You may think that the State of the Union is boring. You may think that the State of the Union is one-sided. You may think that the State of the Union is not as interesting as slow dancing with Barney Frank. But the State of the Union is still important.
Trending on Twitter during the State of the Union speech was hashtag #ThingsIdRatherDoThanWatchSOTU. It’s exactly what it sounds like — a plethora of tweets explaining the various creative, horrifying and/or excessively boring actions that an individual could do instead of watching the SOTU.
Attitudes like this fail to recognize the importance of political discourse and the democratic system in the United States. The SOTU is the primary way for the president to express ambitions and propose policies that will affect the future of America for generations.
The purpose of the SOTU is to encourage and ensure communication between the president and congress and provides a time for the president to propose such “measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” The SOTU forces the president and congress to highlight the central issues of American political discourse and make decisions about policy and legislative goals.
Matt Glassman makes an excellent case for why the SOTU matters: “[T]he State of the Union Address reminds everyone that the President of the United States can no more make a law than he can walk on water; never is it more evident how our system of government works. The president comes and visits the Representatives of the people, and he pleads with them to do what he thinks is right for the country.”
The SOTU is not a time for the president to underscore his platform. Instead, it is an opportunity for the president to ask the legislature to carry out his proposals.
It is imperative that the American people engage in politics in order to stay informed, formulate opinions and proactively work towards strengthening the country, regardless of political belief or ideology.
Even if you find the SOTU tedious, repetitive, or abhorrent, it is still important. It is a cornerstone of the American political discourse and democratic system. In a society such as ours, where no single group possesses all the power and no single individual can pass all of the laws, responsibility falls to the citizen to stay engaged. As President John F. Kennedy stated in 1962, and President Obama quoted in 2013, “It is my task to report the State of the Union — to improve it is the task of us all."