Seven Takes on Obama for the Final State of the Union

Call me an optimist, but I have high hopes for tonight’s State of the Union—and not just because the White House will be live-annotating it on Genius. We’ve been promised that President Obama’s seventh and final State of the Union address will depart from convention—and the usual laundry list of legislative priorities—in favor of “a grander call to arms on the major challenges facing the nation.” What that may mean is anyone’s guess, but here are six stories about Obama and one speech, for those who like to scroll while they watch. You can livestream the State of the Union here, starting at 9pm ET.

1. “Obama, Explained” (James Fallows, The Atlantic, March 2012)

Written as Obama campaigned for a second term, Fallows analyzed the first chapter of his presidency, in historical context.

2. “The Obama Memos” (Ryan Lizza, The New Yorker, Jan. 2012)

A look at hundreds of pages of internal White House documents, and what they reveal about the president’s decision-making process

3. “Inside Obama’s War Room” (Michael Hastings, Rolling Stone, Oct. 2011)

The late Michael Hastings on Obama’s decision to intervene in Libya, and what it says about his evolution as commander in chief.

4. “For a Look Outside Presidential Bubble, Obama Reads 10 Personal Letters Each Day” (Eli Saslow, Washington Post, March 2010)

The black binder arrived at the White House residence just before 8 p.m., and President Obama took it upstairs to begin his nightly reading. The briefing book was dated Jan. 8, 2010, but it looked like the same package delivered every night, with printouts of speeches, policy recommendations and scheduling notes. Near the back was a purple folder, which Obama often flips to first. “MEMORANDUM TO THE PRESIDENT,” read a sheet clipped to the folder. “Per your request, we have attached 10 pieces of unvetted correspondence addressed to you.”

5.“Barack Obama’s Work in Progress” (Robert Draper, GQ, Nov 2009)

Robert Draper on Obama, the writer.

6.“The Obamas’ Marriage” (Jodi Kantor, New York Times, Oct. 2009)

How can any couple have a truly equal partnership when one member is president? Jodi Kantor paints a rich portrait in this New York Times Magazine cover story.

7. “A More Perfect Union” (Speech delivered by then-Senator Barack Obama on March 18, 2008).

Who else sat around a computer and watched Obama’s race speech and felt like something big was about to happen? Seems apt to revisit it before he takes the stage tonight, especially if you are feeling hopeful.