Article II, Section 3, of the U.S. Constitution requires that “The President shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” The Constitution gives no specific time on the date for the speech, but Presidents typically deliver it in late January of each year. Well folks, it’s late January, so President Obama is going to give his State of the Union Address tomorrow (Wednesday) night at 9pm. Guess who’s going to be watching? You are! You are! You are!
A brief history of the State of the Union Address (you know how I love history!). The first State of the Union was delivered by George Washington (in person) on January 8, 1790. In 1801, Thomas Jefferson, finding the process of giving a speech too “Kingly” for his taste (in other words, seemed a bit too much like something a King would do, and obviously, as the writer of the Declaration of Independence, he wasn’t a big fan of monarchy), wrote the State of the Union and had the letters delivered to Congress, to be read aloud by them (I’ve also heard that Thomas Jefferson was afraid of public speaking, which is why so many things that he did were written, but we’ll never really know). In 1913, Woodrow Wilson revived the practice of giving it in person. Other significant moments in State of the Union history:
· 1823 – President James Monroe explains the “Monroe Doctrine.” (if you don’t remember what it is, look it up)
· 1862 – President Lincoln tells the nation he wants to end slavery
· 1923 – President Calvin Coolidge became the first President to deliver the State of the Union on the radio
· 1941 – FDR talks of the “Four Freedoms.” (look it up, both the “Four Freedoms” and if you don’t know who “FDR” refers to)
· 1947 – President Truman delivered the first televised State of the Union Address
· 2002 – President George Bush Jr. shares his plans for a “War on Terror,” just 4 months after the 9/11 attacks
I know what you’re thinking – that was a “brief” history? Yes, to me, that was a “brief” history. Basically, the State of the Union Address is a reportcard of sorts, where the President tells the nation how he thinks we’re doing as a country (very similar to your reportcards, in which teachers are telling you how they think you’re doing as a student). The State of the Union is held in the House of Representatives chamber, in front of a joint session of Congress (both the members of the House of Representatives and the Senators are present). Also in attendance are the members of the President’s Cabinet (Hillary Clinton will be there), all of the Justices of the Supreme Court (Justice Sotomayor will be there for the first time), and other assorted guests.
This is actually the second time President Obama has addressed a joint session of Congress (remind me to tell you what happened the first time – it was quite controversial). The speech should be interesting, given everything that’s going on in the country at the moment, politically and otherwise, to see what President Obama has to say.
After the speech is over, there will be a rebuttal (look it up) by the newly-elected Republican Governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell. You need to watch this as well. This will be the Republicans saying what they think about the issues that President Obama brought up, and of course, probably disagreeing with it. It is politics, after all -- if they agreed, life would be very boring. You need to watch both sides of the argument because this is what educated/open-minded people do -- they watch/listen to both sides of the argument and then make up their own mind.
One last thing… I would suggest that you watch the debate on PBS (usually channel 13). The reason I say that is this: most television stations show the speech and the rebuttal and then a bunch of reporters talk about what they think. Here is my question – why should you or I care about what a bunch of reporters think? I mean, they’re just people like you and me. PBS (Public Broadcasting Station) tends to have Presidential Historians as their people who sit around and talk about the speech and rebuttal afterwards. It’s just my personal opinion, but they tend to make the most interesting comments because they have knowledge of past presidents and past events in our country. Again, this is only my opinion, so you are, of course, free to watch whichever station you like.
After the speech is over, I want you to answer a few questions:
1. What one thing that President Obama said stood out to you?
2. What one thing that was said in the Republican rebuttal stood out to you?
3. Do you think President Obama is going to get everything done that he wants?
3. What did you think of the speech in general? Good? Boring? Why?
4. Add any other comments that you have...
Since you all have nothing else to do this week, this is due by Thursday evening. I would prefer that you do it right after the speech, but if you have big important plans tomorrow night, I want to give you a chance to watch it the next day.