State of the Union addresses in 1962 and 2014

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy was giving his second State of the Union address. In 2014, President Barack Obama gave the second State of the Union address for his second term. From the beginning, you can tell that these two speeches are different. President Obama’s starts off on a very positive note, boasting about how far America has come in the last few years, “business leaders around the world have declared that China is no longer the world’s number one place to invest; America is.” while President Kennedy’s starts on a more somber note, focusing on the death of an important individual, “But, sadly, we build without a man who linked a long past with the present and looked strongly to the future. “Mister Sam” Rayburn is gone. Neither this House nor the Nation is the same without him.”. However, there are some similarities to the condition of America when these two made there speeches. Both presidents had seen recessions during their presidency. That’s a big reason why I chose this year for comparison. In both speeches, the presidents address the economic downturn and both have similar things to say, there has been lots of improvement, but there is still a lot to do. Obama said, “Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by; let alone to get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.” and Kennedy said, “We are gratified–but we are not satisfied. Too many unemployed are still looking for the blessings of prosperity- As those who leave our schools and farms demand new jobs, automation takes old jobs away.”. Another similarity is that both deal with the improvement of civil rights for a group of people. For Kennedy, it’s the Civil Rights Movement for African Americans and for Obama, it is marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples. Both presidents talk about the strengthening movements and strong push towards equality, “we’re partnering with mayors, governors and state legislatures on issues from homelessness to marriage equality” (Obama) and “But America stands for progress in human rights as well as economic affairs, and a strong America requires the assurance of full and equal rights to all its citizens, of any race or of any color” (Kennedy). A difference between the two speeches are their plans for international relations. In 1962, World War II was still fresh in people minds. International relations were still strained, and Kennedy vowed to fix that, “At times our goal has been obscured by crisis or endangered by conflict–but it draws sustenance from five basic sources of strength:
–the moral and physical strength of the United States;
–the united strength of the Atlantic Community;
–the regional strength of our Hemispheric relations;
–the creative strength of our efforts in the new and developing nations; and
–the peace-keeping strength of the United Nations.”. Right now in 2014, Obama addressed the issue of companies outsourcing labor for larger profit margins, “Both Democrats and Republicans have argued that our tax code is riddled with wasteful, complicated loopholes that punish businesses investing here, and reward companies that keep profits abroad. Let’s flip that equation. Let’s work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs right here at home.” Overall, the speeches were relatively similar, both with positive tones of progress and change, and almost every difference can be attributed to different time periods.


Sources: (2014 SOTU transcript) (1962 SOTU transcript)

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