First Lady Michelle Obama's guest list can sometimes provide a glimpse into some of the issues and themes that the president will tackle in his annual State of the Union address. Gun control is definitely on the list, and as President Obama urges Congress to combat gun violence, the parents of the slain Chicago teen Hadiya Pendleton, whose funeral the first lady attended on Saturday, will be sitting in the Mrs. Obama's box, representing the real-life pain and consequences of gun violence.
"The president will discuss gun violence in his remarks, but Hadiya's parents being there speaks volumes on its own," a White House official told BET.com.
Obama won't be the only one ramping up the pressure on Congress to act swiftly to pass gun control laws. Several Democratic lawmakers have invited individuals from their home states who've been victims of gun violence to attend the speech.
The official said that the primary focus of the president's first State of the Union address of his second term will be cutting the nation's debt and deficit in a way that protects smart investments, such as the future of its young people. He will reinforce balance, the official said, so the burden isn't on the backs of the young and the old while the rich use tax loopholes to get richer.
Obama also offered a preview of his speech last week when he addressed House Democrats at their retreat last week.
"[We're] going to talk about, yes, deficits and taxes, and sequesters and potential government shutdowns and debt ceiling — we'll talk about that stuff, all from the perspective of how are we making sure that somebody who works hard in this country — a cop or a teacher or a construction worker or a receptionist — that they can make it if they work hard and that their kids can make it and dream even bigger dreams than they have achieved," the president told lawmakers.
He will call on lawmakers to build on the slow but steady progress the economy has made in the last few years by training and building the nation's workforce and through investments in green energy, manufacturing and the infrastructure that could provide millions of jobs.
"He's also going to make it clear that the sequester that's supposed to kick in on March 1 is going to hinder our progress and call on Congress to do what's right for the American people," the official said.
Sequester is a term used to define a series of automatic, across-the-board cuts to funding for domestic and defense programs scheduled to take effect on March 1 unless Obama and lawmakers reach a deal to avert it.
The official added that Obama will remind Americans and lawmakers that the work ahead truly is about "we the people," a refrain sprinkled throughout his inauguration speech, and that it should be a bipartisan effort that transcends politics.
To reinforce the messages in his address and drum up support for his policy agenda, the president will travel this week to Asheville, North Carolina; Decatur, Georgia; and Chicago.
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(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)