The Washington Post

The State of the Union needs an overhaul (#SOTweetU)

President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, gestures during the State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 12, 2013. (CHARLES DHARAPAK/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

This post has been updated.

On Tuesday, President Obama will deliver the 92nd State of the Union address. He will stand up in front of Congress, members of the Supreme Court, assembled guests and, of course, television cameras to provide his assessment of how the nation is faring and what he believes its priorities should be.

While he’s delivering this speech, however, there will be the requisite tie-color betting pool, the hawk-eyed observation of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Vice President Biden’s every facial twitch (Bonus points if Boehner cries, and extra bonus points if Biden does!), and analysis of what first lady Michelle Obama chose to wear.

But given how much tradition has emerged around the speech, isn’t it time that the State of the Union underwent an overhaul?

The practice of delivering the State of the Union is enshrined in the Constitution, but there are no requirements as to how or even when, exactly, the president should “give to the Congress Information on the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

The president, for example, is not required to carry out this duty with the pomp and circumstance that is now traditionally practiced. He doesn’t need to glad-hand down the aisle of the House, or single out invited guests in the gallery. He doesn’t even need to go to the Capitol. And the speech doesn’t have to last very long. In fact, the shortest State of the Union is still that of the nation’s first president, George Washington, which clocked in at a mere 1,089 words.

Now, imagine if Washington had Twitter?

There’s something to be said for the 140-character limit, which Obama has at his disposal. There’s also nothing stopping Obama from delivering the State of the Union in animated gifs, or as a Tumblr. As long as he sends it to Congress every once in a while, the State of the Union could, technically, take on just about any form. Now, would it be a challenge to convey the state of the union in 140 characters? Sure. But given the length of past addresses, speechwriters would argue 1,089 words is approaching impossible. But boiling down the address to a tweet could certainly force people to focus on the content, especially considering this could be, as the Fix’s Sean Sullivan and Aaron Blake write, the “most important State of the Union of his entire presidency.”

Since it’s unlikely that the president will forego the limelight offered by the traditional State of the Union delivery style, we’re asking you to give it a shot. Craft your own State of the Union in 140 characters or less, and tweet it at us (@oninnovations) or me (@emikolawole) with the hashtag #SOTweetU (see what I did there?). Give it a try and see if you can best the president on the brevity front this year.

Tweet #SOTweetU

Updated Feb. 13 12:00AM: Here are some good ones I’ve seen so far:

@oninnovations Government FOR the people with new jobs and lower deficit through bipartisan cooperation #SOTweetU

— Jim Murtha (@JimMurtha) February 13, 2013

@oninnovations POTUS offers reams of dreams.Underlying reality grim on guns, fiscal, economy, immigration, GLOBAL WARMING.#SOTweetU

— Treebeliever (@Treebeliever1) February 12, 2013

More cooperation, less partisan games. Concentrate on infrastructure, education, unemployment. Fix deficit, leave Afghanistan. #SoTweetU

— New Girl (@renedugar) February 12, 2013

Gun control good. GOP/Dems must work together. More jobs. Reduce deficit. Better schools. Drones protect our troops/keeps us safe #SoTweetU

— Angelia N. Levy (@angelialevy) February 12, 2013

The time has passed for politics & blame, we need to act like the grown-ups people elected. Work with me. Work for America. #SOTweetU

— Jack Griffith (@jackjackaroo) February 12, 2013

It’s #Notserious RT @postpolitics: Can you describe the State of the Union in 140 characters? We want your take on the #SOTweetU

— Matt DeLuca (@MattDeLuca) February 12, 2013

State of the Union (World): Pope abdicates, North Korea back on the nukes and Libya closes its boarder (via @borgebrende) #SOTweetU

— Andreas Hoistad (@Ahoistad) February 12, 2013

Get fiscal house in order, reform tax code, reform immigration policy, and keep Ted Nugent off the air. #SOTweetU

— Mary (@MaryAtSage) February 12, 2013

@oninnovations It’s time to work, to keep us safe, to plant the seeds of prosperity & to let the wings of our dreams lift us all. #SOTweetU

— Sam Seaborn (@SamSeaborn) February 11, 2013

@oninnovations Like EVERY President ALWAYS says - the state of the union is strong. Oh, & budget, jobs, wars, guns & other stuff#SOTweetU

— Robert Hawley (@robertlhawley) February 11, 2013

@emikolawole Fewer guns. Better education. Shorter voting lines. Clean energy. Love our soldiers; bring them home. More jobs. #SOTweetU

— Monica (@delsol10) February 11, 2013

@emikolawole @oninnovations Blah, blah, blah. See how great I am. I did it! I, I, I, I. Me, me, me, me.

— Keenereader (@remotolapacho) February 11, 2013

#SOTWEETU cut spending, balance budget, Congres, VP, Prez no pay, follow Constitution & Law, secure borders, reduce welfare/food stamp roles

— Tom Bishop (@ltb537) February 11, 2013

The state of the union is strong. Yadda yadda yadda.God bless the USA. #SOTweetU #everySOTU #fluff-free

— Sean Galbraith (@SeanPhotos) February 11, 2013

And this user raises an excellent point:

@emikolawole @oninnovations With #SOTweetU attached, wouldn’t a user have to Tweet the #SOTU in 131 chars, not 140? Just trying to help!

— Jesse Schweizer (@jschweiz729) February 11, 2013

So feel free to point us to your original tweet with a secondary one!

Read more news and ideas on Innovations:

Innovation and the pace of the papacy

Fixing the jobs mismatch

PHOTOS | Old cars take flight



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