President Obama delivered his final State of the Union address last night. While many topics seemed ripe for political high drama, there were also quite a few important-to-note competencies and inspirational moments in regards to the places America has been and is going.

The greatest takeaway from this year’s SOTU is captured in the following:

“And the international system we built after World War II is now struggling to keep pace with this new reality. In today’s world, we’re threatened less by evil empires and more by failing states. The Middle East is going through a transformation that will play out for a generation, rooted in conflicts that date back millennia. Economic headwinds are blowing in from a Chinese economy that is in significant transition. Even as their economy severely contracts, Russia is pouring resources in to prop up Ukraine and Syria, client states that they saw slipping away from their orbit. And the international system we built after World War II is now struggling to keep pace with this new reality.”

The president’s statement recognizes that things are not going as well as they used to. The rules of the game have changed, as have the players. In effect, the retained element of order created in the aftermath of World War II—the once powerful traditions and unity of old alliances—is faltering. That failure can in part be attributed to the limited endurance of the post-World War II international system, a system now cursed with unresolved efforts to institute cohesion in the bureaucratic systems that drive it.

The nations that were initially selected, and the groups recognized for that international system, have now shifted balance to those previously not considered, or were then unheard of. Here, President Obama has rightfully recognized that America has to lead the way for reform. This is where maintenance of order and balance is required, and a new conception of the realities of the international system must be addressed, while not falling back upon old systems or adopting harshly coercive methods. The time of patronizing the antiquated post-World War II international system is overdue. The heritage of it is offering nothing of value besides unrelenting bureaucracy without the mechanisms of continuity, initiative, referendum, or recall, for the contemporary or new reality of the rational international system of affairs and its respected publics. 

Domestic security

The president set out to ease concerns regarding the state of the national identity of many Americans, who are floating with their heads just above or directly below surface level on the sea of debt. He spoke to us in a half-truth, as our economy is the largest in GDP, but we fall short of China in purchasing-power parity by about 0.22 trillion. Yet he continued to attempt to reassure us, “The United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world.”

Despite his words, many of us do not believe this (see chart below) because we most certainly do not reap many benefits from it. He did brush upon this by saying, “And more and more wealth and income is concentrated at the very top.” He said this while a split-screen effect appeared via the live webcast of the SOTU, which indicated in classic PowerPoint style “the top three percent of the richest Americans hold half the nation’s wealth.” As an ardent American capitalist, I cannot despise this fact, as in one form or another, these people became rightfully united with their money. That leaves me here with the remaining 97 percent, digging change out of the couch for Powerball pipe dreams. You have to play to win.