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President Barack Obama's big speech on Saturday awaits and what it will bring is anybody's guess.

A spokesperson for the White House said on Friday evening that the president "looks forward to speaking directly to the LGBT community about the steps his administration has taken thus far and the progress he hopes to achieve in the coming weeks and months."

That statement suggests Obama might deliver some fresh piece of information Saturday, but White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on Friday didn't presage anything new during Friday's briefing, saying only that he expected the president to talk about "a range of issues."

When I asked Gibbs if the president would highlight anything beyond the recently nominated openly gay ambassador and the nearly sealed hate-crimes legislation, Gibbs said he didn't want to "zoom past" the hate-crimes achievement.

"Hate-crimes protections are long overdue, in the president's opinion," Gibbs said. "He believes that their passage represents an important step, and looks forward to, when that legislation gets to his desk, signing it and making that the law of the land. I think that's certainly part of what he'll discuss on Saturday night."

Based on that response, I think it's safe to say that hate crimes will clearly be a major emphasis of the speech.

Then there was a tidbit in The Washington Post suggesting, "Obama will stress incremental advancements as evidence of progress."

The article sources "a Democratic source familiar with the White House's thinking," which, if true, suggests that the White House is trying to soft-pedal the speech.

The incremental concept brought a scathing rebuke from John Aravosis at Americablog, who wrote: "And now, to add insult to the injury, we face the subtle bigotry of 'incrementalism.' The White House has found a new buzzword -- a rhetorical silver bullet to get the president off the hook for yet another forgotten promise."

But I keep wondering, if the president can't offer anything new to the LGBT community in what sources say will be a 20-minute speech, why not just have family night at home with Michelle and the girls and eat pizza?

Sure, Obama might get some credit just for showing up at the dinner, but my guess is that his inner circle would deem that far riskier than not showing up. So why take the risk unless you believe you can pull something out of your magic hat?

Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, who is in the process of being discharged under the military's gay ban, called on the president to provide details about ending the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

"The president told me in June, 'We'll get this done,'" said Fehrenbach, who spoke to Obama at the White House Stonewall celebration in June. "I hope to hear from him this weekend about timing -- specifically when the president plans on working with Congress to reverse the law."

Fehrenbach's call to action was joined this week by Congressman Alcee Hastings of Florida, who also pressed Obama for a repeal timeline. "Congress has yet to receive indication from the Executive that it is ready to proceed with a repeal process that requires leadership on all fronts," read a letter Hastings sent to the president.

And then there was Congressman Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania, a former Navy officer, who wrote, "I cannot imagine denying equal rights to anyone I served with. How can anyone say, we fought and served together, we depended on one another, we risked our lives for this country, but back home you shouldn't enjoy the rights that you defended?"

Setting out a path to overturning the gay ban on Saturday would certainly be noteworthy, but earlier this week, Gibbs's reaction to questioning about a Senate sponsor for repeal or a timeline led me to believe that the policy hadn't been a hot topic of conversation recently at the White House.

Longtime activist David Mixner looked outside the Beltway and said he would be "thrilled" if the president took a stance on the upcoming referendum on Maine's same-sex marriage law. But based on Washington buzz, the CBO might score those odds at slim to none.

So what's left and will it be enough for LGBT activists? As a political insider said to me, "It's easy to dress up presidential remarks." And the backdrop for this speech is that Obama's words will be the first he delivers as a Nobel laureate.

"I will accept this award as a call to action, a call to all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century," Obama said of his unexpected honor Friday.

Certainly differing degrees of homophobia around the world qualify as a "common challenge," continuing to mock and ravage the promise of peace for people who love outside the boundaries of common acceptance.

Saturday night offers the new Nobel Peace Prize winner a perfect opportunity to send a message to the world that human rights are not simply tolerated -- but elevated -- right here at home.


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