Obama’s Final Stretch: Advancing Our Dreams

PHOTO: President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the White House Brady Press Briefing Room in Washington, Dec. 18, 2015.PlayPablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo
WATCH President Obama To Deliver Final State of the Union

President Barack Obama’s last State of the Union Address isn’t an ending, but a beginning. Instead of the usual end-of-second term victory lap, Obama is, as it were, competing in another Olympic gold-winning event. With seven long, challenging and difficult years behind him, President Obama does not consider himself a lame duck. And he isn't one.

Obama finished 2015, a year that was supposed to be "The Year of the Limping Duck," with an historic international deal on climate change that was made because of his leadership for the United States. He kicked off 2016, this big year in politics, with a marathon race to tighten background checks and to ensure our current laws on gun safety laws are enforced. But, that’s not all.

Senior White House aides tell me there is more to come. They aren't naive to think that major policy changes will happen in Congress -— beyond trade and criminal justice reform. Someone needs to point out that there’s so much more Congress can do besides try to repeal Affordable Care Act for the umpteenth time, or defund Planned Parenthood. Congress should be more than a retro TV channel, planning re-runs of their favorite reverse-run plays and a year-long celebration of Festivus, airing one's complaints.

Given what he inherited back in 2009, Barack Obama has plenty of successes to rattle off -- ending the Great Recession, passing the first equal pay for women act, regulating big banks and Wall Street, helping to successfully combat the world’s most deadly outbreak of Ebola, mapping the human brain and setting a national goal to go to Mars.

If the President wants to highlight his accomplishments over the past two terms...we could be in for a long speech. But, without mentioning what I just did, he could start with Obamacare, an historic achievement with 100 years of struggle by previous Presidents behind it. Today, Obamacare is providing millions and millions of uninsured Americans, for the first time, with life-saving health care.

This month revealed a job-creating record, and an overall economic recovery from the Great Recession that’s produced more than 13 million new jobs for 70 consecutive straight months.

Obama could also mention killing bin Laden, not to mention taking out dozens of various terrorist groups' leaders. He could talk about the U.S. nuclear deal with Iran that’s eluded previous administrations, or thawing relations with Cuba...and there’s even more.

The President could give an entire speech just on achievements that annoy conservatives, including the just-passed bi-partisan budget.

Look at how unpopular it was when the President bailed out the auto industry in 2009 -- over Republican’s strong, mocking, opposition. Last week Detroit automakers racked up record profits. It took time. But, this is a President who has always played the long game.

Of course, everything Obama accomplished irritated conservatives merely because each was a validation of both his campaign promises and his determination to move the country forward on issues of social justice and equality.

This, and the next President, face intractable events -— matters hard to control or deal with: the turmoil in the Middle East, with roots in divisions from more than a millennium ago; the tremors in the global economy with its origins in China; and the madness of a nuclear North Korea, which predates the last two presidencies.

In spite of it all, the President is running his race flat out to finish unfinished business like gun safety, better health care, debt-free college and career education and Earth-saving climate change And to advance his clear vision and values for a greater country.

So do not look for President Obama to run down a list of past goals. According to senior aides, the President will lay out his world view about completing his 21st Century vision for this country, and what the challenges are for his successor and America.

It is about more than 2016 to him. And — are you listening — what we have seen is that decisions made now will have an impact on where we are in years to come.

Like Ronald Reagan, the President will use his last address to remind the country “we’re not finished yet." As 2015 proved, he’s no lame duck, but a winning competitor down to the breaking of the tape at the finish line.

Finally, Obama knows the American people need to hear more than the Commander in Chief is doing something to keep them safe. Senior White House aides say President Obama will be out much more, showing them the actions he is taking to defeat ISIS, which has lost half its militia, and 14 percent of its territory at the hands of Obama’s coalition.

There are contrasting, opposite visions for our nation at work in 2016, as there have been for seven years. We can return to the country as is was at the end of George Bush’s term, or keep and build on the values and vision of the American Dream that Obama has advanced.

Donna Brazile is an ABC News contributor and Democratic strategist. Opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of ABC News.