A final short thought on the State of the Union address

Yes, I’ve called the State of the Union address long, boring and pointless. And it is.

But how is it that the most important presentation before the most powerful and important institution in the country is basically a 16th-century Puritan sermon? Hell, even churches—those bastions of technological innovation—in the 21st century use music to accompany to enhance the experience and use screens to present images to make the material a little easier to understand. But the president walks up an aisle, stands at a lectern, and simply talks for a while, thanks God, and then we’re on our way to Country Kitchen.

People talk often about making the government work more like business, and while I’m very, very skeptical about the whole idea, this could be one function that could only be made better by aping corporate America. While I watched the cabinet secretaries enter the chamber last night, I had thought: why not parcel out the address among the secretaries, with the president giving the keynote and announcing the big pitch? Sec. Kerry reports on the state of diplomatic relations, Sec. Sebelius updates us on the state of the ACA, etc. Then the president comes to the stage to share just a few thoughts and concluding the presentation.

Also, if you look at corporate presentations, they’re always accompanied by visuals. Sometimes they’re even complementary and useful. You never see the CEO of a major corporation present in some opulent chamber, however. So, it probably would be good time to overhaul the scenery as well. Set up some dark backdrops and large screens. Imagine if Sec. Sebelius could show a chart on the downward trajectory of healthcare costs, or enrollment numbers. Sec. Perez could visually compare our minimum wage to the rest of the world’s, or highlight the widening gap between the wealthy and the not-wealthy.

Of course, everybody who would ever work in the White House communications office would never forgo the visual of the president standing before Congress, and definitely wouldn’t let the president be overshadowed by cabinet secretaries, so this not-really-a-dream probably will never happen. Then again, almost nobody can use PowerPoint well, so we’re probably better off this way.


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