The Washington Post

Obama to call for ‘return to American values’ in State of the Union address

President Obama will call for “a return to American values” in his State of the Union address Tuesday as he lays out a vision for an economy that provides greater equity at a time of growing income disparities.

In a video message to campaign supporters released Saturday morning, the president said his speech before Congress should be viewed as his blueprint for an “economy that’s built to last.”

Obama cited his speech last month in Osawatomie, Kan., where he tried to channel the urgent populism of Theodore Roosevelt a century ago to cast himself as a champion of the middle class. The State of the Union address is a bookend to that speech, Obama said, as the country faces a crossroads.

“We can go in two directions. One is towards less opportunity and less fairness,” Obama said in the video, which was released by his reelection campaign. “Or we can fight for where I think we need to go: building an economy that works for everyone, not just a wealthy few. On Tuesday night, I’m going to talk about how we’ll get there.”

Obama’s third State of the Union comes as he ramps up for what is expected to be a difficult reelection campaign. His Republican presidential challengers have attacked his economic policies, holding his administration responsible for the slow recovery from the financial crash.

And GOP members of Congress have successfully blocked much of the president’s agenda, including most of the provisions of his $447 billion American Jobs Act. Obama has sought to raise taxes on higher-income Americans to help pay for new spending proposals aimed at creating jobs, but Republicans have balked during a time when the nation’s deficit is growing rapidly.

Last year, Obama called on the country to “win the future” through investments in infrastructure and education that would pay off in the long term.

This year, Obama said, he will focus his speech on several sectors in an effort to boost homegrown jobs at a time of 8.5 percent unemployment: Those areas are manufacturing, energy and training for workers.

In the video, the president said the themes he will discuss are part of the central mission of the nation.

“That’s rebuilding an economy where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded — and an America where everybody gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everybody plays by the same set of rules,” Obama said.

He added that “we’ve got to meet this moment. And this speech is going to be about how we do it.”

With three days remaining until he speaks in the House chamber at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Obama said he has yet to finish writing his address, “so there might be a few late nights between now and then.”


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David Nakamura covers the White House. He has previously covered sports, education and city government and reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Japan.
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