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State of the Union

Four years in the White House is bound to change the person with the title of president. There is too much responsibility, too much around-the-clock pressure from events both here and abroad for it not to have an effect.

We can all see how it ages the office holder.

This is certainly true of President Barack Obama, who now is a little grayer, a little more tired-looking than when he first delivered a State of the Union address fresh from his first election.

And while the famous words of Thomas Paine, “these are the times that try men’s souls” is an apt description of what the nation, and the world, are experiencing, Obama hasn’t surrendered a core principle — that of hope.

In addressing the American public Tuesday night, the president continued to present his vision of the nation. Obama continued to remind the country that whatever the challenge, especially when it comes to the economy and expanding the middle class — “we can fix this — and we will.”

That expression of hope includes the continuing economic recovery and ideas for the kind of investments, in jobs and education, that are necessary to maintain a strong and flexible nation for generations to come.

President Obama also spoke to the coming end of our military involvement in Afghanistan and his decision that another 34,000 American troops will come home during the coming year.

He did not shy away from the controversy of climate change. “We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen, were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science — and act before it’s too late.”

Nor did he back away from taking a realistic and measured approach to reducing gun violence, one that should come before the whole Congress and force members to go on record. The president sounded the rallying cry of the victims of these incidents of gun violence ... “they deserve a vote.”

His speech was infused with confidence and the experience that comes from the previous four years. And for all the past talk about compromise on the part of the Republicans, this president reached out to get past our political differences that shaped the past four years.

“We may do different jobs, and wear different uniforms, and hold different views than the person beside us.

“But as Americans, we all share the same proud title: We are citizens. It’s a word that doesn’t just describe our nationality or legal status. It describes the way we’re made. It describes what we believe.

“It captures the enduring idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations; that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter in our American story.”

Even after four years, this is still a story of hope.

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