President Joe Biden delievers the State of the Union address to members of Congress and special guests, as both parties stand to applaud on February 7, 2023. Courtesy of AP News.

President Joe Biden addressed the nation on February 7 for the annual State of the Union address. This was Biden’s first State of the Union where his party did not have a trifecta, but it was clear the intended audience was beyond the bounds of the House chamber.

For Biden, the purpose of this address was to directly communicate with the estimated 24 million viewers, telling them what he has done so far and what he plans to do. Preparing for a likely reelection campaign, Biden, now 80, needs to convince the electorate that he has used his position to deliver results and that he will continue to do so, even with a newly divided Congress.

Despite stumbling over his words a few times, Biden gave a vigorous and energetic speech that painted a hopeful light on the future of the nation.

“Folks, the story of America is a story of progress and resilience. Of always moving forward. Of never, ever, giving up,” Biden said. “We’re not finished yet by any stretch of the imagination.”

Very much in line with the Biden of the past, references and appeals to the middle class were peppered throughout the address.

“So many of you feel like you’ve just been forgotten,” Biden said. “Amid the economic upheaval of the past four decades, too many people have been left behind or treated like they’re invisible. Maybe that’s you, watching at home,”

According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, 62% of Americans say Biden has not achieved much during his first two years in office, making it strategic for Biden to highlight specific legislation during his speech.

“I signed over 300 bipartisan laws since becoming President,” said Biden. “From reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, to the Electoral Count Reform Act, to the Respect for Marriage Act that protects the right to marry the person you love.”

Biden went on to draw comparison from the beginning of his term to present day, highlighting his leadership through the COVID-19 pandemic and record job creation.

“Because the soul of this nation is strong, because the backbone of this nation is strong, because the people of this nation are strong, the State of the Union is strong,”

President Joe Biden

“Two years ago, our economy was reeling,” said Biden. “As I stand here tonight, we have created a record 12 million new jobs, more jobs created in two years than any president has ever created in four years.”

Biden tried to project himself as the adult in the room, someone willing to be calm and lower tensions, with the first half of Biden’s address seemingly a play for unity. Biden did provoke some Republicans by calling out plans to cut Social Security. Biden smiled through heckles from Republicans in the audience, at one point responding to shouts of “liar” by saying that he “enjoys conversion.”

“There is no reason we can’t work together and find consensus on important things in this Congress as well,” said Biden. “The people sent us a clear message. Fighting for the sake of fighting, power for the sake of power, conflict for the sake of conflict, gets us nowhere.”

Amid criticism on China, Biden made reference to the Chinese spy balloon that entered US airspace and was shot down.

“Make no mistake, as we made clear last week, if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country. And we did,” Biden said.

Ultimately Biden gave a hopeful assessment of America’s future, while asking Congress and, to greater extent, the American people to allow him to “finish the job.”

“Because the soul of this nation is strong, because the backbone of this nation is strong, because the people of this nation are strong, the State of the Union is strong,” concluded Biden.

Despite his calls for unity, reactions to Biden’s speech were mixed.

Left-leaning pundits praised Biden’s speech, with NBC Presidential historian Michael Beschloss calling it “wonderful.”

“He was elegant, he was civilized, he was conciliatory, he was reasonable,” said Beschloss. “Most of all, he sounded like a centrist, which is exactly where he wants to be.”

On the other hand, conservative pundits like Sean Hannity, a longtime friend of Trump, panned the speech. Hannity called Biden, “a weak crotchety old man, disconnected from reality, mumbling and bumbling.”