In his final State of the Union address, President Obama admits a single 'regret.'

President Obama delivered his final State of the Union address last night.

It was full of rousing moments, brutal mic drops, and two appearances of the phrase "pass muster," which gave the whole thing a nice Gatsby feel.

While a lot of important issues were addressed, like terrorism and curing cancer, some were not — abortion rights and police brutality to name a few.


Obama delivering his final State of the Union address. Photo by Evan Vucci/Getty Images.

One topic Obama brought up toward the end carried with it his only use of the word "regret."

"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."

It's not often you hear a president use the word "regret."

He's expressed frustration at gun control and in 2015 said that he wishes he closed Guantanamo Bay on his first day in office.

But for Obama to express regret in his final address, before all of congress and America, is a pretty big deal.

Especially since the issue at the heart of his regret is one we hear about often — divisiveness and partisanship in Congress and in this country.

Americans, more than ever, feel divided and that their voices simply aren't being heard the way they used to.

According to a recent CNN poll, 75% of Americans are dissatisfied with the way the government is being run. That's a huge problem in a country that is supposed to be "of the people."

From billionaire bankers who can crash the economy without spending a second in jail, to corporate CEOs who can buy and sell presidential candidates to unarmed black men being killed by police on sight — and those cops who never see a day in court because of a system of politics that protects them — it's pretty easy to see why people aren't feeling just dissatisfied but completely unmotivated.

Most Americans look at the scope and scale of the problems this country faces and just aren't sure they can do anything about it.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's election in 2013 received record-low voter turnout. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images.

Voter turnout is on the decline in presidential elections, and in local and primary elections, turnout has been abysmal. Not to mention even if people do turn out to vote, politicians have gerrymandered districts, something the president called for an end to in his State of the Union, or as he described it, "the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters and not the other way around."

Once again, in a country that elects its leaders to represent them, this is — to put it lightly — not good.

But there may be one silver lining to this problem, in the form of millennial voters.

According to a poll conducted by Rock the Vote and USA Today, millennial voters (the country's largest demographic) no longer reliably identify as liberal or conservative.

Millennials are more likely to cast their votes based on issues, not candidates, and their political alignments reflect a need for radical systemic change rather than just another party politician.

It might explain why there's so much support for Bernie Sanders, a candidate who, much like Obama eight years ago, many young voters believe carries with him the radical change they're looking for.

On the other hand, it could also explain millennial Republicans' support for Donald Trump, a candidate who also represents an anti-establishment ideology.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is surging in popularity just ahead of the Iowa Caucus. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

Maybe that's what bridging this almighty divide will look like. Voters turning out to voice their concern on specific issues and candidates who, as a result, have to be representatives of the people first and politicians second. As it should be.

This is what one of the most powerful world leaders, the president of the United States, says he regrets not being able to change in his years in office.

Of course, the president went on to say that he would do his best in his remaining year in office to address this problem.

"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."

He went on to say that what's necessary is a change of the entire system, an end to practices like gerrymandering that will help us "to reflect our better selves."

But the president's call to action is significant because the people, with a united voice, are one thing that's more powerful than he is.

With an election coming up this year, the voice of the American people has the potential to be louder than it ever has. As the president noted in his closing paragraphs, it's not enough to just sit at home and be frustrated.

Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
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The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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Researchers at the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a not-for-profit non-governmental organization dedicated to disrupting online hate and misinformation, and the group Anti-Vax Watch performed an analysis of social media posts that included false claims about the COVID-19 vaccines between February 1 and March 16, 2021. Of the disinformation content posted or shared more than 800,000 times, nearly two-thirds could be traced back to just 12 individuals. On Facebook alone, 73% of the false vaccine claims originated from those 12 people.

Dubbed the "Disinformation Dozen," these 12 anti-vaxxers have an outsized influence on social media. According to the CCDH, anti-vaccine accounts have a reach of more than 59 million people. And most of them have been spreading disinformation with impunity.

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Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
True

The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

Keep Reading Show less