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TODAY   |  January 29, 2014

Obama presents ‘achievable’ goals in address

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, the president vowed to act on his own, if necessary, to move forward on issues important to him. He laid out his 2014 agenda to a divided Congress. NBC’s Peter Alexander reports the speech was “less about lofty goals, more about achievable ones.”

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>> other big story coming out of washington this morning. president obama 's state of the union address . in the hour-long speech, the president vowed to act on his own without congress if necessary to move forward on issues that are important to him. let's go to peter alexander , nbc's white house correspondent. peter, good morning.

>> reporter: good morning to you. president obama was trying to do something a little bit different with this state of the union , laying out a more modest agenda, less about the lofty goals, more about achievable ones. this president trying to convince americans there's still hope washington can get things done.

>> reporter: facing a deeply skeptical country, he first tried to turn on the charm with a nod to john boehner .

>> the son of a bar keep is the speaker of the house .

>> reporter: president obama vowed to combat income inequality with or without congress. the president announced plans for a series of executive actions, like raising the hourly minimum wage for new federal contract workers. and pushed lawmakers to revive stalled legislation on immigration reform and to extend emergency benefits for the long-term unemployed. to make a serious point about gender equality , the president turned to pop culture .

>> it is time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a "madmen" episode.

>> reporter: he argued obamacare is working.

>> call your mom and walk her through the application. give her some peace of mind and she'll appreciate hearing from you.

>> reporter: one consistent theme expressed by congresswoman kathy mcmorris rogers.

>> republicans believe health care choices should be yours, not the governments.

>> reporter: turning to foreign policy , the president insisted america must move off a permanent war footing , punctuating his speech by singling out the army ranger nearly killed in afghanistan during his tenth deployment.

>> and like the army he loves, like the america he serves, sergeant first class cory ramsberg never gives up and he does not quit.

>> reporter: that ovation lasted nearly two minutes, a rare moment of unity in a chamber marred by deep division. like most presidents, president obama will take his state of the union message on the road today and tomorrow. he hits four states. first stops maryland and pennsylvania.

>> peter alexander , thank you very