Dogged since the start of presidency six years ago by an ailing economy, Obama appeared before a joint session of Congress and millions of Americans watching on television to declare that his policies have paid off with an economic revival that has trimmed the jobless rate to 5.6 percent.

It is now time, he said, to "turn the page" from recession and war and work together to address those middle-class Americans who have been left behind.

His State of the Union speech was at times conciliatory in calling for a spirit of compromise but also defiant - making proposals that are anathema to Republicans and vowing to veto any Republican effort to roll back his signature healthcare law or his unilateral loosening of immigration policy.

Addressing Congress for the first time since Republicans seized the Senate in November elections, the Democratic president made clear he will not back down from his political opponents, urging them to work with him to engage in a debate about the future "without demonizing each other."

"Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns," he said. "Imagine if we did something different."

Many of the proposals outlined in Obama's address, while popular with many Americans, are unlikely to become reality, given Republican opposition and the fact Obama will soon become a lame duck as the county turns its attention to the 2016 campaign to succeed him.

But his proposals for wealth redistribution could serve to shape the political debate around the next White House election and could help former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the overwhelming favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination if she decides to run.

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