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State of the Union addresses don’t do much to persuade the public, either. According to Gallup, they rarely affect the president’s approval rating.
And few of these speeches are memorable for their prose, though there are occasional standout lines: Clinton’s “the era of big government is over” and Bush’s “axis of evil.”
Presidents are far more likely to have meaningful impact — on emotions, beliefs or policy — with speeches addressing a crisis (Reagan after the Challenger explosion, Bush after Sept. 11, 2001, Obama after the Tucson shooting), speeches about taking the country to war or getting out of one, or speeches focused on a single issue.
Craig R. Smith is a communications professor at California State University at Long Beach and is the author of “Confessions of a Presidential Speechwriter.” He wrote this article for the Washington Post.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.