Gizmodo says this State of the Union will be “nontraditional,” and Pres. Obama’s chief of staff says the speech will be “a big optimistic generous view of the future.”
The White House chief digital officer Jason Goldman, says there will be multiple platforms on which to experience the speech, which was first mentioned in our Constitution‘s Article II, Section 3, that the President “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union.” Since 1790, with occasional exceptions, State of the Union messages have been delivered annually.
Thomas Jefferson didn’t much like giving them, so he sent a written report, instead. That means of delivering the message continued through William Howard Taft in 1912. Calvin Coolidge’s State of the Union was the first one on radio on 1923. FDR started the tradition of an oral presentation in his first in 1934.
Here are some State of the Union firsts, stolen from the Interwebs:
First TV broadcast took place when President Harry Truman was in office in 1947
First president to deliver the speech in primetime was Lyndon Johnson in 1965
First live webcast on the Internet happened in the President George W. Bush administration in 2002
First high definition television broadcast of the address also took place under George W. Bush in 2004
First enhanced State of the Union live stream: President Obama, 2011
The Los Angeles Times says to look for optimism; a call to action on domestic policy; international priorities; 2016 presidential campaign, and conversation about agreeing to disagree.
This is Obama’s last SOTU address, and other presidents used their last SOFU to:
- Ask for a permanent navy (George Washington)
- Talk about bad labor-management relations leading to too many strikes (a recent stoppage in steel production had been especially worrisome) and about the debilitating effects of inflation. And balancing the budget. (Dwight Eisenhower)
- Suggest they were taking a victory lap (Ronald Reagan)
- Suggest the American voters vote for Al Gore (Bill Clinton)
Pew Research Center looked back at Pres. Obama’s first address to Congress in 2009 – what they called a SOTU in every way but name — to compare how many promises he’s kept. They found:
Terrorism: For most of Obama’s term, the public gave him fairly high marks on his handling of the threat of terrorism – peaking in May 2011, just after the killing of Osama bin Laden. But Obama’s approval ratings on handling terrorism have fallen since, and took an especially precipitous drop after the Paris and San Bernardino attacks.
Health care: More Americans are covered by some form of health insurance now – whether employer-provided, purchased on an exchange or obtained via Medicaid or Medicare – than when Obama took office. According to the Census Bureau, 16.1% of Americans (nearly 49 million) were uninsured in 2009; by 2014, the last year for which there are data, only 10.4% (almost 33 million) Americans lacked health coverage.
Education: The share of Americans ages 18 and older with at least some education beyond high school has risen since 2009, according to the Census Bureau – from 55% that year to 58% in 2014 – though that’s a continuation of a trend that dates back to at least 2001. But student performance at the elementary and secondary levels hasn’t changed much, according to data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The share of eighth-graders scoring at or above the “proficient” level in reading went from 32% in 2009 to 34% in 2015, for instance, and the share scoring at or above proficiency in math went from 34% in 2009 to 33% last year. Among fourth-graders, 36% scored at or above the proficiency level in reading last year, versus 33% in 2009. For math proficiency, the shares were 40% and 39%, respectively.
Here’s the New York Times’ take on Obama’s promises:
Gun control: ACTION Mr. Obama failed to persuade Congress to mandate universal background checks for gun sales, but he took about two dozen modest executive actions in 2013, and 10 more last week, intended to increase enforcement of existing gun laws.
Iran: ACTION The United States and five other nations reached a deal with Iran in July 2015 that limits the country’s nuclear program for at least a decade in exchange for lifting international sanctions.
Syria: ACTION Despite calling for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to step down and setting a “red line” — the use of chemical weapons by Mr. Assad’s administration — that he said would bring an American military response, Mr. Obama has refused to intervene directly against the Syrian government. The United States and a coalition of partners are bombing select Islamic State strongholds in Syria. The Defense Department also began, but recently abandoned, a program to train moderate Syrian rebels.
Iraq and Afghanistan: ACTION About 10,000 American service members remain in Afghanistan. In October 2015, Mr. Obama halted the military withdrawal and indefinitely prolonged the American presence there. He has also sent a small number of troops — trainers, advisers and Special Operations forces — back to Iraq, but he refuses to make a large-scale commitment of forces.
Health care: ACTION The Affordable Care Act is a hallmark of Mr. Obama’s presidency.
ImmigratioN: ACTION Mr. Obama worked with a bipartisan group of eight senators to pass a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws, but the bill died when House Republicans refused to consider it. He then turned to executive actions, some of which have been blocked by the courts.
Education: ACTION Mr. Obama unveiled his community college plan days before his 2015 speech, pledging to spend $60 billion over 10 years to make two years of college free for as many as nine million students. The Republican-controlled Congress has not accepted his proposal.
Gay rights: ACTION Mr. Obama signed legislation in 2010 allowing the military to do away with “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a Clinton-era law that allowed gays to serve as long as they kept their sexuality a secret.
Climate change: ACTION Mr. Obama issued regulations in August 2015 designed to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions from American power plants and to revolutionize the country’s electric industry. Three months later, herejected a proposal to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the gulf coast. He has also directed billions of dollars to clean-energy projects and advanced a host of other regulations aimed at curtailing climate-warming emissions.
Jobs: ACTION The unemployment rate was 7.8 percent when Mr. Obama took office and peaked at 10.2 percent in October 2009, in the midst of the financial crisis. A series of measures before and during his administration — including the automotive industry bailout, the stimulus package and the financial-sector bailout — helped turn the economy around. The unemployment rate reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday was 5 percent.
Guantanamo Bay: ACTION Since Congress blocked a January 2009 directive to close the wartime detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Mr. Obama has slowly winnowed the number of prisoners held there to about 100, downfrom several hundred, primarily by transferring detainees to other nations.