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We still want to hear from you: Starting with the phrase “Dear Mr. President, I want…,” write your wish on a piece of paper or posterboard, take a photo of yourself holding it and either email it to us at DearPOTUS2014@gmail.com or tweet it to @AmericaTonight with the hashtag #DearPOTUS. Some of the most interesting images will be compiled in a blog post and used in our broadcast coverage of the State of the Union address. It can be a paragraph, it can be a word, it can be a Dadaist poem. It just has to be legible.
President Barack Obama's fifth official State of the Union address comes at a pivotal moment in his presidency.
His approval ratings are at their lowest points entering a new year in his tenure. In recent U.S. history, only Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, was on shakier footing entering his sixth year in office. The two words that every president fears — "lame duck" — have been thrown around with increasing frequency lately.
On top of it all, he's entering an election year that could make his most of the items on a still-ambitious agenda next to impossible.
That's why many Democrats are cheering Obama's expected theme in Tuesday night's speech — addressing the so-called "opportunity gap."
"We're excited about tonight's speech," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told a small group of reporters on Capitol Hill earlier Tuesday. "We think it's going to be a call to action for a 'Year of Action' that will invigorate the debate here and, I hope, to the American people."
Excerpts of the President’s State of the Union Address
As Prepared for Delivery
“In the coming months, let’s see where else we can make progress together. Let’s make this a year of action. That’s what most Americans want – for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations. And what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all – the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead.
Let’s face it: that belief has suffered some serious blows. Over more than three decades, even before the Great Recession hit, massive shifts in technology and global competition had eliminated a lot of good, middle-class jobs, and weakened the economic foundations that families depend on.
Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by – let alone get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.
Our job is to reverse these tides. It won’t happen right away, and we won’t agree on everything. But what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class. Some require Congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still – and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”
“Opportunity is who we are. And the defining project of our generation is to restore that promise.”
Family of North Korea Detainee Kenneth Bae at State of the Union
The family of North Korean detainee Kenneth Bae will attend President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight. Myunghee Bae, Kenneth’s mother, and Terri Chung, Kenneth’s sister, will be in the audience. Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) offered the seats to Myunghee and Terri. The family wishes to thank the Congressmen for their generosity and their willingness to help raise awareness for Kenneth.
For the last several days, Terri and Myunghee, as well as Kenneth’s son Jonathan Bae, have met with a variety of public figures in New York and Washington DC. People from across America are uniting with the goal of seeing Kenneth released from detention in North Korea.
Today, Terri, Myunghee, and Jonathan met with Secretary of State John Kerry. Below is a statement from Terri Chung:
We were honored to have the opportunity to meet with Secretary Kerry. Secretary Kerry was warm and sympathetic, and I want to thank him for affirming the commitment of the US State Department to securing Kenneth’s release. We are grateful for his support, and we appreciate the ongoing efforts of many at the State Department who have been working behind the scenes for the past 15 months to bring Kenneth home.
The past week our family has received overwhelming support from people across the country. It is clear that many Americans are invested in this cause to see this fellow American come home to his family. I see the heart, soul and hard work of so many people. We will never be able to thank you enough for your kindness.
I also hope and pray that the attention and care that people are showing does not end with the publicity of today. The fact is, my brother remains in detention in DPRK (North Korea) after 15 months, the longest detention of any American in recent times. We will not rest until Kenneth is home in the United States. We continue to implore our government to do everything possible to secure Kenneth's freedom.
Tonight, House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) will deliver the Republican Address to the Nation following the State of the Union. Following are excerpts from the address:
“The most important moments right now aren’t happening here. They’re not in the Oval Office or in the House Chamber. They’re in your homes. Kissing your kids goodnight. Figuring out how to pay the bills. Getting ready for tomorrow’s doctor’s visit. Waiting to hear from those you love serving in Afghanistan, or searching for that big job interview. After all, ‘We the People’ have been the foundation of America since her earliest days – people from all walks of life, and from all corners of the world – people who come to America because here, no challenge is too great and no dream too big.”
“So tonight I’d like to share a more hopeful, Republican vision – one that empowers you, not the government. It’s one that champions free markets – and trusts people to make their own decisions, not a government that decides for you. It helps working families rise above the limits of poverty and protects our most vulnerable. And it’s one where Washington plays by the same rules that you do. It’s a vision that is fair and offers the promise of a better future for every American.”
“Because our mission – not only as Republicans, but as Americans, is to once again to ensure that we are not bound by where we come from, but empowered by what we can become. That is the gap Republicans are working to close. It’s the gap we all face: between where you are and where you want to be.”
“Last month, more Americans stopped looking for a job than found one. Too many people are falling further and further behind because, right now, the President’s policies are making people’s lives harder. Republicans have plans to close the gap…Plans that focus on jobs first without more spending, government bailouts, and red tape…Every day, we’re working to expand our economy, one manufacturing job, nursing degree and small business at a time. We have plans to improve our education and training systems so you have the choice to determine where your kids go to school…to help you take home more of your paycheck...with lower taxes, cheaper energy costs, and affordable health care.”
“We’ve all talked to too many people who have received cancellation notices they didn’t expect or who can no longer see the doctors they always have. No, we shouldn’t go back to the way things were, but the President’s health care law is not working. Republicans believe health care choices should be yours, not the government’s. And that whether you’re a boy with Down syndrome or a woman with breast cancer, you can find coverage and a doctor who will treat you.”
“As Republicans, we advance these plans every day because we believe in a government that trusts people and doesn’t limit where you finish because of where you started. That is what we stand for – for an America that is every bit as compassionate as it is exceptional…Our plan is one that dreams big for everyone and turns its back on no one.”
NOTE: Watch an enhanced webcast of the Republican Address to the Nation on SOTU.gop.gov.
President Barack Obama will lay out his strategy for getting around a divided Congress starting with a wage hike for federal contract workers in a State of the Union speech on Tuesday that reflects scaled-back legislative ambitions after a tough year.
Obama will say in his 9 p.m. EST (0200 GMT Wednesday) address that he will bypass fractious U.S. lawmakers and go it alone in some areas with a series of executive actions aimed at boosting the middle class, many that do not require congressional approval.
Trying to breathe new life into his presidency and boost congressional Democrats facing re-election battles in November, Obama will tell Congress he is eager to work with lawmakers, "but America does not stand still - and neither will I."
"So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that's what I'm going to do," Obama will say, according to speech excerpts released by the White House.
The White House said Obama would announce that he is issuing an executive order to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for federal contract workers with new contracts.
In his address, Obama will also call on Congress to pass a bill to increase the federal minimum wage for all workers to $10.10 an hour from $7.25 and index that to inflation.
The executive order raising the level for federal contract workers, which applies to new contracts or existing contracts in which terms are being changed, will take effect at the beginning of next year, with janitors and construction workers among the beneficiaries.
If the unthinkable happens during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz will assume the role of President of the United States.
Moniz, the 12th person in the line of succession for the Oval Office, will be protected by Secret Service agents at an undisclosed location as the so-called “designated survivor” while President Barack Obama delivers his address to Congress. Meanwhile, the vice president, members of the Cabinet, Supreme Court justices and others will gather at the Capitol to listen to the president’s annual address.
The nuclear physicist was a longtime faculty member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before he was sworn in on May 21, 2013. Moniz is no stranger to the federal government or the White House, having served as under secretary of the Department of Energy and White House staffer during the Clinton administration. He’s better liked inside the administration than his predecessor—and last year’s designated survivor—Steven Chu, who was considered by some administration officials to be a political loose cannon.
Moniz is probably best known for his hair styling, which has led to comparisons with Oscar Wilde and Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men.
1. Economy: Americans still have mostly bleak views of the national economy, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. 45% rated economic conditions “only fair” and 39% “poor,” compared with 16% who termed them excellent or good. For more information, see our key data points.
2. Health care reform: More than half (54%) of Americans disapprove of Obama’s signature health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, according to a Pew Research survey from December; 41% said they approved of the law. Nearly half (48%) said the law would make the nation’s health care situation worse in the long run, 35% said it would make it better, and 12% said it wouldn’t make much difference either way.
3. Income inequality: 65% of Americans say the gap between the rich and everyone else has widened in the past decade, according to a new Pew Research Center survey; a similar percentage (67%) recently told Gallup they were dissatisfied with the way income and wealth are distributed in the U.S. In the Pew Research survey, nearly seven-in-ten Americans said the government should do “a lot” (43%) or “some” (26%) to reduce the gap. For more on inequality (especially the impact on the middle class), see these key data points.
President Barack Obama can only do so much to help his party in this year's midterm elections. Six years in office have taken a toll on his popularity, and aside from raising money, his value on the campaign trail is limited — especially in the states that worry Democrats the most.
But the president can set the tone. In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Obama will frame an economic argument his party hopes will help carry them to victory in November. Although not explicitly political, the speech gives Obama an opportunity to issue a rallying cry for economic fairness and expanded opportunity — issues Democrats believe will resonate in races across the country.
"It will be interpreted as the Democratic agenda," said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster. "He can frame up the 2014 choice."
That choice, as Obama portrays it, is between an America where all segments of the population have opportunities to improve their lot and one where prosperity is disproportionately enjoyed by a select few. In the run-up to the State of the Union, Obama has persistently sought to focus the nation's attention on trends of inequality and lower social mobility that he's pledging to address in his final years in office.
To be sure, not every Democrat will echo Obama's themes in their own campaigns. Many may focus on niche, regional issues or their personal characteristics. But with the economy still a top issue for most voters, Democrats see issues of economic fairness and expanding access to the middle class as their best chance to reach a broad swath of the population that feels left behind by the sluggish economic recovery.“Because our mission – not only as Republicans, but as Americans, is to once again to ensure that we are not bound by where we come from, but empowered by what we can become..Click here for information on all of the guests.