President Joe Biden plans to mark the one-year anniversary since the broad adoption of COVID-19 public health restrictions by memorializing the nation's profound losses and discussing how he anticipates the country will begin emerging from the pandemic.
The president's first primetime address to the nation comes on his 50th day in office — a later point than when recent past presidents have requested television air time to address Americans — and just a day after the Democratic-controlled Congress fulfilled a signature campaign pledge by passing one of the most sweeping federal spending plans in U.S. history on a party-line vote.
"I'm going to talk about what comes next. I'm going to launch the next phase of the COVID response and explain what we will do as a government. And what we'll ask of the American people," Mr. Biden said Wednesday afternoon in a preview of his remarks.
A senior aide told CBS News that the speech is designed to be "an optimistic look at what the next few months will look like in terms of battling COVID-19."
The roughly 18-minute address will pay tribute to the sacrifices made by the American public, to the more than 500,000 lives lost and to the millions whose lives have been transformed by the pandemic.
Mr. Biden is set to describe what he and aides consider to be the greatest operational challenge ever faced by the U.S. and to tout how his young administration has worked rapidly to ramp up vaccine development and distribution, helping to support more than 400 vaccination sites nationwide while securing the purchase of hundreds of millions of doses.
Asked to summarize what the president might say, White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond this week laid it out in stark terms: "I told you when I was running, I had a plan. I told you that I wanted to do 100 million shots. I told you I wanted to get help to open schools. I wanted to give people $2,000, here's another $1,400 of it. And that's what I said I was gonna do; that's what I did. And the other thing I said I want to do is help us come together — which we are — and you know what? We can't let our guards down."
Richmond added, "It's going to be something like that, but a lot more eloquent."
While Thursday evening's address is likely to draw the president's largest audience since Inauguration Day, the White House is increasingly turning its attention to a series of public events that the president, Vice President Harris and other senior administration officials will hold across the country in the coming weeks to begin selling, defending and explaining details of the nearly $2 trillion American Rescue Plan.
Harris begins the public tour on Monday with an event in Las Vegas while on Tuesday, Mr. Biden is scheduled to visit Delaware County, Pennsylvania, a suburban area outside Philadelphia just minutes from his Delaware home.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the events will be like "having a conversation directly with people about how they can benefit, addressing questions they have, even taking their feedback on implementation."
The White House and Democrats are hoping to avoid what they generally agree was a significant political misstep of the first two years of the Obama administration: a failure to properly explain and defend passage of the sweeping 2010 Affordable Care Act and to tout the 2009 passage of a multi-billion stimulus plan designed to claw the country out of the Great Recession.
Earlier this month, Mr. Biden recounted how he had urged his former boss, President Barack Obama, to do more to tout his accomplishments in the run up to the 2010 midterms when Democrats lost total control of Congress.
"I kept saying, 'Tell people what we did.' He said, 'We don't have time. I'm not going to do a victory lap,' and we paid a price for it," Mr. Biden recalled.
Now, with Congress even more closely divided, Democrats are hoping not to make that mistake again.