Building on what I wrote earlier and said on WBEZ public radio, I think President Obama largely hit the mark tonight I his State of the Union address, especially by focusing so much on the future of our economy and by connecting government action to a broad economic vision.
What I liked best about the speech was the lack of cheap applause lines. Maybe the new seating arrangement helped — the speech seemed more cohesive and thematic than most SOTU addresses. By the time the President started ranging into non-economic issues, he’d already set the mood and made his most important points.
But there is one major flaw in his State of the Union Address — the Sputnik moment analogy just doesn’t work. Why is the moment now? Why not in 2009 or 2010? And what precisely set off this moment? The economic collapse or the lost election?
Sputnik focused America to win a space race. The Great Recession has focused us on a changing economy, but to what end? The President answered that somewhat tonight. But the faulty analogy added fog when he needed clarity.
The former chief speechwriter for Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Dan Conley is a Chicago-based professional speechwriter and frequent op-ed contributor to major national publications.