Washington, Jan 13: US President Barack Obama on Wednesday asked his countrymen to reject any politics that targets people based on religion and race, apparently taking a dig at Republican candidates running to replace him.
In his final State of the Union address, Obama acknowledged that many Americans felt frightened and shut out of a political and economic system they view as rigged against their interests and slammed Republicans who are playing on those insecurities in the presidential race.
"We need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion," Obama said in his State of the Union Address.
"This isn't a matter of political correctness. It's a matter of understanding what makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith," Obama.
His remarks was seen was a direct response to the recent anti-Muslim rhetoric of Republican presidential candidates in particular Donald Trump, who has proposed to temporarily bar all Muslims from travelling to the US.
Obama argued that the country can confront the challenges of the future only if people embrace change. "When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalised, or a kid bullied, that doesn't make us safer," he noted.
"That's not telling it like it is. It's just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country," Obama said.
"We the People. Our Constitution begins with those three simple words, words we've come to recognise mean all the people, not just some; words that insist we rise and fall together," said the US President.
Obama said "one of the few regrets" of his presidency was that after he ran on a message of unity and healing American politics had become more divided and resentful on his watch. "It's one of the few regrets of my presidency, that the rancour and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better," he said, in his final State of the Union address.
"There's no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I'll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office."
Obama said American leadership in the 21st century is not a choice between ignoring the rest of the world except when US kill terrorists; or occupying and rebuilding whatever society is unravelling.