Thoughts on Geraldine Ferraro

Today, we take it for granted that Sarah Palin was a vice presidential nominee, that Hillary Clinton is Secretary of State and was a major contender to lead a major party national ticket, that Nancy Pelosi was Speaker of the House and that women have held and currently hold prominent positions in our national government.  There are currently 17 female senators and 74 female representatives serving in the 112th Congress and 6 women sit as governors of our states.  There was a time in America when this was not and could not be the case, and that time was not too long ago. 

When Geraldine Ferraro began her first term in the 96th Congress in 1979, she was one of only 16 women in the House of Representatives; there were only 2 female senators (one of whom was appointed).  Ferraro fought for equality for women in areas of pay, retirement and pensions and quickly rose within the leadership ranks in her party.  In 1984, she blazed a trail by running as the first vice presidential nominee for a major party national ticket.  Though her party did not win the 1984 presidential election, Ferraro showed the nation that a woman could not only grasp, but command the issues facing the world’s leading nation.

Ferraro passed away yesterday after a 12 year battle with cancer.  Her effect on American politics and Americans’ views on women in leadership cannot be understated.  I’ve included Rep. Ferraro’s profile from the House of Representatives’ Women in Congress website.

Geraldine Anne Ferraro

Representative, 1979–1985, Democrat from New York

In 1984, Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro secured the nomination as the first woman vice presidential candidate on a major party ticket. Representative Ferraro’s pragmatism and political skill, coupled with her close relationships with top Washington Democrats, allowed her rapid climb up the House leadership ladder. While serving in Congress, Ferraro was able to pursue a liberal, feminist agenda without ignoring the concerns of her conservative district or alienating her mostly male colleagues.

The daughter of Italian immigrants Dominick and Antonetta Ferraro, Geraldine Anne Ferraro was born on August 26, 1935, in Newburgh, New York. The youngest child and only girl in the family, Geraldine was born shortly after her older brother Gerald, for whom she was named, died in a car accident.1 Dominick Ferraro died from a heart attack in 1943. Antonetta Ferraro moved her three children to the Bronx, where she worked to send her daughter to Marymount Catholic School in Tarrytown, New York. Geraldine Ferraro excelled in academics, skipping the sixth through eighth grades and graduating early from high school in 1952. She earned a full scholarship to attend Marymount College in New York City, graduating with a B.A. in English in 1956.2 While teaching in New York public schools, Ferraro attended night school at Fordham University and earned her law degree in 1960. On July 16, a week after graduation, she married a real-estate broker, John Zaccaro; however, Ferraro kept her maiden name as a tribute to her mother.3 She practiced law part-time while raising their three children: Donna, John, and Laura.4 In 1974, Ferraro’s cousin, District Attorney Nicholas Ferraro, offered her the position of assistant district attorney in Queens, New York. Geraldine Ferraro was later transferred to the Special Victims Bureau in 1975, where she quickly earned a reputation for her tenacity and talent in the courtroom.5 Ferraro later said her work in the Special Victims Bureau changed her political views from moderate to liberal. Finding the work draining and citing unequal pay at the district attorney’s office, she left in 1978, and set her sights on Congress.6

After serving as the U.S. Representative in a Queens, New York, district for nearly 30 years, Democratic Congressman James Delaney announced his retirement in 1978. An ethnically and financially diverse district, the bulk of the population, however, consisted of white middle-class and blue-collar workers, a setting that inspired Archie Bunker’s neighborhood in the popular television show, All in the Family. Although formerly a bastion for Roosevelt and Kennedy Democrats, the district had become increasingly conservative.7 Labeled a liberal feminist and lacking the support of local Democratic leaders, Ferraro faced long odds when she sought Delaney’s vacant seat.8 Capitalizing on her ethnic background and running on a platform of increased law and order, support for the elderly, and neighborhood preservation, she secured the party nomination with 53 percent of the vote in a three-way battle against Thomas Manton, a city councilman who had the support of the local Democratic leadership, and Patrick Deignan, a popular candidate of Irish descent.9

Ferraro moved on to a heated campaign in the general election against former Republican State Assemblyman Alfred DelliBovi. She quickly went on the offensive, adopting the slogan, “Finally, A Tough Democrat,” when her opponent criticized her decision to send her children to private schools.10 After Ferraro appealed to the national party for help in the close race, Speaker of the House Thomas “Tip” O’Neill of Massachusetts pressured the local Democratic leadership to lend their support.11 She ultimately defeated DelliBovi with 54 percent of the vote earning a seat in the 96th Congress (1979–1981). As the first Congresswoman from Queens, she also was re-elected to two subsequent Congresses, winning in 1980 and 1982 with 58 and 78 percent of the vote, respectively.12

One of Ferraro’s greatest challenges in Congress was balancing her own liberal views with the conservative values of her constituents. Especially in her first two terms, she remained mindful of the needs of the citizens in her district. Assigned to the Post Office and Civil Service Committee for the 96th and 97th Congresses (1979–1983), Ferraro earned a spot on the Public Works and Transportation Committee in 1981.13 When appointed to the Select Committee on Aging in 1979, a post she held until 1985, she organized a forum in her district to discuss problems concerning housing, medical aid, and social support systems for the New York elderly.14 In deference to the sentiments in her district, Ferraro voted in favor of some conservative legislation, such as a proposed constitutional amendment banning mandatory busing for school desegregation, tuition tax credits for private schools, and school prayer.15 Early in her career, she supported a strong national defense posture.16 Ferraro later broke from the Democratic Party leadership when she voted against a 1982 tax increase.

Ferraro generally remained loyal to the Democratic agenda, however, voting with her party 78 percent of the time in her first term and following the party line even more closely during her second and third terms.17 She was particularly critical of the Ronald W. Reagan administration’s policies towards women, disdaining what she called the White House’s efforts to glorify the nonworking mother, stating, “I don’t disparage that [being a stay-at-home mom], I did it myself… But not every woman can afford to do that.”18 Ferraro looked after the economic needs of women, sponsoring the Economic Equity Act in 1981. The legislation reformed pension options for women, protecting the rights of widows and divorcées and allowing homemakers to save as much as their working spouses in individual retirement accounts.19 One of the most controversial women’s issues, reproductive rights, remained a strong personal issue for Ferraro. Despite criticism by conservative Catholics and even her own mother, Ferraro supported abortion rights, vowing to not let her religious beliefs as a Catholic interfere with her constitutional obligation to a separate church and state.20

It was her ability to push her own agenda without abandoning her conservative constituents or taking a threatening feminist stance that caught the attention of her fellow Democratic colleagues and allowed her rapid rise within the party leadership. Representative Barney Frank, a Democrat from Massachusetts, summed up her political skill, observing that “[Ferraro] manages to be threatening on issues without being threatening personally.”21 Speaker O’Neill observed Ferraro’s seemingly natural political ability and took an immediate liking to the Congresswoman, whom he described as being “solid as a rock.”22 He admired her forthright yet pragmatic style and found her liberal policies, particularly her pro-labor stance, to be parallel with his own.23

Congresswoman Ferraro used her friendship with Speaker O’Neill to open doors for herself and other female colleagues. At the start of the 98th Congress (1983–1985), she sought a position on the prestigious Ways and Means Committee. Ferraro was passed over, mainly because New York was already heavily represented on that committee.24 To the surprise of many congressional veterans, however, O’Neill appointed her to the prominent Budget Committee. In addition to Ferraro’s assignment, other Congresswomen received their preferred appointments. Defending the increase in appointments of women to important committees, Speaker O’Neill claimed that their placement was long overdue and was quoted as saying, “They [women] hadn’t sought those spots before.”25

Ferraro’s rise within the Democratic ranks was further evidenced by her election as Secretary of the Democratic Caucus in 1980 and again in 1982. Historically an honorific position typically held by women Members, party rules had changed such that the Secretary now sat on the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, the panel responsible for making committee assignments and forming party strategy.26 Ferraro also increased her visibility within the party ranks by playing a prominent role in the 1980 Democratic National Convention. At the 1980 convention, Ferraro introduced the keynote speaker, Representative Morris Udall of Arizona.27 Two years later in 1982, she was instrumental in achieving automatic delegate status to the 1984 Democratic National Convention for three-fifths of the Democrats serving in the House and the Senate, an effort to give professional politicians a chance to unify and shape the party’s platform. In 1984, Ferraro became the first woman to chair the Democratic platform committee. Although she faced the arduous task of creating a unified platform for the upcoming presidential contest, the position afforded Ferraro invaluable media exposure and distinction in the Democratic Party.28

During the 1984 presidential campaign, political strategists and feminist groups pressured the Democratic Party to nominate a woman to the ticket. The movement, which hinged on the belief that selecting a woman as the vice presidential candidate would energize the party and help Democrats compete against popular incumbent President Ronald Reagan (by attracting women voters), gained momentum in the months preceding the convention.29 As rumors circulated that presidential candidate Walter Mondale planned on selecting a female running mate, the leadership’s favorite, Geraldine Ferraro, topped a list that included Representatives Lindy Boggs of Louisiana, Pat Schroeder of Colorado, and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, along with San Francisco Mayor and future U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein. On her chances of becoming a vice presidential nominee, Ferraro remarked, “People are no longer hiding behind their hands and giggling when they talk about a woman for national office, and I think that’s wonderful.”30 In July 1984, Mondale selected Ferraro as his running mate, making her the first woman to run for election for a major party on a national ticket.31

Ferraro’s addition to the ballot was expected to appeal to the diverse audience she represented: women, Italian Americans, Roman Catholics, and the northeastern voters. Ultimately, her characteristic pragmatism won her the nomination. Her gender alone would appeal to women and progressive voters, but as fellow House Democrat Tony Coelho of California, commented, Ferraro wasn’t a “threat” to the Democratic mainstream. Qualifying his statement, Coelho said, “She is not a feminist with wounds.”32 Still, some congressional colleagues criticized Ferraro as being too inexperienced on many important issues, most especially on foreign policy matters.33 Other women, including potential candidates Representatives Boggs and Schroeder, questioned Ferraro’s selection, citing themselves as better candidates because of their long experience in Washington politics.34 The campaign momentum stalled when allegations of financial wrong-doing by John Zaccaro emerged. In November 1984, the Mondale–Ferraro ticket was handily defeated by the incumbent Reagan–Bush team. John Zaccaro later was convicted in February 1985 of conducting fraudulent real estate transactions.35

After the defeat, Geraldine Ferraro returned to practicing law. She served as a fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics from 1988 until 1992. In addition, she authored three books about her political career. Ferraro re-entered electoral politics when she ran for the U.S. Senate in 1992 and 1998. After failing to secure the Democratic Party’s nomination in both unsuccessful campaigns, Ferraro vowed to never run again for public office. In 1993, President William J. Clinton appointed her to the United Nations Human Rights Convention in Geneva, Switzerland. Ferraro also was appointed vice chair of the U.S. Delegation to the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in September, 1995.36 She later worked as president of a global management consulting firm, and as a television analyst and syndicated columnist.

After being diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a dangerous form of blood cancer, in 1998, Ferraro spoke publicly about her illness and her use of the drug Thalidomide to treat her condition. In a plea for continued research on Thalidomide’s effects on her illness, she testified at a June 2001 Senate hearing. Using herself as an exhibit, she stated, “I look great, and I feel great, and it’s what early diagnosis and research can do.”37

 Citation:

Office of History and Preservation, Office of the Clerk, Women in Congress, 1917–2006. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2007. http://womenincongress.house.gov (March 27, 2011).

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Beware The Ides of March

This was the warning rendered to the title character of Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar.  Caesar did not heed the warning, and on that date (March 15th) in 44 BC, was assassinated by a group of co-conspirators led by his dear friend, Marcus Brutus.  Using Plutarch’s histories of Rome as a guide, Shakespeare crafted two speeches for his play about the fall of Caesar.  The most memorable one, probably because you had to learn/memorize/recite it in high school (sorry if I brought back bad memories) is the address delivered by Mark Antony (the English version of Marcus Antonius, a Roman general, politician and loyal friend of Caesar) that began with the line “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.”  I would contend that few, outside of those who teach English Literature, remember the oration given prior to Antony’s.  In it, Brutus, the chief conspirator, defended the murder of Caesar as a labor of love for Rome and a necessary act to defend the liberty and freedom of Romans.

Two things strike me about the scene that Shakespeare created.  First is how similar Brutus’ speech is to speeches given by some modern American politicians, with its self-righteous patriotism, claims that his opponent will erode the freedoms of the people and playing to the people’s passions instead of to facts. The second thing that strikes me is how easily the crowd could be swayed.  After Brutus spoke, the people thought of Caesar as a ruthless tyrant that deserved to be killed and that Brutus was a noble, honorable man, that he embodied Caesar’s and Rome’s best qualities and that he should be crowned ruler.  Then, after hearing Antony’s virtuous eulogy for Caesar, the people were moved to great sorrow for the loss of such a great man.  Then, upon hearing Antony read Caesar’s will, which left all of his property and riches to the people of Rome, the people were stirred to frenzy, hunting down and killing any co-conspirators they could find.  It’s amazing that more than 2,000 years later, “the people” can still be easily manipulated in this way.  I always like to say, you can’t go with “the mob”, they can turn on you in a flash.

So on this Ides of March, my message is not for you to beware the day, but to be aware of what is going on around you and the things that affect your life and educate yourself about those things.  Otherwise you can become part of the easily manipulated masses.  So friends, Americans, countrymen, thank you for lending me your ears.  Until next time, join the Discourse!

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The Ties That (Put Us in A) Bind

With my recent focus on the likely contenders in the 2012 presidential election, I got to thinking about that American institution that some of us love to hate around election time—the Electoral College.  The body was established in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution and has been altered slightly with the passage of the 12th, 20th and 23rd Amendments.  The system applies the principles of federalism (power is divided between a central governing authority and constituent regional governing units) and republicanism (representative government, as opposed to direct democracy) to the election of America’s chief executive.  It accomplishes this by allowing each States to choose electors, by any method they choose; those electors then vote directly for president and vice president.  Each State is given a number of electors that is representative of their population and an additional elector for each of their senators (increasing the influence of small population states).

Over the years there has been some controversy over the Electoral College, usually centered on three possibilities that the system allows:  a large disparity between the percentage of electoral votes and percentage of popular votes of the candidates; that the winner of a majority of electoral votes (and thus, of the presidency) could fail to attain a majority of popular votes cast; and, the system unduly increases the influence of small states.  Detractors usually highlight examples illustrating these points in order to argue that the Electoral College is an archaic system that should be scrapped in favor of direct election of the president.  Supporters contend that only few hiccups have happened (4 elections out of 56 are plausible hiccups) and that no changes should be made because the system has worked relatively well.  Still others maintain that the system could minimize the possibility for these predicaments with a few adjustments.  I believe that benefits and shortcomings can be identified with each argument and that a later post could be in order to describe some of the hiccups and detail some proposals.

The 2012 election, like others in recent history, could prove to be close.  In 2000, then-Gov. George W. Bush won the presidency with one electoral vote to spare (271), while being bested in the popular vote (48.4% for Gore to 47.9% for Bush).  In 2004 President Bush won re-election by a bit more comfortable 286-251 electoral vote margin and won the popular vote 50.7% to 48.3%, but the outcome could have been different with a change in one state.  In 2008, Sen. Obama managed to expand the electoral playing field and power to a 359-179 electoral and 52.9% to 45.6% popular victory.

With the history and context out of the way, I can get back to the origins of my thoughts for the post:  potential electoral/Constitutional intrigue surrounding the 2012 election.  Events over the course of the president’s term could limit his ability to recreate the conditions that produced his historic victory last time around.  Let’s suppose President Obama and Vice President Biden are re-nominated and faceoff against a Republican ticket of Gov. Mitch Daniels (IN) and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (MN).  The Midwestern oriented Republican ticket could plausibly win some of the states Obama carried from that region in ’08, as well as recapture some Southern swing states.  The contest could produce and electoral map that looks much like this:

Here is where the intrigue comes in; this map produces a 269-269 tie.  What would happen then?  Well, it could be a couple of things, both of which would likely cause outrage.

I’ll start with the one I think is less likely.  An elector in a state that does not bind electors to vote for the candidates who won the popular vote of that state could vote for the other team, thereby delivering them a majority of electoral votes (i.e., an independent-minded New Hampshire elector could decide to vote for the Daniels ticket or a Florida elector could vote for the Obama ticket).  If two such electors from opposite parties decided to work together, they could split their votes for president and vice president and create a fusion administration. The “faithless elector” outcome is not likely because parties choose electors from a pool of people who are volunteers, fundraisers or influential policy shapers within their respective parties—this would be party suicide.  While this all seems sinister, it is legal because there are no constitutional provisions or federal laws to prevent it (some states have laws to prevent faithless electors).  In fact some scholars believe that the Founders did not want a winner to be produced by the Electoral College, but instead wanted electors to narrow the candidates down and let Congress decide.  That leads me to the more likely next step if an Electoral College tie happens.

Should no candidate receive a majority of the electoral votes, the House of Representatives would choose the president, with the representation from each state having one vote (34 state delegations must be present for a quorum); the Senate would choose the vice president, with each senator having one vote (quorum: 67 senators); Washington, D.C. has no votes.  After the joint session to count the votes ends, the House and Senate would meet to cast their votes.  This would all presumably take place on January 6, 2013, after the new 113th Congress has been sworn-in.  If conditions remain largely as they are today, I expect that Republicans would retain control of the House.  Assuming that the party control of the state delegations remains as it is today, Republicans would control 32 state delegations, 6 more than the majority required to put Daniels into the White House.

The controversy arises when we consider the states whose delegations are controlled by the party who did not win the state.  For instance, Obama would likely win his home state, Illinois, but its Congressional delegation is 11 Rep. and 8 Dem.  How would Illinois vote?  Would they go with the favorite son, who the voters there will undoubtedly elect, or will the party controlling most of the delegation’s seats force a vote for the Republican ticket?  Or will this and other delegations with the same quandary (which could include FL, VA, NC and IA) abstain from voting?  On the Senate side, each individual senator would have to weigh whether to go with his constituents, his party or his best judgment in determining the vice president.  The situation could get even dicier if there is a clear winner in the popular vote (though, constitutionally the popular vote does not matter at all).  If neither office could be determined by January 20th, the Speaker of the House, likely John Boehner, would become the acting president until a winner could be chosen (Would he be the 45th president or just the first acting president, second if you count Reagan…that’s a joke by the way?).

Realistically, we probably don’t have to worry about this.  There has only been an Electoral College tie one time in the history of America (1800) and the quirk that caused that was fixed by the 12th Amendment.  Further, the House of Representatives has only chosen the president twice (1800 and 1824).  The Senate has chosen the vice president only once (1836).  If any of this happens in 2012, I can imagine an instant plethora of lawsuits and countersuits, as well as backroom wheeling and dealing for votes.  It could be a ridiculous spectacle that leads to a national outcry to scrap a system that has worked for over 230 years.  One good thing is that we would get to see what the candidates are made of: would they behave as statesmen who rise above the inevitable fray until the nation’s chief executive is chosen by its people’s representatives or would they be petty and try to score cheap political points in a quest for advantage?  Like I said, this is a hypothetical that is unlikely to happen, but if it does, at least you’ll be informed.  Do you have any thoughts, insights or questions?  Join the Discourse!

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Introducing The Contenders

As promised, I have added a new feature, 2012 Contenders.  You can either click the title above to see an overview of the section and my February rankings, or you can click on the candidate (from the drop down) you’re interested in.  I plan to update the rankings each month as the contest ramps up.  When new or interesting information becomes available I’ll update the candidate pages as necessary.  I hope you enjoy and please share some feedback by joining the Discourse!

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The Race Is On…Or It Will Be Shortly, I Guess

Nearly four years ago (2/10/07), then-Senator Barack Obama formally entered the 2008 presidential race.  With about a year to go until the 2008 primary season started, he needed the time to build grassroots support, raise money and show that he could hold his own against the heavyweights of his party (Clinton, et. al.).  Historically, the February of the year before a presidential election is an early date to enter the contest.  However, in the modern American political system, it takes a lot of money to mount a credible campaign (which takes time to raise); primaries are also being scheduled earlier and earlier, shortening the time to organize.  This dictates beginning early. 

By modern standards, the Republican field of contenders for the 2012 presidential contest is shaping up slowly.  By this point in the last presidential cycle, 8 candidates had already entered the race on the Republican side alone (3 of whom declared in the last quarter of 2006); 8 Democrats had also declared their candidacies.  Heck, by this point in that cycle, one candidate had already dropped out of the race.  Perhaps Republicans considering a 2012 run are waiting to see how events unfold over the next few weeks and months before they announce.  While President Obama seems vulnerable to some at this point, a lot can change between now and November 2012.  As they say, a week is like a lifetime in politics.    Becoming president is an arduous task worthy of serious consideration.  For some of the would-be candidates, 2012 will likely be their last shot; others can bide their time until 2016 or beyond. 

Honestly, I don’t think it would be a bad thing if the primary season returned to a time closer to the actual election.  Several ideas have been put forth by both parties to do that, but each state can do whatever it wants, so it is a hard process to control.  But just think, if I had lived a few decades ago, I wouldn’t be writing this article for probably another 8 or 9 months.  But then again, the internet wouldn’t have been around, so I probably wouldn’t be writing this at all.

This seems like a good point to let you know that I’m working on a new section:  2012 Contenders.  I’ll use it to list the candidates that I think have a chance for the Republican nomination to challenge Obama.  I plan to give a brief outline of the candidate including his/her background, political resume and what I perceive as their strengths and weaknesses.  I hope to have the section up and coming in the next couple of weeks.  Maybe by then, someone will be in the race (besides Herman Cain, who I don’t think is a real contender).  Let me know what you think.  Join the Discourse!

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Mr. Speaker! The President of the United States!

Tonight, with these words, the president will enter the chamber of the House of Representatives to deliver his annual State of the Union address.  As with other things in our democracy, the media have given the speech a more ceremonial significance, endlessly examining what the president will say and how he’ll say it, how members of Congress will react or respond, and how outside groups will mobilize to defend or repudiate what is said.  Still, this event (or rather role) is called for by the U.S. Constitution, so it is important.  Let us look at the origins of this address as well as some of the traditions surrounding it.

The provision of the Constitution that provides for the State of the Union is Article II, Section 3, which states, “He shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”  In other words:  every once in a while (it does not have to be annual, based on the language) the president should let the Congress know what the heck’s going on with the country and tell them what he thinks they should do.  Or in more scholarly terms, the State of the Union requires the president to report on the condition of the nation and allows him to relate to Congress his national priorities and legislative agenda.  The State of the Union was modeled after Great Britain’s Speech from the Throne, during which the monarch read a prepared speech to a complete session of Parliament.  The speech would outline the government’s agenda for the coming session.

President George Washington delivered the first State of the Union address on January 8, 1790, in New York City (then the capital).  President Thomas Jefferson did not deliver his State of the Union addresses in person before the Congress, purportedly because he believed that doing so was too much like a monarch.  However, some historians speculate, based on contemporary accounts, that he may have discontinued the practice because he did not have a particularly strong voice and did not like to speak in public.  Can you relate?  It’s been said that more people fear speaking in public than fear dying.  Instead, Jefferson sent a written address to the Congress to be read by a clerk.  That practice continued for 112 years until President Woodrow Wilson re-established the practice of delivering the address in person (Check out the Fast Facts section at the bottom for more info about how the State of the Union has been given over the years).

Because the speech is delivered in the Capitol during a joint session of Congress, the president must technically be invited by Congress to enter the House Chamber and then address the session.  Traditionally, Cabinet members, Supreme Court Justices and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also attend the address.  Due to the need to provide continuity in the line of succession in case of a catastrophic event, one member of the Cabinet and a few members of Congress do not attend the speech, but are located in undisclosed locations for its duration.

Now you know a little bit more about the history of the State of the Union address.  Is there anything you where surprised by?  Do you think it’s a big waste of time and presidents should just send the written report to Congress, or do you think that the speech is more for the people around the country than for members of Congress?  What do you think President Obama should talk about (or should have talked about if you read this after the speech)?  Join the Discourse!

Fast Facts:

  • The first speech to be broadcast on the radio was President Coolidge’s 1923 address.
  • The first speech to be televised was President Truman’s address in 1965.
  • President Lyndon Johnson’s 1965 address was the first to be delivered in the evening.
  • President Carter was the last to deliver a written State of the Union address to Congress in 1981.
  • President Reagan is the only president to have postponed a State of the Union.  He did so January 28, 1986, and instead addressed the nation on the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion.  He gave his State of the Union one week later.
  • The first address to be broadcast live on the internet was President Clinton’s in 1997.
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The Stage Is Set

In the NFL today was Championship Sunday.  The Greenbay Packers took on the Chicago Bears for dominance of the NFC.  In the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers battled the New York Jets. 

The 6-seed Packers defeated the Eagles in the wildcard round and then the Falcons in the NFC divisional matchup (or as one commentator put it:  “Not since Sherman marched to the sea during the Civil War has Atlanta been beaten so badly.”  For me, that statement was a slap in the face and overkill, but as it is the 150th anniversary of the beginning of one of America’s greatest conflicts, I will overlook it).  Today, the Pack went on to finish off their counterpart in a 90 year rivalry by a score of 21-14.  This secured the team’s first trip to the big game since 1998.  On the AFC side, the wildcard Jets, who had unexpectedly beaten the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots, met the Steelers.  Pittsburgh ended the flight early as they defeated the Jets 24-19.  The Steelers will advance to the team’s 3rd title game in 6 years and its 8th overall.

So now the stage is set for Superbowl XLV.  The biggest game in football will take place in a place where everything is bigger, Dallas, TX on February 6.  If your team made it, congratulations!  Enjoy the game and join the Discourse!

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