Though millions of Americans watched the televised speech, the president's ostensible audience was right in front of him - Congress. His relations with many Republican lawmakers are icy at best. And even his alliances with Democrats had been put under stress at times in the past year.
The lawmakers' responses to the speech ranged from predictable to somewhat surprised. NPR's Andrea Seabrook listened to lawmakers after the speech.
The text of President Obama's State of the Union address, as delivered:
Thank you. Thank you so much.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:
Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq. Together, we offered a final, proud salute to the colors under which more than a million of our fellow citizens fought — and several thousand gave their lives.
First came sexual-assault allegations against Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at Penn State. Then, molestation accusations against Bernie Fine, an assistant basketball coach at Syracuse. And now, new details about what led John Chadima, an associate athletic director at Wisconsin, to resign earlier this month.
When Waterbury, Vt., got walloped by the remnants of Hurricane Irene, the small town sustained an estimated $9 million in damages to personal property, and countless millions more in lost business revenue. Five months later, the waters have receded, but Waterbury's future remains uncertain.
On Main Street, a church bell still chimes every day, but daily life in Waterbury hasn't been the same since Irene.
"It's palpable," says Bill Shepeluk, Waterbury's municipal manager. "You can sense that it's not as vibrant as it was."
Americans who've been traveling abroad are all too often stunned by the size of their mobile phone bill. Even if they aren't actively using their phone, they can rack up hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars in charges — resulting in what consumer advocates call "bill shock."
Los Angeles resident Lisa French thought she was being careful when she took her smartphone on a trip to Japan.
"I was advised not to make any phone calls, as phone calls oversees are very, very expensive," she says.