The Constitution requires the president "from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union." Tonight, President Obama's State of the Union will be delivered to a joint session of Congress and millions of viewers.

The speech will contain some reminiscing by the president; this being his last SOTU address, he can be forgiven for some nostalgia. And the speech will speak to the president's vision for the remainder of his term in office. Rather than to propose a large number of legislative actions with no chance of passage in a Republican-controlled Congress, Mr. Obama will likely be more thematic, discussing the direction he would like the country to take. I expect the bulk of his message to focus on domestic issues: education, health, the relationship between civil unrest and economic opportunity, and firearms control. The president will also devote a significant portion of his address to immigration, foreign policy and security. And he will bring up the risks of global warming and the need for global action to address it. As this is an election year, every item in the president's address is likely to be politically charged.

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When he discusses the economy, he will undoubtedly remind us that he inherited the Great Recession from his predecessor and that during his administration job growth has steadily, if not spectacularly increased, that he has striven to improve the nation's infrastructure, and he bailed out the automobile industry. Historically, presidents have received credit for economic upturns and blame for downswings during their incumbencies. If Obama is to be acknowledged for economic recovery then his administration will also need to assume some of the responsibility for the sluggish growth of wages. I expect that tonight the president will call for increases in the minimum wage and for programs to increase educational opportunities, especially in high-unemployment areas. He will discuss the need for free trade agreements to give American businesses greater access to emerging markets in Asia, and he will tie our country's economic growth to being world leaders in clean energy. He may also link environmental issues to national security and ask for support of the Paris agreements.

When the address turns to foreign affairs, two themes will emerge. First, to call for greater involvement from Sunni Muslim states in fighting ISIS; he will promise American air power, intelligence and weaponry. Second, Mr. Obama will ask Congress to support the Iranian nuclear deal as an important step toward bringing stability to the region. He will walk on eggshells with respect to the Syrian government, blaming its barbarism for fueling the region's instability, but also realizing that the United States, under both his and Bush's administrations, bears some responsibility for failures when pushing regime change in the Muslim world. Obama will ask Americans for religious tolerance and humanitarianism in dealing with the millions of people trying to escape the nightmare of war in the Middle East.

The president will highlight firearms control. Mrs. Obama's guest box will have an empty chair, symbolic of those who lost their lives to gun violence, and Mr. Obama will defend his executive orders and challenge Congress to stop thwarting the wishes of the vast majority of Americans for tighter background checks; he will ask Congress to lift its block on funding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct firearms research; and he will challenge gun manufacturers to make smart guns. He will also say that he has neither the means nor the desire to take away handguns from responsible gun owners. From there, he will call to improve the conditions of poverty, lack of opportunity, and police conduct that contributes to street violence in cities across the country and to the unlawful protests in eastern Oregon. The speech will end with a call for us to remember the principles that make our nation great.

The address will be a Rorschach test for the body politic. Obama's supporters will approve of it, and his detractors will criticize it. Our reactions will say more about us than the president's message. And it will frame the debate for the 2016 presidential election.

Mitch Edelman writes from Finksburg, Email him at mjemath@gmail.com

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