1. Getting things done
"In the coming months, let's see where else we can make progress together. Let's make this a year of action."
If by action Obama meant lawmakers acting to make sure that nothing gets done in a midterm election year, or the act of Republicans sweeping away Democrats' Senate majority, well, wish fulfilled. But he probably meant getting actual stuff done. Such as laws being passed. By that measure, this Congress failed and Obama's insistence on bipartisan congressional action went unmet. The only real debate about the 113th Congress is whether it was the most unproductive ever or the second most unproductive ever.
"But American does not stand still, and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that's what I'm going to do."
Obama did sort of stand still for a lot of last year, as red-state Democrats wanted him to stay away and do little that would harm their reelection chances. It turned out to be a losing strategy for the president. As if he was emboldened by the defeat, Obama used the post-election period to make good on this "pen and phone" strategy. The executive order on immigration reform -- which had been postponed until after the election -- and moving to open diplomatic relations with Cuba were significant executive actions. The raft of executive actions and memoranda made Obama's year one of action, although not through Congress. The White House has touted 80 executive actions signed in 2014.
"So let's get immigration reform done this year."
Not so much. And for the record, here he is in his 2013 speech: "And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, faith communities -- they all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Now is the time to do it. Now is the time to get it done. Now is the time to get it done." This is likely to reappear in this year's speech. And in 2015. And in 2016, etc.
4. Equal pay for women
"Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work. She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too. It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a 'Mad Men' episode. This year, let’s all come together – Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street – to give every woman the opportunity she deserves. Because I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds."
There was no coming together. Obama signed a federal version of the Paycheck Fairness Act in April, a move aimed at narrowing the wage gap by allowing employees to discuss their wages with one another. But there was no action in the Senate, where Republicans argued that the bill would increase lawsuits. Employers would indeed be subject to civil lawsuits under the bill. Democrats got some good talking points out of the measure, but it partly backfired as the White House faced questions about its own pay gap.
5. Raising the minimum wage
"In the coming weeks, I will issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour, because if you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn't have to live in poverty. Of course, to reach millions more, Congress needs to get on board."
Congress did not get on board, even as Democrats made the minimum wage a key part of their midterm strategy. But there has been progress at the state level, and the Obama administration has taken credit for that. When Obama spoke in 2014, he noted that five states had passed laws raising the minimum wage over the past year. In all, 29 states and D.C. have a minimum wage higher than the federal level, with 14 of those states acting in 2014.