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Obama’s speech in Galesburg on Wednesday to focus on economy

Updated: July 23, 2013 8:18PM

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama makes a nostalgic return to Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., on Wednesday in the first of a series of speeches to renew focus on the economy.

While a U.S. senator, Obama delivered the commencement address at Knox in June 2005, a manifesto of sorts that laid out his vision to bolster the middle class.

However, that speech came at a time when the unemployment rate was about 5 percent and the crippling recession had yet to hit and people were waging their futures on the soaring residential real estate market. The national unemployment rate was 7.6 percent in June.

White House officials have said the Knox speech will not be laying out a new economic agenda — most Obama initiatives laid out in the State of the Union address have been stuck in the GOP-controlled House — but will be pushing a reset button to throw a spotlight on what the White House is calling “the middle out’’ —policies to increase and bolster the middle class.

Obama returns to Illinois to “reset the table” as a White House official put it as the national economy is brightening and the administration sees an opening. Obama spent much of the first term dealing with the financial crisis.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the upcoming Obama speeches a “political road show.”

Obama’s big picture “framing” speech will come as the sequester — the federal spending cuts forced on Congress because Democratic and GOP lawmakers could not agree on a tax, revenue and spending package — has reduced growth this year.

On the other hand, the deficit is coming down at the fastest pace since World War II and because of oil and gas discoveries in the U.S., the nation is becoming less dependent on oil imports.

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