State of the Union

This post excerpts pieces of the final State of Union Address given by Clinton, LBJ, and Reagan.

The first few paragraphs of Clinton’s eighth and final State of the Union Address read:

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, honored guests, my fellow Americans:

We are fortunate to be alive at this moment in history. Never before has our nation enjoyed, at once, so much prosperity and social progress with so little internal crisis and so few external threats. Never before have we had such a blessed opportunity — and, therefore, such a profound obligation — to build the more perfect union of our founders’ dreams.

We begin the new century with over 20 million new jobs; the fastest economic growth in more than 30 years; the lowest unemployment rates in 30 years; the lowest poverty rates in 20 years; the lowest African American and Hispanic unemployment rates on record; the first back-to-back budget surpluses in 42 years. And next month, America will achieve the longest period of economic growth in our entire history.

We have built a new economy.

And our economic revolution has been matched by a revival of the American spirit: crime down by 20 percent, to its lowest level in 25 years; teen births down seven years in a row; adoptions up by 30 percent; welfare rolls cut in half to their lowest levels in 30 years.

My fellow Americans, the state of our union is the strongest it has ever been.

As always, the real credit belongs to the American people. My gratitude also goes to those of you in this chamber who have worked with us to put progress over partisanship.

Eight years ago, it was not so clear to most Americans there would be much to celebrate in the year 2000. Then our nation was gripped by economic distress, social decline, political gridlock. The title of a best-selling book asked: “America: What Went Wrong?”

In the best traditions of our nation, Americans determined to set things right. We restored the vital center, replacing outmoded ideologies with a new vision anchored in basic, enduring values: opportunity for all, responsibility from all, a community of all Americans. We reinvented government, transforming it into a catalyst for new ideas that stress both opportunity and responsibility, and give our people the tools they need to solve their own problems.

With the smallest federal work force in 40 years, we turned record deficits into record surpluses, and doubled our investment in education. We cut crime, with 100,000 community police and the Brady law, which has kept guns out of the hands of half a million criminals.

We ended welfare as we knew it — requiring work while protecting health care and nutrition for children, and investing more in child care, transportation, and housing to help their parents go to work. We’ve helped parents to succeed at home and at work, with family leave, which 20 millions Americans have now used to care for a newborn child or a sick loved one. We’ve engaged 150,000 young Americans in citizen service through AmeriCorps, while helping them earn money for college.

In 1992, we just had a road map; today, we have results.

But even more important, America again has the confidence to dream big dreams. But we must not let this confidence drift into complacency. For we, all of us, will be judged by the dreams and deeds we pass on to our children. And on that score, we will be held to a high standard, indeed, because our chance to do good is so great.

My fellow Americans, we have crossed the bridge we built to the 21st century. Now, we must shape a 21st century American revolution — of opportunity, responsibility and community. We must be now, as we were in the beginning, a new nation.

At the dawn of the last century, Theodore Roosevelt said, “the one characteristic more essential than any other is foresight…it should be the growing nation with a future that takes the long look ahead.” So, tonight, let us take our long look ahead — and set great goals for our nation.

Even if you don’t agree with all of the policies mentioned in this excerpt, most of this is stuff any President would love to be able to say.

Here is a bit from LBJ’s last State of the Union address:

Our gross national product has grown more in the last 5 years than any other period in our Nation’s history. Our wages have been the highest. Our profits have been the best. This prosperity has enabled millions to escape the poverty that they would have otherwise had the last few years.

Here’s Reagan:

Yes, we will have our differences. But let us always remember — what unites us far outweighs whatever divides us. Those who sent us here to serve them — the millions of Americans watching and listening tonight — expect this of us. Let’s prove to them and to ourselves that democracy works even in an election year.

We have done this before. And as we have worked together to bring down spending, tax rates, and inflation, employment has climbed to record heights; America has created more jobs and better, higher-paying jobs; family income has risen for four straight years, and America’s poor climbed out of poverty at the fastest rate in more than 10 years. (Applause.) Our record is not just the longest peacetime expansion in history, but an economic and social revolution of hope, based on work, incentives, growth and opportunity; a revolution of compassion that led to private sector initiatives and a 77 percent increase in charitable giving; a revolution that — at a critical moment in world history — reclaimed and restored the American dream.

In international relations, too, there’s only one description for what, together, we have achieved — a complete turnabout, a revolution. Seven years ago, America was weak and freedom everywhere was under siege. Today America is strong and democracy is everywhere on the move. From Central America to East Asia, ideas like free markets and democratic reforms and human rights are taking hold. We’ve replaced “Blame America” with “Look up to America.” (Applause.) We’ve rebuilt our defenses, and, of all our accomplishments, none can give us more satisfaction than knowing that our young people are again proud to wear our country’s uniform. (Applause.) And in a few moments, I’m going to talk about three development — arms reduction, the Strategic Defense Initiative, and the global democratic revolution — that, when taken together, offer a chance none of us would have dared imagine seven years ago, a chance to rid the world of the two great nightmares of the postwar era. I speak of the startling hope of giving our children a future free of both totalitarianism and nuclear terror.

Tonight, then, we’re strong, prosperous, at peace, and we are free. This is the state of our Union. And if we will work together this year, I believe we can give a future President and a future Congress the chance to make that prosperity, that peace, that freedom, not just the state of our Union, but the state of our world.

In a few months, GW will be giving his final State of the Union address. What will he be able to say with a straight face? What is the State of the Union? Do you have big dreams? Do you feel strong, prosperous, at peace, or free?