

(TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)

2011 -

And in first lady Michelle Obama's box, the mother, father and brother of Christina Green, a 9-year-old girl killed when she went to meet her congresswoman.

That night lawmakers started a continuing tradition: some Republicans and Democrats now sit together for the big speech, instead of dividing into partisan camps.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

2012 -

Giffords' bittersweet return was the high point of the next State of the Union.

Frail but smiling, holding colleagues' arms for support as she walked into the chamber, Giffords was greeted with a standing ovation, chants of "Gabby, Gabby, Gabby," and a hug and kisses on the cheek from Obama.

(Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

2014 -

Ronald Reagan started the State of the Union tradition of inviting everyday Americans and telling their inspirational stories.

Last year, a wounded war hero stole the show.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)


But significantly (and typically for a lame-duck president), Obama is not expected to outline any new policies or initiatives. And that also eases some of the pressure on him—in the last seven State of the Union speeches, the president has announced dozens of new proposals and goals—many of which were realized, including extending health coverage to uninsured Americans and allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces. But he also struck out on several major initiatives such as closing Guantanamo, campaign finance reform, gun control, and comprehensive immigration reform.

Several major economic and technology initiatives also went nowhere: he promised a million electric cars on the road by the end of 2015, but there are currently less than half that number. He vowed to double exports by the end of 2014, but that hasn't happened. And his proposal to create an Energy Security Trust to fund new research fell flat in Congress.

According to Politico, Obama has 19 victories, 15 losses, and 24 draws when it comes to policies and ideas he announced in his previous speeches. A full look at the mixed record of Obama's SOTU agenda is featured in this Wall Street Journal interactive graphic.

In an interview this morning with the Today Show's Matt Lauer, Obama admitted feeling some regret that he didn't unify the country as he promised in 2008 but also expressed pride in what his administration has been able to accomplish in the last seven years.

Obama noted that inaugural hopes and dreams often fall prey to the realities of governance, especially in a bitterly divided Washington D.C.

"And sometimes we look at the past through rose-colored glasses. It's been pretty divided in the past. There have been times where, you know, people beat each other with canes and we had things like the Civil War."

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