Why the State of the Union Address Has Turned into a Publicity Stunt

Advances in technology have allowed Americans to be more educated about and feel that they are more significant to their federal government. These advances have dramatically changed the role of the President of the United States as well as the point of view of the American citizen.

A well-known turning point regarding the impact of technology on the federal government is the first televised Presidential debate on September 26th, 1960. Nixon and Kennedy were participating in this debate. Most people who listened to this debate on the radio thought that Nixon had won the debate while most people who watched the debate on television thought that Kennedy had won. This event forced politicians to take appearances seriously while trying to gain the popularity of the American public on television due to America’s possibly subconscious yet definitely shallow view about the physical appearance of leaders.

Presidential debates and campaigns have always been a way to gain support of the country and rally the support of citizens, but now almost every public move that Presidents make is an attempt to gain more support.

The State of the Union was formally known as the Annual Message from 1790 to 1946.  Thomas Jefferson started the practice of delivering the Annual Message in a written statement rather than in an oral address. President Woodrow Wilson restarted the practice of delivering the Annual Message orally and President Roosevelt solidified this practice. The first television broadcast of the State of the Union was President Harry Truman’s address in 1947. In the modern era, the State of the Union has almost always been delivered orally. Now, the State of the Union is an opportunity to address the citizens of the country as well as Congress. It is illogical for the President to pass up a televised opportunity for a speech such as the State of the Union.

The tradition of the State of the Union Address exists because Article II, Section 3, Clause 1 of the Constitution states 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.” On Tuesday, President Obama shared his recommendation for the minimum wage to be raised and said that he would be raising the minimum wage for federal workers to $10.10 per hour. This would only apply to new contracts being negotiated, so the people affected by this change is not as big as it seems.

Most people thought that President Obama gave a powerful State of the Union Address. Looking past the old speech tactic of listing hypothetical people and situations endlessly to gain the emotional support of viewers (eg: “A rural doctor gave a young child the first prescription to treat asthma that his mother could afford.” and “An autoworker fine-tuned some of the best, most fuel-efficient cars in the world, and did his part to help America wean itself off foreign oil.”), I think it was not a complete waste.

Beginning of Thomas Jefferson’s Fifth Annual Message (1805)










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