I'm waiting to board my flight to Grand Rapids for a work trip, and so I thought I'd do a quick post on what I'm looking for in tonight's speech.
1. Does the President explicitly, substantively enter into the debate on the importance of marriage and family in fighting economic inequality that has been restarted over the last few weeks. Ross Douthat, Matt Yglesias, Brad Wilcox, Nicholas Kristof and others have had their say. What will this President, who has talked often about the hole in his heart left by the absence of his father, have to add to this conversation, if anything?
2. Is the President able to find a language on income inequality that protects him from accusations of "class warfare?" As David Remnick reported, the President asked a group of historians to help him do just that.
3. Does the President stake out new territory in the area of foreign policy? Typically, President's turn to the international stage to make their mark in a second term. This President has three years left, but it will be interesting to see if he tries to add new energy to efforts to bring our "soft power," diplomatic infrastructure into the 21st century, or make a new push to combat global poverty.
4. The family of an American man who has been illegally detained by North Korea will be in the President's box for the speech tonight. Does this signal extended remarks from the President on human rights? Democracy building? Similarly, Jason Collins, the former NBA player who made news when he "came out," will be in the box as well. Does the President deliver extended remarks on the change this country has seen on LGBT issues over the last year? Does he address LGBT discrimination abroad? If so, is religious liberty raised as well?
5. The President has typically used these speeches to "thread the needle;" to position what he is advancing as a part of the American story, or as an appeal to several strains of American political thought. I think of the rousing close to his speech to a Joint Session of Congress on health care or his first inaugural. Does he aim to do that tonight, or (as has been speculated by Washington reporters and pundits), is this a speech meant to tee up the midterms?
6. The President closed last year's State of the Union with a strong call for Congress to allow votes on gun control measures. Will he return to the issue this year, particularly after the rash of shootings in the last few weeks?
7. Congress and advocates will be watching closely to see how the President addresses immigration reform. Does the President draw a line in the sand, or extend an olive branch as Republicans prepare to release their broad plan for immigration reform later this week?
BONUS: Will the President give a nod to the Administration's revitalized efforts to combat human trafficking?
We'll see tonight.
Leave in the comments what you'll be looking for tonight and, after it airs, your reaction to the speech.
NOTE: I will try to add hyperlinks for referenced stories later tonight, but all should be found easily on Google.