State of the Union

January 27, 2010

Address to Congress


Tonight is a classic example of what makes America a great nation.  I personally enjoy the fact the President must according to the United States Constitution, make an address to Congress about issues that he wishes that they take into consideration. The official wording from the Constitution may be found below:

He 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.
Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution

  George Washington was the first president to give an annual message to Congress in 1790 (Notice the first  State of the Union  also, took place in New York city, as that was the capital at the time.)  The President has then delivered a message to Congress almost every year.  An interesting component to the State of the Union has been that the President may deliver this message in two formats either in person or by written form.  Thomas Jefferson, actually, ended the delivery of the Presidential speeches in person, because he felt the presentation came across as too monarchical.  As it should because it was based on England’s “Speech from the Throne.”  

The practice of personally delivering the speech was reinvigorated when President Woodrow Wilson entered office in 1913 following the 1912 election which pitted Theodore Roosevelt v. William Howard Taft v. Woodrow Wilson!  The speech has  therefore, been delivered in person by almost every single president except Jimmy Carter who delivered his last State of the Union in 1981 in written form. 

The ceremony behind the Presidential State of the Union is what I truly find fascinating.  To the untrained eye, or more importantly the forgetful government student, neglects to notice the symbolism that is apparent everywhere within the president’s address. First, the opening moments of the State of Union witness the invitation of the President to a joint-session of Congress. For without an invitation the President cannot enter the hall. This is why if you will notice the Sergeant at Arms of the House of Representatives will announce the President of the United States.  The current Sergeant of Arms is a man by the name of Wilson Livingood.  He looks like this: 

Afterwards the President then enters to a ceremonial standing ovation, and he will make his way to the podium.  Once the President arrives at the Podium, hopefully you notice an apparent tradition.  It’s a small visual representation of the separation of powers.

2007 State of the Union


If you notice, that the President remains at a podium that is beneath both the Vice President of the United States and the Speaker of the House.  This image signifies the President’s position within the Legislative branch.  That he is not the authority, but a guest within this particular branch of government.
The other aspect that I like about the State of the Union is that the judicial branch typically does not applaud during the President’s address or even stand for that matter, due to their need to remain and be viewed as  impartial. 

 That brings me to tonight’s State of the Union.  Tonight’s State of the Union will be fascinating for multiple reasons.  1.) This is Barack Obama’s first State of the Union Address.  This is where people say, but wait he gave a speech last year… and you would be correct, but it was not an official State of the Union, so thanks for playing, that was simply an address before a joint-session of Congress. 2.) It will be interesting to see which particular issues the President is going to discuss. I believe the following will be at the top of the President’s priority list: 1.) Haiti 2.) Unemployment 3.) Iraq/Afghanistan 4.) Healthcare 5.) the Economy. This is in no particular order. 

3.) I’m interested in the President’s interactive aspect of the State of the Union.  The President has partnered with Youtube to enable the American people to ask questions directly to the President, in which he will respond later this week.  How about that!? Don’t believe it? Check it out here

4.) I’m excited for the potential games that we get to play while watching the State of the Union.  Me, personally? I will be playing State of the Union BINGO! I have created 4 State of the Union Bingo boards that are filled with political buzzwords for my students, they are then asked to watch the State of the Union and play along. As the President mentions each buzzword the students and I will cross them off in an attempt to make Bingo!  

Secondly, I like to play a version of Where’s Waldo or Guess Who.  My version deals with determining who the Designated Survivor (DS) is.  If you have no idea what I’m referring to, here’s the back story.  

Are you aware that every year or time there is a joint-session of Congress – a designated survivor  is chosen.  This person is randomly selected and moved to a remote, secure, and secret destination, so that in the event of a catastrophic event that the government may continue thanks to the presidential  line of succession. Typically the (DS) is a member of the Cabinet, because of their level of national clearance.  Therefore, they, and a Presidential aide, who carries the nuclear football will be omitted from tonight’s festivities. Last year the Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu was chosen for the healthcare address.  

Here is the Presidential Line of Succession:

# Office Current Officer
1 Vice President Joe Biden
2 Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
3 President pro tempore of the Senate Robert Byrd
4 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
5 Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner
6 Secretary of Defense Robert Gates[2]
7 Attorney General Eric Holder
8 Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar
9 Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
10 Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke
11 Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis
12 Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius
13 Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan
14 Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood
15 Secretary of Energy Steven Chu
16 Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
17 Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki
18 Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano

For the people of age you might want to make this a drinking game: Here is one produced by the Huffington Post: Please remember this is a comedic gesture and in no ways is meant for you to do seriously! 



Either way I look forward to an informative and rewarding political speech, hopefully for the ideas, but if nothing else for the ceremony.  Tune in to the State of the Union on all major channels starting at 9:00 PM Eastern Time and streaming live at! Cheers!   


One Response to “State of the Union”

  1. gameoncancer Says:

    By the way, for those of you looking for the designated survivor it was The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Shaun Donovan.

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