Seeger as everyone knows was a poet of peace. A proponent for the common man and a fair, open and good society. Some may disagree with that description. And if so, so be it. His songs will be sung forever. His words will march on.
Why do I connect Seeger's passing to the State of the Union? Well, in some of the set-up pieces I’ve read about the speech, the lede often lays out how the president will use his speech to offer up an agenda – an agenda to use against Republicans in the mid-term elections. I don’t know if that’s how the White House is spinning the story. But it’s how the story is being spun.
Seeger stood for honesty and transparency. Folks could differ with his methods but not his aims. If the point of the State of the Union has become another weapon in the arsenal against the other side and not an hour or so when the President can lay out his agenda for the good of our society, then one might say the State of the Union died with Pete Seeger.
I read another piece that suggested that rather than a speech laying out all the good lines a president will use for a year or so against the other side, it should be stopped and should become a question-and-answer session, as is used in the British Parliament; a time when the opposition can openly question the prime minister about his policies and plans. An intriguing idea but with sound bites, competition for air time, etc., the question-and-answer session would become just another preening session, but one open to all congressional comers. In short, a good idea that won’t work.
For years the State of the Union was a written report the president submitted to the Congress. That’s all the Constitution requires. Over the last 40 years or so, it’s become a free hour in prime time for whoever is president to talk directly to the American people. It’s becoming a time when a president now talks only to his supporters, laying out their talking points for the coming election.
Used to be a time when the State of the Union was a time a president laid out an agenda, broad or specific, for the direction he wanted to take the country. I’d like to go back to that time.
Pete Seeger wrote about cycles in the classic “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.” Let’s remember it:
Nothing wrong with cycles.