Pageantry trumps president’s content

Ladies and gentlemen, the state of our union is strong.

Well, at least it is according to President Bush, who delivered the State of the Union address Tuesday night.

And while it may be true that our union is strong, I certainly can’t help but feel that the State of the Union – that is the actual address and ceremony itself – is too dramatic.

Article II, Section 3 of the United States Constitution states, “The President shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” Thus, the State of the Union address was born.

George Washington delivered the first State of the Union address in person back in 1790 and John Adams followed suit. However, Jefferson must not have gotten the memo because a president did not give the speech personally again until 1913, when Woodrow Wilson reestablished the practice. Since then, the State of the Union address has been delivered via various media outlets as technology has continued to evolve.

But as the address has moved from radio to television to the World Wide Web, I can’t help but wonder if it is becoming overrated.

For me, the unnecessary hype begins with the president’s overdramatic entrance. It’s almost as if you’re about to watch a wrestling match”

In this corner, standing at approximately six feet tall, weighing in at about 190 pounds, equipped with power tie and Cabinet, I give you the president, George “W” Bush.

Sure the president holds a position of authority and deserves our respect, but come on. Can’t he just walk into the room? It’s not like he’s Elvis or something.

But things don’t get any better once the president makes it into the chamber. Congress has to over-applaud after every little comment that he makes.

What’s that? He paused in order to catch his breath? Sounds like time for a standing ovation.

Seriously, do you realize how much shorter the State of the Union address would be without all the clapping? No need to be theatrical folks.

And then five minutes after the speech ends and the clapping finally stops, you have coverage of what is referred to as the “opposition’s” response.

First of all, aren’t we all on the same side here? And secondly, while this aspect may be somewhat practical, it tends to remind me of the play-by-play commentary of a halftime report.

Is it all absolutely necessary? While the State of the Union address has not become outdated, it certainly could be toned down a bit. I want to feel like the president is telling me about our country, not accepting an Academy Award.

Speaking of the Academy Awards, having hundreds of actors gathered together is one thing, but whose idea was it to put nearly our country’s entire government together in one room at the same time? I’m no rocket scientist, but that just sounds like it could be trouble.

Downgrading the State of the Union address ceremony sounds like the way to go.

It’s great to hear that our union is strong, but there’s no need to make such a spectacle out of the event.

I mean, year after year, president after president stands in front of a joint session of Congress and tells Americans that the state of our union is strong. But is it really?

Now, what president in his right mind is going to stand in front of Congress on national television and say that the union is weak?

Oh wait. That would be Gerald Ford, who, according to Wikipedia, told Congress and Americans in his 1975 speech that the state of the union was not good. I wonder how much applause he got?

Standing ovations and other theatrics aside, the State of the Union address is still a worthy tradition. It hasn’t crossed over into Throne Speech territory quite yet.

It is still important to hear the president’s opinion of our nation, or at least what his speech writer thinks his opinion is.

It would just be nice if the State of the Union address itself were as strong as the current state of the union.

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