The State of the Union…Whatever
Since there is some question regarding whether or not the President will deliver the State of the Union Address in the House Chambers next Tuesday, I was curious about how rare such an occurrence might be. Turns out, it would not be that uncommon.
Although George Washington and John Adams delivered annual speeches to Congress, Thomas Jefferson decided to deliver his message in writing. Not only is it not necessary for the President to address Congress in person, but it is also not required that his message be delivered every year. Article 2, Section 3 of the Constitution states that the President “shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union.”
Incidentally, Thomas Jefferson started a tradition of writing about the State of the Union that wasn’t broken until 1913 when Woodrow Wilson delivered his message to Congress in a speech. Unfortunately, Wilson also missed delivering a speech two years of his presidency due to illness. Like Jefferson, Herbert Hoover gave his assessments of the Union in written form and both Carter and Nixon skipped one “in-person” speech.
I believe State of the Union speeches are a good thing. It is important to see our President in command of His circumstances, even if the confidence he demonstrates is diminishes some by reality. It is also important for the world to see our country honor an office and a system of government, whether or not everyone likes those in power.
But in light of my short research project, I am struck by the tension our culture is experiencing over whether or not a speech will take place, when the State of the Union has actually been delivered in written form for 112 years of American history. In retrospect, it isn’t a life or death matter, or an issue of precedence.
Please don’t misunderstand. As I have said, I believe State of the Union addresses are a good thing. It’s just that they don’t define us as a people. They don’t even give us a clear picture of where we are. If we thought they did, we wouldn’t have rebuttal speeches by opposing parties.
It seems we live in a world where many things are interpreted by moments in time. Average people are demonized by short snippets of video. Companies are counted out after a bad day on Wall Street. Sports figures are persecuted for one bad play.
No wonder people find it hard to deal with failure. We feel as though our life is over if we lose a game, flunk a test or lose money in a business venture. Certainly, no one sets out to experience these things, but they are in no way final defeats.
Trust me in this!
I have lost a game or two.
I have flunked a test or…
And not every financial decision I have made has been a winner.
I am convinced we simply put too much stock in things that are not ultimately important. It is fine to strive for ideals, but it is also ok to live with disappointment. In fact, some of the most important lessons we learn in life are learned in the midst of disappointment. Jesus once said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Will the State of the Union Address happen? Probably, in some form. If it doesn’t happen before Congress, I am certain it will be an interesting evening. It might even be a discouraging evening.
But, I for one, am not going to hang my life on what happens, one way or another.
I will still be at peace.