WASHINGTON - In his fourth State of the Union address and seventh speech to a joint sitting of Congress, President Barack Obama challenged legislators on Tuesday night to join him in taking on "our generation's task" to ignite the growth of a "rising, thriving middle class."
"It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country -- the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love," Obama said, sounding familiar themes from his re-election campaign last year.
He emphasized economic growth and job creation, and insisted that his proposals would not increase the nation's deficit, though the White House offered no price tag on his initiatives.
Obama also made an emotional plea for Congress to hold votes on controversial proposals for tougher gun laws after the Newtown, Connecticut, shootings in December that killed 20 schoolchildren.
At the same time, Obama called for legislators to work together for the good of the country, saying Americans "expect us to put the nation's interests before party."