Why the President’s Speech Is Important

February 2, 2005

Chris Simkins, Voice of America:

Joining us is Thomas Mann, a Senior Fellow of Governance Studies with the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. Thank you, Mr. Mann, for joining us.

Let’s talk about the President’s State of the Union address. Historically speaking, what significance do these State of the Union addresses have?

Thomas Mann:

The State of the Union is one of those events that have symbolic importance for the country. It’s an occasion of pomp and tradition. It involves a nationally televised audience. It’s an opportunity for the President to try to shape the policymaking agenda to influence public opinion.

On the other hand, you’d be hard pressed to say that the speeches themselves lead members of Congress to change their minds on important public policy issues. It’s ritual. It’s agenda setting. But it’s not policymaking.

View a transcript of the complete interview