When I worked in Washington D.C., the day the President addressed the nation was always a favorite. It was exciting, all of the hustle and bustle that permeated Capitol Hill. A sort of electric energy filled the air as another moment in our nation’s history was about to occur.
Typically after work, a group of my colleagues would gather at a local restaurant adjacent to the Senate side, table reserved of course, and watch the members exit as they headed to the House chamber for the speech. While the elected officials were poised and attentive in their seats at the Capitol, we would talk policy, enjoy a nice dinner and gossip about those particular members inside. You know, the ones who were having an affair or were about to vote with “the other party” on a piece of legislation, or had been overheard considering a run for the Presidency. I loved my job. Actually, that had nothing to do with my job but it certainly was one of the perks. So was getting to read an advance copy of the President’s speech before the actual address. Priceless.
Several years later when the Senator and I were first married we used to watch the SOTU address like it was a date night. We would go to dinner and then back in time to turn on the television and watch all of the festivities. I’m sure all newlyweds did this, didn’t they? Never mind that a decade later the Senator would enter politics himself. Come to think of it that notion was never, ever discussed, because if we had talked about the Senator running for public office back then, I might have seriously re-considered. I mean, I left Washington in search of a kinder, gentler environment which did not include politics. Politics is a blood sport people and it ages you. Trust me.
Anyway…back to our date nights.
My favorite part of the SOTU was watching the first lady enter with her celebrated guests. These guests brought with them interesting, and often heroic American stories. The kind of story about which books were written and that interested me immensely.
The Senator enjoyed listening to the Sargent at Arms (the same man who had been doing this for decades) announce the President to the Chamber. I know, I know, we were young, and newly married and this is what we did for fun. Total nerds.
Once we had children, we’d hire a baby sitter to watch them so we could dash to a local restaurant, pick up an order to go and take it to the Senator’s business office to watch the Presidential address on t.v…. uninterrupted, because we were so very romantic like that. We did this for a few years until we came home one time and discovered the kids were watching the State of the Union on our own television. That is when this became a family tradition of sorts. I wonder how many other families do this? I am guessing maybe one in a hundred million at best?
Anyway, last night we all took a moment to watch the lead up on CNN (broadcast of choice for this year) and observe the members as they filed in the Chamber. We easily located the Oklahoma delegation and the Senator managed to point out his least favorite member from Texas who always positions herself on the aisle in a bright color and prime location. I know, I bet you wish you were watching this at our house….
As for the actual Presidential address – I would grade it a C- . I defer to some of the headlines from across the country this morning which capture my thoughts:
You get the idea. I have certainly seen better and heard worse, but I will say one thing….the rhetoric from both sides was noticably toned down. And for that, Mr. President, the country is grateful.