President Barack Obama revealed “one of the few regrets” of his time in office in his final State of the Union speech.
Speaking in front of a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, Obama said he regrets that the “rancor and suspicion” between Democrats and Republicans has gotten worse during his time in the White House, noting he’d try to use his remaining time in office to bring the two parties closer together.
Below, an excerpt on his regrets from Obama’s remarks as prepared for delivery, which you can read in full here:
A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country, with different regions and attitudes and interests. That’s one of our strengths, too. Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.
But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention. Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest.
Too many Americans feel that way right now. It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency—that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.
Read the full text of Obama’s last State of the Union address here.
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