The president speaking at the University of Hartford in 2013. The Connecticut Mirror

The president speaking at the University of Hartford in 2013.
The president speaking at the University of Hartford in 2013. The Connecticut Mirror

Washington – President Obama’s state of the union speech Tuesday evening will focus on economic fairness for the middle class and the long-term unemployed and a defense of the Affordable Care Act, a senior administration official said.

“(Americans) should have the opportunity to purchase a home; to get the skills that will train you for a good job — in some cases, that means having the opportunity to attend college; to raise a family; to send their kids to college; and to retire with some dignity; and to have some security in your household,” he said. “And having access to quality, affordable health insurance is certainly a core part of that.”

Another theme will be “action,” the official said.

Obama is expected to outline what he’s done through his executive authority to tighten gun control regulations after Congress failed to approve a comprehensive law. But the galleries won’t be filled with people from Newtown, Conn., or other gun violence victims as they were for last year’s State of the Union address.

The president will also talk about the changes to Obamacare he’s made through executive action and a new initiative to help people save for retirement, the official said.

In the last few weeks, Obama has been blunt about his willingness to use his authority and the presidential bully pulpit to bypass a deadlocked Congress to achieve policy goals.

But he will ask Congress for certain things in his speech, including a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

The administration official said he hoped Republicans in Congress and the White House could find “common ground,” as they did in recent budget negotiations.

 “But if Congress is unable to do that, the president is not going to sit around and wait for them,” he said.

There will also be happy talk about the economy as part of a third, upbeat theme of the speech the administration official called “optimism.”

“Over the course of the last five years we have made remarkable progress in digging out of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression; from the unemployment rate, to job creation, to the manufacturing sector, to the auto industry, to the energy industry, that we are no longer in crisis mode,” he said.

Republicans, meanwhile, have invited people who say they’ve been hurt by the Affordable Care Act as their guests to the State of the Union. They will also push back against the president’s cheery assessment of the economy.

This year’s speech will have a lot of technological flash missing in previous State of the Union addresses.

The administration has planned a multimedia production to accompany the speech with graphics and charts that display well on Facebook and Twitter.

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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