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February 12th, 2013

President Obama Delivers State of the Union


Every year, the president speaks to a rare joint session of Congress with all 100 senators and 435 members of the House of Representatives. The speech lays out themes for the coming year and often previews which political battles are going to be at the forefront of national debate.

President Obama also focused on the message of strengthening the middle class and boosting the economy in his 2012 State of the Union address.

President Barack Obama will use the first State of the Union address of his second term to emphasize job growth and economic expansion, according to the White House. Since the election three months ago, the president has also been focusing on gun violence, immigration and the budget debate.

“I’m going to be talking about making sure that we’re focused on job creation here in the United States of America,” Obama told Democrats during a retreat in the week leading up to the address..

The administration’s challenge is to take measures to reduce the U.S.’s large debt, a Republican priority, while not harming the middle class with higher taxes or cutting key government programs that support education, health care and other Democratic priorities.

The speech this year also takes place against the backdrop of the looming “sequester”, a series of automatic spending cuts that will hit all government-funded agencies and programs.

What’s on President Obama’s agenda?

Under the theme of jobs, the president has said that he will unveil new initiatives in four specific areas: education, infrastructure, clean energy and manufacturing. Although the White House has declined to comment specifically on what these initiatives might be, the president is expected to lay out a plan to make college more affordable; part of what he views as a larger goal of strengthening the middle class.

“You can choose a future where more Americans have the chance to gain the skills they need to compete, no matter how old they are or how much money they have. Education was the gateway to opportunity for me. It was the gateway for Michelle. And now more than ever, it is the gateway to a middle-class life,” he said during his speech to the Democratic National Convention in 2012.

Sen. Marco Rubio addressed the Republican National Convention in 2012. When he gives the Republican response it will be broadcast from a studio with no live audience, as is typical for the occasion.


Republicans call for cuts in spending

Every year after the State of the Union, the other side offers a response. This year, the Republican response will come from Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a rising star in the Republican Party who has been mentioned as a potential presidential candidate in 2016.

In the past, Sen. Rubio has criticized the president for not addressing the government’s budget deficit and not fixing the economy or creating jobs.

The conservative Tea Party will also air their own response to the State of the Union. Sen. Rand Paul, who will be doing the talking, said that he isn’t trying to split the Republican Party, merely adding a voice to the conversation.

“I see it as extra response. I don’t see it as necessarily divisive,” Paul told CNN.

History of the State of the Union

The State of the Union is modeled after the annual monarch’s speech from the throne during the State Opening of Parliament in the United Kingdom.

George Washington gave the first annual speech on January 8, 1790. In 1801, Thomas Jefferson discontinued the practice of giving the speech in person and the address was read by congressional clerk until 1913, when Woodrow Wilson reinstated the tradition. The term “State of the Union” was coined by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934.

Calvin Coolidge’s 1923 address was the first broadcast on radio, Harry S. Truman’s 1947 speech was the first to be broadcast on television and Bill Clinton’s 1997 address was the first broadcast available live on the Internet.  This year, the president is using social media to reach out to citizens, even inviting 100 of his Twitter followers to watch the address in the White House and talk afterwards about the solutions to the nation’s biggest problems.

— Compiled by NewsHour Extra

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