Speaking to the State of the Union Tonight

Rich's Redeeming Hope Blog, State of the UnionTonight, as President Obama goes to Capital Hill for his State of the Union message, I'll be traveling to Youngstown, Ohio to launch our national Work of Hope Tour. My hope is that the conversation we'll be having with Ohioans is reflected in his words this evening.

News reports suggest the president's speech will be wrapped around how to create jobs in America. Everything he suggests -- from global warming to gun control to immigration -- will be in the context of its contribution to job creation. Jobs are pivotal to people's health and to the people I'll be talking with in Ohio. But let's be clear: fixing the economy or politics alone will not fix what fundamentally needs to be addressed today.

At issue is people's yearning to restore belief in ourselves that we can get things done, together. For how we get things done is as important as moving the needle on any number of issues, including jobs and the economy. What people want to see -- and be a part of -- is Americans coming together to set goals, determine a common course of action, and achieve things. They want to come back into community and rebuild trust, forge meaningful relationships, and restore their confidence. These are among the pre-conditions necessary to tackle the tough issues before the nation.

I outlined recently in The Huffington Post how the president can spark such engagement -- helping to weave local actions into a common national purpose. I also outlined how the president should speak to how Americans are working to place the nation on a new trajectory; we need a narrative about people, not simply policy and programs.

One of the reasons why I'm kicking off our national tour in Youngstown is because the community reflects the essence of this new path. As you know, Youngstown lost jobs and industry for decades and was down on its luck. It suffered innumerable challenges, and still does face many hurdles. But go to Youngstown and you'll see pockets of community change emerging in which people are working together to turn around public education, where new industry and innovation are expanding, and where young people are returning as are parts of downtown.

I am going to Youngstown because there we have been engaged with a group courageous community leaders and concerned individuals who want to turn outward and innovate together to shift the civic capacity and culture of their own organizations and the larger community.

And I am going to Youngstown because our main event this evening, which will take place before the president's State of the Union message, will be held in one of Youngstown's shining libraries. At the Institute we've made a commitment to hold many of our Work of Hope Tour events in libraries because they represent a critical common space in communities for people to come together, share, learn and collaborate; indeed, it is why the Institute has forged a new partnership with the American Library Association to help libraries strengthen the civic culture of communities, much like our efforts with United Ways, public broadcasters, and other boundary spanning organizations.

Over the next two days in Youngstown, the conversation will be about how a community can further restore its belief that people can come together and get things done. It will be about how a new trajectory is being set -- and can be accelerated and deepened. It will be about how to create a tipping point in changing the civic culture of a community so that more innovation, impact and trust can be generated.

There is much work to do in communities all across the nation. My hope is that the president will speak to that work in his State of the Union message tonight.