President Barack Obama used his penultimate State of the Union to boldly define what he hopes will be his legacy: a new era of shared prosperity based on “middle-class economics.”

The speech was broad in scope, harkening back to the messages of inclusion and optimism that sparked his political rise a decade ago while clearly intending to set the narrative for the final two years of his presidency, as well as for how it might ultimately remembered by history. To that end, Obama recalled the dark beginning to the century before pivoting to what he described as a defining moment for the United States, now that “the shadow of crisis has passed.”

“It has been, and still is, a hard time for many,” the president said. “But tonight, we turn the page.”

Pointing to “a breakthrough year for America” in which increasingly good economic news has helped bolster his own approval ratings, Obama said that the country needed to seize the opportunity to go even farther.

“At this moment – with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production – we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth,” he said. “It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come.

“Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?”

Following last November’s Republican wave that gave his opponents control of Congress, the president also portrayed his policy proposals as “practical, not partisan,” and said that he would travel the country in a bid to rally support for those ideas.

Obama used the State of the Union to outline the values of “middle-class economics,” which he defined as “the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

To meet those goals, Obama said Washington must help middle-class workers feel more secure and have access to higher education, and also ensure that the economy continues to strengthen and host cutting-edge industries and jobs. That requires “21st century infrastructure” to foster growth.

In a nod to the long-simmering Keystone XL controversy, Obama said members of Congress should “set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline” and “pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan” for the country.

The president also called on Congress to increase the minimum wage and ensure wage parity between women and men.

But while the economy took center stage, Obama also turned to foreign policy and defended his brand of American leadership on the global stage.

“I believe in a smarter kind of American leadership,” Obama said. “We lead best when we combine military power with strong diplomacy; when we leverage our power with coalition building; when we don’t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents. That’s exactly what we’re doing right now – and around the globe, it is making a difference.”

He said that decisions to confront Russian aggression with stringent sanctions, negotiate with Iran to end its nuclear ambitions, and end the decades-long freeze on relations with Cuba were all justified as diplomatic positives.

“That’s how America leads – not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve,” he said.

Republicans, however, were not impressed.

“Tonight isn’t about the president’s legacy,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a video released before the speech. “It’s about the people’s priorities. Making government bigger isn’t going to help the middle class. More growth and more opportunity will help the middle class and those are the Republican priorities.”

But the president returned to the themes that first launched his career into the national spotlight over a decade ago, saying “I still think the cynics are wrong.”

“I want [future generations] to grow up in a country that shows the world what we still know to be true: that we are still more than a collection of red states and blue states; that we are the United States of America,” he said.

Obama’s second-to-last State of the Union comes as his approval ratings are rebounding thanks to a brightening economic picture. But with Republicans in control of Congress for the final two years of his presidency, he will face an uphill battle in trying to achieve even some of the agenda laid out on Tuesday night.