The President: Entertainment over Substance

On the way to his first State of the Union address, John Kennedy assessed the task and asked, "How do you describe the nation in 30 minutes?" He did not come close, despite speaking for 43 minutes. He did prove just how much better his Inaugural Address ("Ask not what your country can do for you . ..") had been ten days earlier. While J.F.K.'s State of the Union appearance was high drama—a new President's always is—the speech itself, like most other State of the Union messages, is only dimly recalled. Indeed, in the 193 years since George Washington...

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