Barack Obama struck a note of optimism Tuesday evening, declaring that America's best days are ahead even if, at this moment, the future looks bleak.
But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.
The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don't lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth. Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.
The resilient tone stands in some contrast to the largely realist message that Obama struck during his inaugural address.
In addition to providing Obama a forum to strike a commanding and assuring note with the American public, Tuesday night's address also represents a chance for the president to set the legislative agenda for the weeks ahead. The Republican response, as delivered by Gov. Bobby Jindal, will actually criticize Obama for pessimism - in what seems to be a direct contrast to what Obama actually plans to say.
"A few weeks ago," reads an excerpt of Jindal's speech, "the President warned that our nation is facing a crisis that he said 'we may not be able to reverse.' Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don't let anyone tell you that we cannot recover - or that America's best days are behind her."
The guest list for First Lady Michelle Obama's box:
Mrs. Michelle Obama
Dr. Jill Biden
Leonard Abess Jr., CEO, City National Bank of Florida (Miami, FL)
Ty'Sheoma Bethea, Student (Dillon, SC)
Elizabeth Carballo, Student (Washington, DC)
Richard G. DeCoatsworth, Police Officer (Philadelphia, PA)
Earl Devaney, Chair, Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board
Mayor Bob Dixson (Greensburg, KS)
Governor Jim Douglas (Montpelier, VT)
Mary Henley (Richmond, VA)
SPC Jonathon N. James, US Army (Mountain View, AR)
Valerie B. Jarrett, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Liaison
Blake Jones, Co-Founder and President, Namaste Solar (Boulder, CO)
Shannon Kendall (Georgetown, TX)
Victoria Kirby, Student (Washington, DC)
Geneva Lawson, Safe-Deposit Custodian, City National Bank of Florida (Miami, FL)
Lilly Ledbetter (Jacksonville, AL)
General Alfonso E. Lenhardt, US Army (Washington, DC)
Roxanna Garcia Marcus, Development Manager, Year Up (Washington, DC)
Abbey Meacham, Firefighter (Forest, VA)
Akrem Muzemil, Student (Washington, DC)
Sergeant John E. Rice, USMC (Bethesda, MD)
Juan Francisco Rodriguez, Student, Bell Multicultural High School (Washington, DC)
Phil Schiliro, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs
Alvaro Simmons, Chief Operating Officer, Mary's Center (Washington, DC)
Governor Ted Strickland (Columbus, OH)
The video will be live here:
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs previewed President Obama's address on "Good Morning America" Tuesday. Asked about Bill Clinton's advice to be more optimistic about the economy, Gibbs responded, "You'll hear the president tell Americans that ... better days are ahead." Watch:
President Obama is delivering his first State of the Union-like address on Tuesday. McClatchy says there are three key questions facing the nation's leader:
First, will he reach out to the Republicans who have felt free to scorn him, or match his popularity against theirs and try to slap them back?
Second, how specific will he be about his plans for the coming days? Will he propose nationalizing troubled banks or lay the groundwork for such a dramatic action? Will he use his first proposed budget this week to advance a campaign to overhaul the nation's health-care system?
Third, will he continue the warnings he's used so far to prod Congress to follow his lead on rescuing the economy, or will he employ a more upbeat voice and say help is on the way?
AP adds some context on what Obama plans to discuss:
The president is expected to show Americans how all the pieces fit together to make the economy sound again. There's the $787 billion just-signed stimulus bill, plus an even more expensive mix of rescues for the financial industry, auto companies and troubled mortgage holders.
He will touch on other priorities he says fit into the bigger picture. Potentially eye-popping expensive plans to broaden health care coverage to eventually insure everyone. Moving the country toward greener energy sources. Expanding education opportunities. Overhauling financial industry regulation.
And, he is all but certain to talk about the national debt and budget woes, stressing the need to get what he calls "exploding deficits" under control by controlling spending. His upcoming budget request will include his goal to slice the estimated $1.3 trillion annual deficit in half by the end of his first term.
The speech is not formally called a State of the Union, AP reports, because Obama is not considered to have had enough time in the White House yet to deliver a full status report. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi formally invited President Obama to address Congress. The full letter:
President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We greatly appreciate your support for the legislation we have sent you to guarantee fair pay for women and expanded health care for children, and for your leadership as we work to finalize an economic recovery bill, which we will send you shortly.
This Congress and your Administration have truly hit the ground running, but our hard work has just begun. We would like to invite you to address a Joint Session of the Congress on Tuesday, February 24 to share your vision for addressing the many critical challenges our country faces at home and abroad.
Thank you for considering this invitation to speak to the Congress and the nation. We look forward to your reply.
NANCY PELOSI HARRY REID
Speaker of the House Majority Leader of the Senate