How Did Obama’s State of the Union Speech Rank?

The United States Constitution, Article II, Section 3, requires the President to give Congress information on the State of the Union and to recommend their consideration for measures that he judges necessary and expedient.

George Washington personally delivered his first message to Congress on January 8th, 1790.

Since then presidents have been delivering what is now referred to as the State of the Union address to Congress.

The speech was shared with the public through newspapers until 1923 when the message from Calvin Coolidge was delivered by radio.

The term “State of the Union” was first used in 1935 by Franklin D. Roosevelt. Harry S. Truman was the first president to deliver a televised version of the speech in 1947.

George Washington

George Washington

Keeping to Essentials

The modern version of the State of the Union address is to outline an agenda for the current administration.

This was not always the case.

Washington for example, only hit on the concept of the union of the states, which had just been recently created.

The primary goal of Washington’s administration was to establish and maintain the union.

Putting it in Writing

Jefferson decided that speaking to a joint session of Congress was a bit too “kingly.”

President Jefferson decided to send out the details of his national priorities in note form.

This written report was considered a good idea and for 112 years this is the way the president met his duty of reporting to Congress on the state of the union.

Modern Tradition

In 1913, President Woodrow Wilson decided to once again speak in front of Congress about the state of the Union and it has been carried on this way since then.

While there is no time set for when the speech must be delivered, it is typically held at the end of January when Congress begins its session.

Today, the speech serves as a conversation between Congress and the president as well as a way for the president to promote the political agenda of his party.

While the speech of President Obama seemed to be mostly a democratic agenda, in the past, there has been important information contained in the speeches.

Some examples include:

  • 1823: Monroe Doctrine is explained by James Monroe. This doctrine called on European nations to end Western colonization.
  • 1862: President Lincoln told the nation that he wanted to end slavery.
  • 1941: President Roosevelt talked about the “Four Freedoms.”
  • 2002: President George W. Bush shared the plans for the war on terror, just four months after the terrorist attacks that occurred on 9/11.

Obama’s State of the Union 2013

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama discussed several political issues including climate change, gun control, minimum wage, and of course health care.

Here are some of the points that he made on each:

Climate Change

While climate change remains a big issue, Obama simply does not have the backing of Congress to get anything done about it.

The only members of Congress who are currently proposing bills dealing with global warming are Bernie Sanders and Barbara Boxer, two liberals who are not likely to get any support from the other side.

Gun Control

This is a hot-button topic considering the recent events at Sandy Hook Elementary.

While recent polls of the American people show overwhelming support for stricter gun control laws, the fact of the matter is that these laws are going to be tough to get passed.

It will be interesting to see how gun control proposals pan out over the next few months.

state of the union 2013

State of the Union 2013

Minimum Wage

This might have been the most surprising proposal of the evening.

However, in 2008 Obama campaigned on raising the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour, and in his speech, he proposed $9 per hour.

He has done little to deliver on this pledge and it is likely just more hype that nothing will come of.

Health Care

Health care is still a major discussion.

With the Supreme Court ruling that the “tax” was legal, (PDF) the Obamacare laws will be in full effect by the end of next year.

During his speech, Obama touched on how the Affordable Care Act is already helping to slow the amount health care costs are growing.

However, there is little evidence to support his statements.

From Washington to Obama, the State of the Union has changed immensely.

What used to be a speech to address issues that the nation was facing has become a stage for the president to state his political agenda.

With 33 million people watching Obama’s speech, he had a large platform on which to truly address the real problems that the country is facing, but he chose to offer rhetoric with no real solutions, which seems to be the norm in the modern era.


About Tina Wolf

Tina Wolf has been working as a freelance writer for several years. She enjoys writing about the government and history as well as other legal topics. She authors a blog about parenting a high ability student as well as one about parenting in general. Connect with Tina: LinkedIn: Twitter: @wolfee21

12 Responses to How Did Obama’s State of the Union Speech Rank?

  1. Avatar
    LawGeek #

    Nice work Tina. I wasn’t really impressed with the speech. I am not an Obama basher or anything of the sort, but it was overwhelmingly rhetorical and much of it was “what we’re going to do” much like his campaign speeches. He is a VERY good speaker and fortunately for the president, the average U.S. citizen doesn’t take the time to look at the numbers.

    The numbers don’t lie and when you run the economic numbers for the last 4 years they present a very grim picture for the current State of the Union. I voted for Obama in his first run, but I would be the first to admit that it was more of a civil right victory for we African American’s than it was about his ability to run the country like a business. If we looked at the country from a business perspective we would need to file bankruptcy. We simply are not profitable and continue to run deficit’s in the wrong direction.

    So my conclusion with regards to the president 2013 State of the Union Speech is this:

    Great speech, but.. “actions speak louder than words.”

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    QueenEsther #

    I am no political expert by any means however as I tuned into President Obama’s State of the Union Speech I felt like I was listening to a salesman. Our country is in very deep financial trouble like never before and he chose to speak about most of the same issues while he was running for President. I honestly don’t believe he has any strong solutions or any solid ideas how to get America out of debt. He is the President of our country, our leader that should be doing everything in his power to let the people of America know what he plans on doing while he is in office to help our country out of the terrible condition she is in. If I had to grade him on his speech I would have to give him an F. His State Of the Union Speech did not address the biggest issue we have, the U.S. National debt.

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    Blake #

    It’s sad to see that our constitution and what made this country successful is falling away. Capitalism helped this country become very economically stable. If minimum wage raises again, it will just speed up inflation. It seems that the president is focusing on trying to hit the emotional center of as many individuals as possible without actually being a leader. To me, being a leader includes having to make tough decisions that sometimes people don’t want to hear. Instead I feel like he just talks.

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      Ms. Windsor #

      “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

      I definitely have been inspired to dream more, learn more, do more and become more from his speeches. His words motivate me to dive in head first and help in areas that I should be.. however, truth be told, I haven’t yet.. and I believe many other Americans are the same way.. asking how are you going to fix this.. when we all can do a little somthing to fix things..

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    Ms. Windsor #

    If anyone is going to write a piece on something political I would like to see the facts behind the information being provided.
    This was a nice history lesson in the beginning informing the reader the different ways the State of the Union address has been brought to Congress and the public.
    However, it turned into an opinion piece in regards to how the write feels the President has failed in addressing issues that she deemed important.
    I believe that gun control is among the top priority for the parents of the deceased children from Sandy Hook.
    I believe minimum wage is an important topic to the college student working three part time jobs just to afford school.
    I believe Climate control is important to the men and women going to school and looking for jobs in this growing industry.
    I believe Healthcare is important to everyone.
    Yes the national debt is extremely important but perhaps the President, while trying to determine the key points to touch on, deemed it unnecessary to harp on a point that was discussed during the majority of the campaign process.
    Perhaps he believed I will have other moments to address my work, being that he has a website that is kept current with topics at hand and you can email regarding any issues you may be concerned about (I have done this and received a response just an fyi).
    I can’t imagine the immense pressure that this one man must face when trying to appease the more than 315,433,580 people in this nation.
    So I for one, who have maintained my job while my husband has lost one, and kept our children in private schools and are a young couple (25 and 27 respectfully). I am saying bravo Mr. President, I see you trying and I see the little support you have but I for one am doing my part by making barely enough but we realizing I woke up to another beautiful day so how can I complain.

    • Avatar
      LawGeek #

      John Quincy Adams statement was referring to one’s “actions” inspiring others, not just what one says. I admire your patriotism but your cannot begin to fix anything until you understand exactly what the problem is. In order to really “see” what this administration is doing you need to understand a little about business, economics and constitutional law. You don’t have to major or have a degree in these areas, but you do need to understand the basic principles. A person’s lack of understanding is what makes them vulnerable to deception and to wolves “in sheep’s clothing”. If you don’t understand the basic principles that the country was founded on and why, you are not going to comprehend how serious manipulations and disregard for the Constitution are and what the results will be.

      Likewise, if you don’t understand the basics of business and economics, you will not understand how bad of a job this administration has done with the “business” of this country and the significance of Obama’s raising the debt ceiling and increasing the national debt to an incredible amount.

      It helps also to understand the nature of politicians and what motivates them. They are not all the same, though the majority of them speak “good words” and claim that what they do is for the good of the country. Everyone has an agenda, that doesn’t mean that it’s bad, but there is a driving force to every person’s actions. You can always tell what someone is really about by their actions over time. Look at what they have “actually” done and compare it to what they have said and then you know what kind of person you are dealing with.

      If you, (no matter how zealous you may be for the country or the president) do not understand some of these basic principles you are in not in the best position to accurately evaluate the situation. I don’t say that to criticize you, but the reality is, (if that is the case) not only do you not have all the facts, you don’t even know what you need to know.

      We cannot “all do a little something to fix things” if we don’t understand why they are broken. If your source of information is simply the mainstream media and/or the email’s you get from the White House then you are really lacking some very critical pieces to the puzzle. The advantage that we currently have is that information is available all over the Internet. So as of today, you can still go and look up Obama’s campaign speeches in 2008 and 2012, all of his State of the Union addresses, all of his actions as president including those relating to the economy. You can also look at the economic data from the beginning of his presidency up until the present and that alone will be a sobering experience for you.

      With regards to his 2013 State of the Union address, in order to keep the U.S. consumer confidence (CCI) from going completely in the toilet by addressing the hard facts of our countries condition, it is necessary from Obama to avoid “real” issues and instead, give a good speech. It’s like me selling you a salvaged vehicle with all these serious problems, but if I tell you the whole truth I’m not going to be able to get you to go for it. You’ll never buy it. So, I need to “highlight” features…. I need to “sell”.

      The president could not address any “real problems” that this country has because not only does he not have the solution, his very “actions” and that of this entire administration increase the magnitude of the problems. So of course he isn’t going to talk about debt.

      Do you realize the U.S. credit rating has been down graded for the first time in history under this administration?

      Do you realize that in his 2008 campaign he promised to to cut the deficit in half by his first term, when he has actually done the opposite?

      Do you realize the “supposed” progressive economic recovery is only a result of the Federal Reserve printing money to prop up the U.S. economy?

      There has been no real growth, if there were the Fed would not have to print money (known as quantitative easing). That’s like you owning your own restaurant and it is failing, on the brink of bankruptcy and I hand you a clean new credit card to keep you going awhile. It’s not real growth, it just increases the debt without fixing the source of the problem, which in our countries case has a lot to do with government spending and our trade deficit. However, most of your employees are not going to understand that. They are going to think the business is doing great. They have no idea how serious the situation is. Money printing decreases the value of currency making the dollar worth less and decreases the purchasing power of our money.

      Numbers don’t lie. The average person doesn’t understand the future impact the actions of the Federal Reserve and this administrations current monetary policy are going to have. You think $4.00 + for a gallon a gas is high? Just wait a little while…Do you remember what it was in 2007-2008? Why does it increase, what causes it to increase? What is inflation going to look like in five or ten years? How is that going to affect you and your children when the “value” of your money is much less?

      Do your homework Ms. Windsor. I do applaud and admire your attitude, but Barack Obama cannot possibly be clueless to the reality of the United State’s financial issues and the significance of his actions. While he has taken an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, his actions are contrary to established Constitutional freedoms. No, he is not the only president that has done this, but he certainly isn’t preserving the integrity of the document and our government continues to move further away from the principles that are the very framework of our freedom and they do it in the name of “security”.

      With that said, Barack Obama failing to tell the American people the truth during his State of the Union Address is no different than the Captain of the Titanic failing to tell his passengers the reality of their grim situation after they hit that iceberg.

      If someone on the Titanic had real insight about the gravity of the situation and tried to warn people, would that be complaining? I don’t think so.

      If you’d like the cold hard facts with regards to this current administrations practices, I have provided some links below.

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    QueenEsther #

    WOW! I couldn’t have stated that any better LawGreek. You have truly done your research. People don’t want to believe the cold hard facts. They don’t want to face the truth because it hurts and it’s very uncomfortable and they want to live in this dream thinking that everything is going to be alright and that it’s all going to be fixed sooner or later. The reality is that America is in some very serious trouble and the citizens of America will not realize it until it hits their personal income and way of living and most important their freedom.

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    Lonsworld #

    wow! I’m almost speechless (almost). First, Windsor took the words right out of my mouth, skipping no beats. I am a passionate person and have learned to trust my gut very well. I wouldn’t doubt Obama has made several righteous attempts to fulfill his promises, that have been challenged by congress and others that even the most educated “Obama Research Specialist” would have no knowledge of. Having witnessed this type of situation personally on a smaller political level, there is nothing in our imaginations I would put past the addiction of power and control. That was my gut speaking:)

    As far as my mind goes. There is nothing I would put past any politician today. Law Greek inspired me to dig deeper and understand what our admin is doing or not doing. I respect your honesty on why you voted for him originally and agree that lots of us speak on him from an emotional stand point and not factual. Which is why I usually don’t, because I know I haven’t dug deep enough and most that voice their opinions haven’t either.

    I would like to add..
    Facts don’t lie about results, but they don’t necessarily determine a person’s character either. None of us know exactly why things have or haven’t been accomplished. So, I’m where I usually end up, on the border-line for those who trust their hearts and emotions and those who only roll with facts.

    In regards to Obama’s speech, I believe the topics he addressed were considered important war topics for large amounts of citizen’s who feel they are battling with gun violence, former well-paid employees who are battling with little employment opportunities and low wages, humans who just love life and earth and want to fight for our future generations, and people with medical conditions that no longer know how they will continue to get the help they once earned through a job they use to have. We say these are not important issues, but they are obviously signs of the times. I guess it depends on which windows each person looks out of every morning.

    Although, there may have been more exciting scripts read at previous “State of the Union” events, I believe there is a possibility Mr. Obama’s address to the Union might have been appropriate for our current issues. You can’t expect everyone to love what you believe in and I love that he knows that. I believe the issues he feels are important, just might not be to more traditional politicians and citizens.

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinions in life, which I totally respect. As a victim of gun violence myself, a family member of multiple victims of gun violence, A father of young men and women who will be forced to survive in it and a business owner, I understand the importance and focus that must be put into this particular matter and appreciate anyone that is willing to use even an ounce of their power or success to fight it.

    I also know that Obama is not a magician, nor is he GOD. I have never given myself un-realistic expectations of him and his capabilities. He was pretty clear in the beginning, when he stated “none of this will happen over-night” and I believe at that moment he also knew there was a strong possibility that it might not happen during his terms, but he would atleast start the foot-work it will take for the next leaders to carry on the mission (hopefully).

    He is “one man”, not “one miracle”.

  7. Avatar
    Scarlett Bell #

    The state of the Union speeches provided a moment for reflection on the state of the nation, its challenges, and the President’s vision for addressing them, making them a significant event in American politics.

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    Regalee Gaudet #

    Critics, particularly from the opposing party, often had varying views on the content of these speeches, leading to debates and discussions about the President’s proposals.

  9. Avatar
    Abby Myers #

    The State of the Union speeches served as a platform for President Obama to outline his legislative agenda and key priorities for the year, setting the tone for policy discussions in Congress.

  10. Avatar
    Magnus Walters #

    Obama’s State of the Union speeches were often well-received by his supporters and the Democratic Party, who appreciated his policy proposals and vision for the country.

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