Not unlike budgets submitted by the Executive under the Constitution, States of the Union have filled a variety of roles. Some are designed to address the nation directly instead of the Congress assembled before them, serving as a powerful form of the "Bully Pulpit." Some are reminders to Congress that working together can lead to shared accomplishments - while others serve as reminders of the disconnect between the institutions of the legislature and the executive branches. Still others have served as mere examples of presidents providing their own objectives and image of America through the exercise of executive action to move towards those objectives. And with an incumbent president addressing a nation without a concern about re-election, most presidents use the opportunity to address Congress and the nation to remind both of our national blessings and our need to rise above divisive political rhetoric towards a common objective. But like most presidents (especially when America is not in a major war), the address is mostly a pronouncement of a presidential "wish list" - a set of objectives that are favored but not necessarily expected to pass Congress or to be enacted through executive action.
As we recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, let us all remember that our nation is comprised of a diverse group of citizens, diverse because of differences in race, creed, culture, language, religion, age, gender, etc. Yet, we all remain Americans. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote; "Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think." It's time for Americans to think again. To use their individual abilities to discern reality from rhetoric, divisiveness from unification. And may all Americans listen closely to this year's State of the Union address and appreciate how truly wonderful it is to be a citizen in the greatest nation on the face of the earth! Have a great week!