Tonight President Obama will make his state of the union address to Congress. Will he find refuge in the White House movie theater sometime beforehand to practice his delivery of tonight's speech, just as his predecessor President George W. Bush liked to do? What policies and legislative goals will the president be promoting tonight? Is the state of the union address important? Need we watch?
In his 1949 state of the union address, President Harry S Truman proposed his program of social and economic reform, asserting that “Every segment of our population, and every individual, has a right to expect from his government a fair deal."
In his state of the union address of 1974, President Richard Nixon refused to resign the presidency despite the rising tide of suspicion that was enveloping him...yet he did resign seven months later.
And in 1982 with the country in recession President Ronald Reagan called for a “New Federalism” in his state of the union address, advocating for less federal spending and more state initiatives to solve social and economic problems.
What might President Obama be proposing for Americans in tonight's speech?
Events such as the state of the union address provide a perfect opportunity to continue our dialog about American history and politics with our young people. Encourage young people to watch tonight's address. Watch it with them! When the speech is over, turn off the TV pundits and discuss the speech. What did they think about it? Do they agree with the president's proposals? Why or why not? Take the time to help young people make the connection to their own lives. Learn more about the constitutional requirements for the state of the union address in the New York Times article State of the Union.
An excellent resource to consult regarding the presidency, politics, and American history is the NCBLA’s art and literary anthology Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out. Our White House seeks to build on logical links between literacy, historical literacy, and civic engagement. Coordinating activities and discussion suggestions, as well as additional articles, are available on the book's supplemental website: ourwhitehouse.org.
On ourwhitehouse.org, learn from a political speech writer how a state of the union address differs from an inaugural address in "Writing Political Speeches: An Interview with Thomas LaFauci."