Mini-History: State of the Union Address

The current “Dog and Pony” show known as The State of the Union Address is not necessary.

The Constitution requires the president provide information to Congress, but does not specify how. Article II, Section 3, says, “He 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.”

George Washington and John Adams read their “Annual Message” to joint sessions of Congress. Thomas Jefferson provided legislators a hand-delivered copy, read aloud by a clerk at the joint session. That practice remained until 1913 when Woodrow Wilson, and subsequent presidents, appeared before joint sessions of Congress and read the document aloud. During Franklin D. Roosevelt’s tenure, the Annual Message began to be informally called the “State of the Union” (SOTU) and was formally adopted in 1947.

Americans need not watch their lead horse take valuable time to head-bob down the aisle, receive pats on its withers, and nicker adoringly to the invitation only crowd as if he just arrived from the stud farm. Lap dogs jockey for position, just to be close, rub against, nip at shoed hooves, and bark loud enough to be heard.

After that opening floorshow, the main performance begins and quickly turns into audience participation night. If the stallion at the podium is from the correct stable, half the hounds howl with pleasure at every treat received. The other canines sit, whimper, and wait for the occasional table scrap. Upon completion of the snorting, other pooches try getting close to the pony. In the meantime, every other cur, mutt, mongrel, and puppy in the dog pound go around sniffing each other.

The show ends with biased judges’ attempts to convince every American of the successes, and failures, of the night’s performers—including costume critique.

In today’s hi-tech world, the SOTU can be broadcast and live-streamed from the Oval Office without interruption. It can be pre-recorded and shown to the joint session of Congress on a big screen. It can be printed in every newspaper, magazine, periodical and its text posted on numerous social media. Perhaps the next stallion, mare, or gelding will reintroduce President Jefferson’s technique.

(by Tom Williams, All Wet Publishing, LLC © 2024)

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