The State of Our Union

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Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution requires the President to periodically "give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

By the time you receive this email, our nation will be mired in demagoguery as politicians and pundits alike parse each and every word, gesture and inflection, of the President's speech. No detail is too small for a focus group and no nuance too sophisticated for a poll. For the next several days, our national airwaves will be filled with toxic dialogue by opinionated, and overly confident talk show hosts. 

When it comes to vicious and violent, the Super Bowl will place a distant second this week. 

In hopes of lightening the mood, I thought it might be fun to look back and read some of the most poignant State of the Union quotes and see how they might apply to our profession. 

The first State of the Union address, given by George Washington in 1790, was only 833 words long, a precedent that has been long since eclipsed by nearly all of his successors. 

President George Washington, Jan. 8, 1790: “The welfare of our country is the great object to which our cares and efforts ought to be directed…"

President Abraham Lincoln, Dec.. 1, 1862: “The trials we pass through will honor or dishonor us to the next generation. "

President John F. Kennedy, Jan. 11, 1962: “I have found that people everywhere look to us–not because of our wealth or power, but the splendor of our ideals. 

President Ronald Reagan, Feb. 6, 1985: There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.

I saved my favorite for last...

President Gerald Ford, Jan. 15, 1975: “I must say to you that the state of the Union is not good.” 

I choose each one of these quotes specifically as I believed there to be a (in)direct relationship to music education. At one point in writing this article, I attempted to parse out the meaning, but quickly realized that I was giving myself far too much and you far too little credit. 

So for now, I will leave for you to determine and decide, as today, the last thing any of us needs is ANOTHER talking head explaining what someone else said.

Too ALL of you I say with great confidence that the state of music education is well. And, if you need a focus group to prove it, just look at the smiling faces of your first period class.

Have a great day!