In his address to the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Cantor advocated policies aimed at making conservative principles more resonant in the lives of struggling middle-class Americans.

Among his proposals: holding schools more accountable to the concerns of parents, making colleges more attuned to the job market, giving more flexibility to hourly workers who want to spend time with their families, simplifying the tax code and speeding breakthrough medical research…

Cantor’s speech was so different in tone from the truculent rhetoric that normally defines Washington politics that it even drew praise from a prominent Democrat.

“Even though we might have different policy prescriptions than Leader Cantor, Democrats agree with the diagnosis that the shrinking middle class and the accessibility of the American dream are our most pressing challenges,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) said in a statement issued by his office. “If House Republicans can adapt their agenda to match Leader Cantor’s words, this Congress could surprise people with how productive it can be.”