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Hoffman analyzes 2013 State of the Union speech

Staff Writer

Published: Monday, February 18, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 18, 2013 15:02


University Relations

The State of the Union address is an annual opportunity for the president to explain his plan of action for the next year to the citizens of the United States.  The speech is a key point in every president’s term. University of Northern Iowa political science department head and professor Donna Hoffman has researched and written about the impact of the president and his speeches on American society.

Hoffman grew up in a family of politics in Oklahoma. This aided in her decision to do political science undergraduate work at Phillips University in Oklahoma. While doing her undergraduate studies she also explored the area of higher education, leading her to become a professor.

“I liked the college campus atmosphere,” Hoffman said. “So I went and got a Ph.D. in political science.”

After researching the presidency and political science, Hoffman co-authored a book with colleague Alison Howard centered on the State of the Union address. The book, titled “Addressing the State of the Union: The Evolution And Impact of the Presidents’s Big Speech,” was published in 2006.

The book brings to light the political significance and legislative impact on presidential communications. It explores how the State of the Union is a key mechanism of presidential power used to gain attention, communicate with target audiences and make specific policy proposals.

Hoffman’s book, according to Lynne Rienner Publishing, offers a “penetrating look at the complex relationship between contemporary presidential leadership and Congressional lawmaking.”

When discussing her own view on President Barack Obama’s recent State of the Union address,  Hoffman said, “You rarely have a president not do a good job, because, first of all, presidents are used to giving high-profile speeches like that. They have high quality speech writers, so you are never going to get a State of the Union address that is just a disaster.”

Hoffman said the State of the Union address is viewed as a big speech because of how the media portrays it.

“The president has to have Congress to do these things. The power in the system is difficult to wield and the president is looked at as the center of power …. because the president is one person and he’s easy to follow, the media focuses on him. We know when he chokes on a pretzel, we know when he walks his dog, and this speech fosters that image,” Hoffman said.

Almost all of the issues discussed have some impact on the state of Iowa, including higher education and the use of wind as energy. However, as Hoffman stated, it is not easy to dissect all the issues the president brought to light, due to the large scope of the speech.

“It was a good speech,” Hoffman said. “However, it’s a very broad speech. (Obama) mentioned Georgia, he mentioned Oklahoma, the camera flashed on Senator Grassley for a little bit. It’s a speech about the national interest,” Hoffman concluded.


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