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State of the Union Presidential Address by Pete Johnson


Last week President Obama gave his address to Congress and expressed his wishes and goals for 2014.  While Obama is to be a lame duck president in a couple of years, he did tackle some very ambitious topics on which he urged Congress to consider.

Some of the key points of President Obama’s speech are as follows: minimum wage increase, immigration, environment, and overseas negotiations.  These are clearly not all the issues, but these are issues people most avidly discuss here on campus.  President Obama recommended to Congress the increase of minimum wage from its current rate to $10.10.  Whether or not Congress will agree is still enigmatic.  Obama also urged for a complete immigration overhaul, which according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, will lead over 10 million illegal immigrants to attain citizenship.

And in one last highlight, President Obama said to Congress that he is interested in opening up talks with Iran in order to negotiate American/Iranian tensions over nuclear weapons.  Many people on campus are still skeptical as to whether or not the President’s talks will be successful.  These issues are just skimming the surface of the President’s long lettered speech, but if anyone is interested in watching the entire speech, it is available on any major media outlet, as well as YouTube.

Regardless of the importance, many Americans disregard the State of the Union as being nothing but mere political jargon used to promote a president’s personal agenda, but what is lacking is the understanding that every single presidential address to Congress is significantly different.  Every presidential administration is faced with unique and complex problems and it is important to note such events.  This is, of course, why a president gives the State of the Union, as it is to inform members of Congress and the American people of the problems that currently exist.

In January of 1790, the first president of the United States gave his first State of the Union address.  Ironically enough, Washington’s address to Congress is historically the shortest in all presidential history, with his speech being just over 1,000 words.  The longest State of the Union was by Jimmy Carter during his last year as president, and it was a written message rather than a speech, being over 30,000 words.

But in all fairness to our first president, the scope of Washington’s presidency was not nearly as large or complex as Carter’s was during the height of the cold war, which by then, the United States had gained superpower status.  Prior to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency, the State of the Union had merely been called the Presidential Address, and its effect on the American people would not have been as great as modern day presidents.  Many historians would argue that it wasn’t until Woodrow Wilson’s presidency that the president gained significant power, and by extension, the State of the Union was charged with more significance.

Whether or not one agrees with Wilson’s shift of power, what many Americans don’t know is that there is a constitutional obligation for the president to give an address to Congress.  Article II, Section 3 states that a president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”  Thus it is clear as to why the State of the Union is such a weighty tradition among US presidents.