Did you watch or listen to the State of the Union address? Would you include the president as a wise voice? All week on OurValues.org, we’re discussing the voices we trust in difficult times.
A president is not obliged to deliver a State of the Union address. Early presidents delivered a written report to Congress in fulfillment of the Constitutional mandate: “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 the 20th Century, however, it became a tradition to deliver a speech rather than a report, and to do so annually.
Following tradition, our 44th president delivered the address to Congress last night. In it, he called for new measures to stimulate the economy, including tax reforms that would increase taxes on the rich. Even before the Address was made, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney accused the president of fomenting class warfare. In a “prebuttal” he delivered in Tampa, Florida and reproduced on his campaign site, he said, “Tonight, we’ll also be treated to more divisive rhetoric from a desperate campaigner-in-chief. It’s shameful for a president to use the State of the Union to divide our nation.”
The differences between the two men didn’t strike me as much as their similarities. Each person, in a different way, made an emotional appeal to the core American values, especially egalitarianism and achievement. Obama sees the wealth gap as un-American and wants to restore more equality. Romney implies that focusing on the wealth gap is un-American because it accentuates differences and ignores that which unites us. It undermines the achievement ethic: We live in a meritocracy and hard work pays off.
As the 2012 election season progresses, which voices do you trust?
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Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue.