Expect President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address to echo the same calls for unity and improved civil discourse that he made during Wednesday’s memorial in Arizona, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday.
The theme of civility in public discourse “will certainly play a role” in the Jan. 25 address, Gibbs said during a briefing. “I have not, obviously, looked through a ton of the drafts at this point, but I think there’s no question that it will play a role.”
The White House spokesman suggested that Obama accomplished his goals for his speech Wednesday at the ceremony for victims of Saturday’s shooting in Tucson, Ariz. The attack killed six people and injured 14, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who remains in critical condition.
The president wanted to send “a message of ensuring that our enduring way of government moves forward in a way that best honors the memories of those that were victims of this tragedy, as well as those that we look forward to seeing recover,” Gibbs said.
He added that it was important to Obama to convey that although disagreements will always exist, “the tone and the approach that we take in those debates, I think, is what we all hope changes.”
In terms of the president’s dealings on Capitol Hill, where partisanship remains at a high, the White House spokesman said Obama has already taken steps to try to foster better relations.
“The president was very candid with those Republican and Democratic leaders after the election that he had to do better,” he said. “I think you’ll see a greater effort on our part in a much more systematic way” to hold more collaborative meetings with party leaders.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.