Obama's Speech: The Narrative We've Been Waiting For

Beyond the specific proposals, there were two themes of the President's jobs speech that I believe are critical to the fight for our country's future, and one question that hovers over the speech and the weeks ahead.

First, he made the centerpiece of his speech the struggles of ordinary Americans to overcome great challenges and provide for themselves and their children. In urging that Congress act now for families threatened by unemployment, bubble-era mortgages, and cuts to their children's education, the President put the focus and spotlight where it belongs. Refusing to focus on austerity, 'no we can't' ideology, and scare tactics tagged to future deficits was the right theme to sound for the choices we face now. The commitment to greater investment must be seen through, but this was a real start.

Second, President Obama articulated a vision that Americans need to hear--a vision of a strong, clear, and positive role for government to make the investments that secure the American Dream. In "The Great Unraveling, A Portrait of the Middle Class," which Demos released today, the same theme resonated:

The middle class was built by government policies that invested in infrastructure and basic science, supported home-ownership, and made a college education accessible to a new generation.

The overarching question I asked myself after the President's speech concluded was "Can he, will he, hold this theme?" Can he keep his focus clearly on investing in the future, and not sink back into the deficit and austerity culture where the opponents of government want to drag both him and us? The legislative fights will be difficult and harshly fought. But the presentation, explanation, and continual promotion--over the next 14 months and well beyond that--of a narrative of hope and real progress are central to restoring economic opportunity and prosperity in this nation.

This is the President's task, and ours. He, and we, need to fight for fairness for the middle class and those who aspire to it, for investment in our future--and we need to speak every day in the public square to convince skeptical Americans that our government can work and our conditions can improve.  This is the narrative we have been waiting for, and it needs all our support.