What Should Obama Say in the State of the Union?

President Barack Obama's State of the Union must convey his confidence in America's future. By doing so, he will align his own combination of idealism and pragmatism with that of his most ardent supporters, members of the millennial generation (born 1982-2003). This will clearly distinguish his beliefs from the sense of gloom and doom that pervades the baby boom generation. 

Much of the overwhelming dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, of course, is driven by economic concerns, and the president must present a convincing plan for continuing the current recovery. But a recent Pew survey showed that those most likely to believe this country's best economic years lie before it are millennials, only one-third of whom believe "it will be a long time before the economy recovers."

By contrast, that pessimistic belief is embraced by 52 percent of baby boomers, only 30 percent of whom believe "the economy is not yet recovering, but will recover soon." Three-fourths of millennials, the generation hardest hit by the Great Recession, believe their financial situation will improve somewhat or a lot in the next year, whereas only half of boomers think they will be better off in 2011. 

The president needs to continue his political comeback by building on this foundation of generational support and making it clear to a nation tired of boomers' cultural wars and partisan divisions that his economic program is putting the nation on the right track to recovery. As we point out in our forthcoming book, one out of three American voters will be millennials by the end of this decade, making that generation the rising power in American politics, not the defeatist, distrustful boomers -- a generation whose time has come and gone.

Originally posted at Politico's "The Arena"