Tonight the president and a Democratic counterpart, Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia, will offer a State of the Union Address. At issue: simply more politics, or a message that engages the American people? Here are four questions for you to use in watching tonight. They come from my travels across the country. I urge you to watch, think about these questions, and log back on to share your thoughts.
- Do you believe the president and the Democratic leader are in pursuit of truth? Do you feel the leaders tonight are genuinely seeking to be forthright, to reflect people’s reality and what we must do to move ahead and the potential costs? Or, are they somehow distorting, or playing with the truth for their own gain? (Read "In Search of Truth")
- Do you believe the president and the Democratic leader ask us to see one another? In what ways do the leaders ask us to see the concerns and aspirations of others in our society, especially those different from ourselves? Specifically, what do they ask us to see and know? (Read "Who among us do we see?")
- Do you believe the president and the Democratic leader ask us to consider a richer definition of happiness? Do the leaders entice us to step forward merely as individual consumers in the pursuit of our own happiness? Or, do they call us back to public life in order to consider the greater common good, or just our own good – and, if so, how? (Read "The Pursuit of Happiness")
- Do you believe the president and the Democratic leader set the right tone? Do the words and images they use tonight reflect a genuine engagement with people’s concerns, or are they seeking to divide people, improve their poll numbers, or play on the Red/Blue divide? (Read"Do Political Leaders Care?")
Tonight’s State of the Union Address comes at a time, as so many have before it, when the American people are concerned about various domestic issues (e.g., health care, GM and Ford plant closings, scandals on Capitol Hill) as well as international challenges (e.g., War in Iraq, the explosive Middle East, nuclear proliferation). At issue is how the president and his Democratic counterpart address people’s concerns and offer a path forward.
What is our real “State of the Union?” I look forward to reading your thoughts and continuing the conversation.