100 Years Later- 1914 State of the Union Address Compared to 2014

First of all, the situations while these two speeches were given were very different. In 1914, World War I had just broken out in Europe, although America was not directly involved yet. However, the war still impacted Americas trade and its attitude.

Regarding trade, President Woodrow Wilson speaks mostly about getting the proper ships and ports, which is less of a problem in modern times, but both Wilson and Obama speak proudly of the peace America strives for. In Obama’s case, he talks about the ending wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and about the thousands of troops coming home. Wilson focuses more on peace but prepared for war, and how America doesn’t need to become extremely to be able to defend itself, as a war had just begun even if it is one American was not involved in yet. Both are proud of what has been done to preserve peace and are very willing to keep it as peaceful as it can be. For example, Obama pushes for negotiations with Iran before doing anything else with that situation.

Another thing that Obama stressed was the growth of the middle class. He often mentions upward mobility and increasing the minimum wage so that people will actually be able to survive and succeed if they work hard. He also mentions not saving the wealthy’s money while people who are poorer are deprived benefits like unemployment insurance. Wilson touches on the subject of protecting the majority from a wealthy minority, saying “It is not expenditure but extravagance that we should fear being criticized for; not paying for the legitimate enterprise and undertakings of a great Government whose people command what it should do, but adding what will benefit only a few.”

A difference between the two speeches is that Obama uses specific examples to illustrate his point and the connect to the people while Wilson usually speaks in more broad terms. Their stance on Congress differs as well. Wilson says “even at this short session of a Congress which would certainly seem to have done all the work that could reasonably be expected of it.” Congress today is not quite so active and President Obama repeatedly brings up that he is going to do whatever he can without the aid of Congress if they are not willing to help.

The speeches are very nationalistic, as would be expected. Both presidents seem proud of everything their country has done and pointing out places for improvement at the same time. The issues are different bu the core of it is the same, presidents who want what is best for their country and trying to get America to the best place it can be.


Barack Obama: “Address Before a Joint Session of Congress on the State of the Union,” January 28, 2014. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.

Woodrow Wilson: “Second Annual Message,” December 8, 1914. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.

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