The speech "balances a serious and very sober tone with a dose of hope and inspiration that we can get through this," the officials said. It will be "a sober speech... more sober than he's given."
Still, Mr. Obama will look to "buck up the American people; there's a substantial dose of hope and inspiration in there."
Mr. Obama will talk about "the spirit we need to meet these challenges" and use "history to remind people how we got here."
He will then discuss the economy and his proposals. Mr. Obama plans "a direct response" to those who question the scale of his economic plan and suggest it's too ambitious.
"He won't list specifics about what he'll do on day one or day two," however.
Mr. Obama will then move onto foreign policy and discuss how he rejects the "false choice of protecting security and maintaining ideals."
He will talk about the importance of speaking to allies "and those who seek to be our allies" and thank U.S. troops for their service. Their spirit of service, Mr. Obama will suggest, is one all Americans must emulate if the country is to meet the challenges it now faces.
Mr. Obama will call for "a new era of responsibility" and talk about the "price and promise of citizenship." He will discuss the "obligations that we have as citizens to our neighbors, to our government...to the world."
"There will definitely be an allusion to being the first black president" and civil rights, the officials said, though not an overt one.
Don't expect to hear Mr. Obama blaming George W. Bush or the Republicans directly for the situation the country faces.
"There's allusions to... the era we've been through," the officials said, but Mr. Obama won't harp on blaming Washington or Wall Street. He plans to acknowledge President Bush at the beginning of his remarks.
The speech is expected to run 18-20 minutes with applause.
The initial meeting about this speech, officials said, took place before Thanksgiving. Mr. Obama laid out his thoughts and said he wanted to describe the moment the U.S. is now in. He talked about some of the best inaugurals in his view, including those offered by Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy.
"He really knew from when we first met around Thanksgiving the bulk of what he wanted to say," the officials said, adding that Mr. Obama "felt pretty confident when he was writing" the speech.
"Some of his speeches haven't come to him as quickly," they said. This one "came to him because it had been in head... it went from his head to the paper quickly and flowed naturally."
"What you hear from the president elect," they added, "...in very many ways it's his speech."