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The Congress meeting in plenary session was attended by many guests, including a Syrian refugee, a former clandestine, a homeless veteran and the protagonist of gay marriage legalization. There was also an empty chair to remember the many victims of firearms violence. This is the scenario in which Barack Obama gave his last speech on the state of the Union. Seven years after his arrival to the White House, the 44th commander in chief of the United States and the first African American in this role focused his speech on changes and hope. During the speech, he has also cited Pope Francis who held a speech at the Congress during his apostolic journey to the States, which took place last September.

“I will not make a list of the most urgent measures this Parliament should adopt, this time I shall talk about America and about its next 10 years,” Obama said, stressing the importance and the need to rediscover the origins of coexistence in a country which is still suffering from partisanship, factionalism, and from tribalism. He attacked those who want people to believe that the United States are receding, explaining how the “rhetoric of the decline is nothing but cheap fiction”. According to Obama, there are many things to do, but we must not forget about the 40 million jobs created during his presidency, the rebirth of the manufacturing sector, the green energy turning, health reform, and about the investments in education.

The President of the United States talked also about international terrorism and to those who reproach that important actions have not been taken in this field, he replied:  “Ask Osama Bin Laden”. Moreover, Obama attacked Donald Trump and Ted Cruz on  foreign policy. Endless bombing in Syria does not suffice to defeat Isis, but America, he has explained to those who were present, must use all its power to eliminate terrorism and defeat all the enemies, as it was done with Al Qaeda. Then it must find alliances, forge coalitions, reconstruct an order in a world where the main threats are not “the empires of evil, but the failed states”. “We must reject all policies which attack people because of their race or religion – Obama added in a direct attack on the Republican candidate for the 2016 presidential elections, Donald Trump -. It is not a matter of political correctness. It is a matter of understanding who and what makes us strong. The world does not respect us only for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and openness and for the way we respect all faiths”.

At this point of his speech, Obama cited Pope Francis, recalling his apostolic journey which took place last September and during which he had the opportunity to speak at the Congress meeting in plenary session. “His Holiness Pope Francis – Obama recalled – from this podium from which I am talking to you, has said that when politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, when a boy is scorned, it does not give us safety. Imitating the hatred and the violence of the tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place”. Obama has stressed that insulting Muslims does not make the country safer, but “debases it in the eyes of the world and makes it more difficult for us to achieve our goals. Besides, it betrays what we are as a country”. At the end of his speech, Obama said he was optimistic about the future and hoped that in 10 months he will have a successor who will truly be able to carry on these changes “which are inevitable, but whose success depends only on common choices”.

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