U.S. Government, Civics, U.S. History
Students will know what the State of the Union Address is and who is involved in it, understand the purposes of the State of the Union Address, know the constitutional powers of Congress, recognize examples of how the President asks Congress to use its powers, explain how and why the State of the Union Address has changed over time, identify important issues in their surroundings and be able to write a speech to address the issues, recognize the elements of an effective State of the Union Address, and understand how politics plays a part in the State of the Union Address and setting a congressional agenda.
Define: State of the Union Address, legislative branch, executive branch. State the purpose(s) of the State of the Union Address. Locate the section of the Constitution that states that the president will inform Congress of the State of the Union. List the powers of Congress as stated in Article I of the Constitution. Read George Washington’s first State of the Union Address and list the powers of Congress that he mentions.
Summarize the setting for the first State of the Union and Washington’s goals for Congress and the nation. Students act as a reporter witnessing President Washington’s address and write a newspaper article.
By completing previous steps in this lesson, students have discovered that Washington’s first State of the Union closely follows the powers of Congress as outlined in the Constitution. Students will next read the most recent State of the Union Address and give examples of how the president is asking Congress to use its constitutional powers. Determine what congressional powers identified by Washington seem less relevant in today’s world. Students create a three column chart. The first column will list the powers of Congress, the second will list corresponding examples of how Washington wanted Congress to use the powers, and the third column will list examples of how the current president wanted Congress to use the powers.
Compare and contrast the president’s most recent State of the Union Address to Washington’s first. Compare what was happening in the U.S., the setting of the address, issues raised, and the purposes of each address. Investigate the history of the State of the Union. Create a time line, marking significant changes in how the message was delivered, the purpose of the message, and the audience for the message. Examine reasons why the changes might have occurred and how the changes affected the tone of the message. Students read the most recent State of the Union Address and compare it to the first.
Acting as a speech writer for the president, write a State of the Union Address (students use their own political interests). Acting as the student body president, write a State of the School Address for your student council and school.
Based on each of the State of the Union Addresses and acting as a congressional leader, set an agenda for the 1st Congress and current Congress. Prioritize top five goals and justify reasoning. Act as a political analyst and write a critique of the president’s ideas and performance in his State of the Union Address. Students create congressional agendas and state their reasons for the priorities they set. Students explain what they think are the strengths and weaknesses of the speech and state how they believe Congress will respond to the president’s ideas, based on the political party divisions in Congress and in legislative- executive relations.
Students require access to the Internet to do research, primarily on CongressLink.
Congressional Quarterly, Congress A to Z. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1988
Bacon, Donald, Davidson, Roger, and Keller, Morton. The Encyclopedia of the United States Congress, vol. 4 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995)
The Dirksen Congressional Center