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5 Tips to Get the Most Out of the State of the Union Speech

Next Tuesday, on January 12 at 9 pm Eastern, President Barack Obama will deliver his final State of the Union (SOTU) speech. The annual speech provides an opportunity for the President to address both chambers of Congress, as well as millions of Americans, and lay out his vision and agenda for the coming year. The State of the Union is one example of how our government seeks to be transparent and to ensure that Americans, as well as anyone across the world, has access to the ideas and policies that the President plans to address in the coming year.

Next week’s State of the Union should be particularly compelling since it will mark the start of the final year of the Obama presidency. Like the recent presidential debates, the State of the Union usually draws millions of viewers and for even the most ardent policy wonk, distilling the speech as it happens can be challenging. Here are five tips for how to get the most out of the address:

Before the speech, think about what issues you hope the President will address. How do you hope the President will address your concerns? Listen to the speech and make note of which of your issues were discussed and whether you agreed with the President’s proposals.

During the speech, think broadly about each issue discussed. Did the proposal have specifics or was the issue discussed generally? Did the proposals seem realistic and attainable? Were the proposals consistent with previously stated positions? If not, did the President outline his change in perspective?

Watch the speech with others. After the speech, discuss what you liked and what you disagreed with. What did you expect to be addressed that wasn’t? Most importantly, discuss why you agreed or disagreed with what was outlined. Keep an open mind to each other’s opinions and impressions on the speech.

Follow along online. Follow related hashtags to engage in deeper conversation with fellow voters and even elected officials, including those in attendance. In fact, the League will be live tweeting the speech – we hope you’ll follow along. Join us by following @LWV including both #LWV and #SOTU hashtags in your tweets!

Don’t hesitate to double-check the speech! Were you surprised by something in the speech? The media as well as resources like FactCheck and Politifact will issue reports on the speech to ensure the accuracy of data and statements. 

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley will provide the official Republican response following the President’s address. We can also expect that the presidential candidates as well as those running for Congress and many others right down the ticket will respond to the President’s speech with their own ideas. Think about each of these proposals as well and how they may or may not match your own vision for America’s future. Consider each of these as you prepare to vote in the presidential primaries as well as the thousands of elections happening on Election Day – Tuesday, November 8.

Lastly, ask those you talk with if they’re registered to vote – the presidential primaries are quickly approaching, but it isn’t too late to register to vote to participate in them. Voter registration is the key to ensuring that all Americans can engage in our political process. Helping new voters register and understand the process is a key way to ensure their future participation in our democracy. Once a person has voted, she or he is more likely to vote again in the future. Engaging new people around the State of the Union is a great entry point for new voters in our democratic process.

VOTE11 election information Election Day 2016 is coming! Now is the time to remind the people in your life to visit to register to vote, make sure that their voter registration record is up-to-date and learn about important voting rules and deadlines in their state. With your help, we’re Making Democracy Work®!