Calling for 2014 to be a "year of action," President Barack Obama's State of the Union address sounded promising, but acknowledged the inevitable:
Without cooperation with a divided, reluctant Congress, the kind of progress he envisions is not likely to be realized, despite his promises to go it alone.
"Sometimes we stumble; we make mistakes; we get frustrated or discouraged," Obama said, seemingly referring to his falling approval ratings of late.
But, President Obama added, "for more than 200 years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress."
The 2014 State of the Union address was vintage Obama, blending calls for a unified approach with declarations of his independence via executive orders.
Even Republicans relentlessly critical of Obama conceded his oratorical skill.
"A speech by Barack Obama is a lot like sex," said GOP strategist and CNN contributor Alex Castellanos. "The worst there ever was is still excellent."
A CNN poll showed 44 percent of respondents had a "very positive" response to Obama's speech, while 32 percent described a "somewhat positive" response.
Last year, 53 percent of respondents in that poll - similar to the margin that reelected him - rated their response to the 2013 address as very positive.
Obama sounded his familiar calls to recallibrate the tax code, spend more to rebuild roads and bridges, bolster education and avoid war if at all possible.
He brought many to tears with a tribute to Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg, a disabled veteran who sat next to Michelle Obama, waving with wounded limbs.
The underlying theme of Obama's fifth State of the Union address was his urging of the government to work on behalf of all Americans in 2014.
"Let's make this a year of action," Obama said. "That's what most Americans want ... for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations."
It's an optimistic goal for a year-six President with a 43 percent approval rating and facing a determined opposition in the GOP-led House of Representatives.
Obama said of his action items, "Some require congressional action, and I'm eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still, and neither will I."
"What I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class."
On issue after issue, he invited Congress to work with him but said he also would go it alone. That's the key takeaway, and his prospects for success are murky at best.