As President Barack Obama prepares to give the last State of the Union address of his presidency, it might be another evening full of rhetorical firsts. Over the course of his last seven addresses, Obama has used words never before uttered by presidents in the annual address, underscoring shifting domestic and foreign priorities, as well as technological advances that have come to play a major role in the American economy.
In preparation for his final scheduled address to Congress, all of Obama’s past speeches are available with both text and video online here. With a teaser video, Obama has promised a forward-looking final State of the Union focusing on “what we all need to do together in the years to come." That could mean sections devoted to climate change as well as gun control – two issues Obama has focused on in the last few months. If the first lady’s guest list is any indication of talking points, the refugee crisis and continuing war in Syria will get time, as will the legalization of same-sex marriage in the U.S. and women’s expanding roles in the armed forces.
In his 2015 address, Obama made history by acknowledging lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens. “That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” Obama said.
Reflecting domestic health and safety concerns, the words obesity, incarceration and ethnicity have all made it into recent speeches.
Shifts in foreign policy and regional priorities in recent years have also received notice, with Russian President Vladimir Putin mentioned by name for the first time for his aggressive actions in Ukraine during last year’s address. Beijing was mentioned for the first time, as well, in reference to the importance of cutting carbon pollution. Cyberthreats from hackers and the damage they could do to infrastructure, including power grids, were also mentioned for the first time.
And while he’s not the first president to have used the word, Obama has said “innovation” more than any other president.