US President Barack Obama called on US citizens to be the authors of the next great chapter of the American story.
In his first State of the Union address since his re-election, he pledged to revive the sluggish US economy by creating "good, middle-class jobs".
The address focused on jobs, balancing the budget and trade, and also covered thorny issues such as immigration and gun control.
The president promised "smarter" rather than bigger government for "the many, and not just the few".
He reiterated his belief that the large cuts in public spending that the Republicans are demanding would hurt the economy, just as it is in recovery mode.
He also criticised the Washington way of drifting from what he called one manufactured crisis to the next.
He also outlined steps to reduce US involvement in Afghanistan, announcing the withdrawal of 34,000 US troops by early next year.
The emotional centre of the speech was his demand that Congress do something on gun control, telling the audience that the children killed in Newtown, Connecticut last December deserved a vote on tougher background checks and on banning assault weapons.
Mr Obama claimed broad support for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, which he insisted should go to a vote in Congress.