A Modest Proposal to Improve the State of the Union Speech

by on January 27, 2010 · 2 comments

Just finished watching President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech and Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s response.

For some reason, this reminds me of the annual honors ceremony at my daughter’s school.  Why?  Because at my daughter’s school, when they award a plethora of awards to students in each grade, they ask the audience to hold our applause to the end.  Why? Because  applause prolongs the ceremony interminably.

Sound familiar? Members of Congress imitate Jack-in-the-Boxes springing up and down at appropriate applause lines. Democrats sprang up at appropriate applause lines relevant to the president’s agenda. Republicans sprang up too, when the president praised small business or said said he wanted more nuclear power plants.  President Obama expected applause from Republicans when he listed his tax cuts, but he was disappointed and then joked about it. If you watched the speech on TV, some members of Congress seemed to be applauding with a look on their faces that said they didn’t quite know why they were applauding. The Joint Chiefs of Staff finally stood up and applauded when Obama praised veterans. Vice President Joe Biden has perfected the “sage” look, though sometimes he looked grumpy enough to be mistaken for a Republican!  

Republicans have finally cottoned to this phenomenon. Instead of presenting a solo speaker in a sterile environment, they presented Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell with an audience in the Virginia State Capitol. Like the president, the governor was interrupted by applause from legislators and others in the audence. Rhetorically, I thought it added an extra “oopmh” to the governor’s speech — both because it showed he has folks who agree with him and because he highlighted the state perspective. Given the rules of the political game, it was a smart choice. 

But that doesn’t mean a change in the rules wouldn’t make everyone better off. It’s friggin’ 11:50 at night, and I’m wiped out from a day of simultaneously working at home to get something written and running multiple scans on the home computer to get rid of the friggin’ Security 2010 virus, or Trojan, or whatever that thing  is.  I would have appreciated shorter speeches that simply told me what each party wanted to accomplish.

So here’s my suggestion. For the State of the Union Speech and the opposition party’s response, they should make the same request made at my daughter’s school awards ceremony: “Please hold your applause until the end.”

Now … anybody got any interesting technological solutions that would accomplish this goal?

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