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STATE of the


In preparation for this year’s State of the Union address, JSA reached out to prominent leaders in their fields and asked what you should be looking for in this year’s State of the Union. Here are their responses: MIKE McCURRY FORMER PRESS SECRETARY

From the time I was a pup of a press secretary on Capitol Hill, the night of the State of the Union address has been magical for me. State of the Union addresses– like inauguration speeches, convention acceptance speeches, and presidential debates – are among the few public appearances by those who would lead our nation as chief executive which take on enormous importance in proposing a vision and direction for the nation. That’s why official Washington gears up to provide response, reaction, and commentary. We have only a few “set pieces” in American politics that are institutionalized; where the public knows something important will happen. The State of the Union is one of them. As a Democrat, I have often been on the opposite side of an incumbent President in preparing the official response to the State of the Union. What a thankless task. No matter how hard the opposition tries and no matter how creative the format of the response (and believe me, they ALL have been tried over the many years), the public really wants to hear from the President and to think about how THEY respond...not the party on the outs. There is a small group of us who, every time we have a Democrat in the White House, email each other on the night of the address to proclaim, “Thank God we are not doing the official response tonight.” That’s not a surrender to the President and the power of the bully pulpit. It’s a recognition of reality that it is the President’s night. And Presidents and their White House staffs must use the opportunity wisely. During the Clinton years, we prepared months in advance for a State of the Union. Agencies and outside groups lobbied for mention of pet proposals. (continued pg.2) Mike McCurry, served as White House press secretary from 19951998 under President Clinton. Hon. McCurry is a JSA Alum and served as Governor for the California Junior State. McCurry currently serves on the JSA Board of Trustees. pg. 1-2

MIKE MEESE COO, American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association Watch how President Obama articulates America’s role in the world in 2014. He has proposed a long term security agreement with Afghanistan, but he is also ending combat operations and withdrawing most, if not all, troops from there. He has said that we are emphasizing Asia, but it is not clear what that means, especially as the crises he has faced have been in Syria, Iran, Libya, and elsewhere in the Middle East. He made a speech in May 2013 to constrain the drone program, but we are still using drones for targeted killings, even as troop involvement is reduced. So listen to the speech to determine what verb best describes America’s role in the world: Are we Leading, Engaging, Shaping, Adjusting, Following, Listening, or Retreating. -Mike Meese


State of the Union addresses have a unique place in American history. To get a sense of that history and the context of President Obama’s coming address, I encourage students to read Peggy Noonan’s column in the Wall Street Journal published on Jan. 24 before watching the SOTU. Think back on previous SOTUs, paying particular attention to the rhetoric, style and content of those speeches. Talk to your grandparents and teachers about the most memorable SOTU they recall and why. Will President Obama say anything that YOU will find worthy or memorable or meaningful enough for you to save as a memory to share with your own grandchildren a few decades from now? -Janice Rutherford

Supervisor Janice Rutherford serves San Bernardino County. Supervisor Rutherford’s career has spanned from being a city council member to being President of the Board for the Fontana Boys & Girls Club. Supervisor Rutherford is a JSA Alumna. pg. 1

Mike Meese retired from the United States Army as a Brigadier General. Meese served as the Professor and Head of the Department of Social Sciences at the U.S. Military Academy. Meese is a JSA Alum. pg.1



DR. MYRON LEVINE PROFESSOR OF URBAN AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS In his second term, a president turns toward thoughts of his legacy. How does he want to be remembered? For what exactly does Obama want to be remembered? This year’s State of the Union (SOU) message should provide more than a hint.

Cabinet secretaries shed tears if a favorite idea was edited out and went drifting to the wasteland of the “Fact Sheet” prepared by the White House to encompass all the spiffy new initiatives that did not quite rate a mention in the speech itself.

In some ways, the SOU message today is not as important as it once was. The growth of the Internet, cell phones, and social media all provide White House advisers alternative ways to get the president’s message across to the public, These “new media” also serve to limit the president’s message. When President Obama in his 2010 SOU speech criticized Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that widened the role played by big money in elections, television cameras showed Justice Samuel Alito mouthing the words “Not true!” as he sat in the audience. Obama’s critics sent the clip viral, countering the message that the President had tried to get across.

The speech became something of a road map for the year ahead. What initiatives will the President push? What are the highest priorities? Where does he draw the line when it comes to negotiations with a Congress of a different mind? In our current environment in Washington, some might dismiss the night of the State of the Union as another when popular TV or a basketball game might be more rewarding. And sometimes the President’s message is distracted by something else (how well I remember THAT as a Clinton veteran). I am sure that President Obama’s team is trying to seize this moment to create a new narrative around the remaining years of his presidency. -Mike McCurry

The Republican rebuttal will also be of interest. Given the weakness of its standing in the polls, will the Republican leadership use their rebuttal as part of a strategy to reclaim the political center? Or will the GOP simply choose to duck and cover, presenting a message that does little more than bash Obama and avoid alienating Tea Party-type activists? -Myron A Levine


“In my visit to the White House, I have felt firsthand President Obama’s passion to raise up poor, working and middle class families. In the short term, that means boosting wages through a higher minimum wage. Longer term, I hope the President will lead an investment in our young children and their future economic potential by funding universal pre-kindergarten, which is righteous, scientifically supported, and all-American.” - Micah Ali Dr. Myron Levine is a Professor of Urban and Public Affairs at Wright University. Dr. Levine’s research focuses on national urban policy and urban revitalization. Dr. Levine has taught at JSA Summer School programs for over twenty years. pg.2


Federal initiatives can have significant impact on local towns. As the mayor of Princeton, New Jersey, I’ll be listening for the President’s plans with regards to immigration policy, funding for scientific research, and efforts to help communities prepare for and recover from severe weather disasters such as Hurricane Sandy. -Liz Lempert

Mayor Liz Lempert is the Mayor of Princeton. Previously, Mayor Lempert worked as a writer, producer and editor for the National Public Radio program “Living on Earth”. Mayor Lempert is a JSA Alumna. pg. 2

Micah Ali is the President of the Compton Unified School District (CUSD) Board of Education. Ali was elected to CUSD Board of Trustees in 2007 and is president of the Compton Meals on Wheels Program. Ali is a JSA Alum. pg. 2


MARIA SHIM PRINCIPAL OF CORPORATE DEVELOPMENT, GOOGLE “It is hard to imagine a time when technology was more powerful in our lives or innovation was occurring more rapidly than now. While it has solved problems at a large scale and fundamentally changed the way we interact with each other, technology has also helped create a divide between those who have benefited richly from understanding how to use it and those who have been left behind. I personally would like to see President Obama address how he intends to work with states to create more opportunities to empower students with technology and to help those who have been unemployed gain more technical skills to participate in this new economy.” - Maria Shim

ROCK THE VOTE “Last year the Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that required states with a history of voting discrimination to get clearance from the federal government before making changes to voting laws in their communities. In response, a new bill was introduced last week by Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), John Conyers (D-MI), and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). It creates a new plan for the states that have a history of voting discrimination and requires states that discriminate against voters five times over a 15 year period to fall under federal supervision. Be on the lookout for President Obama’s opinion on the Voting Rights Act.” -Rachel Centariczki


DR. JIM TODD PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE “Critics of the State of the Union address charge that it has become a spectacle for television and is used by presidents mostly to promote their own popularity. Most of what presidents say is quickly forgotten. Members of the president’s party cheer too loudly and too often while members of the opposition party sit still or sneer or jeer at the president’s remarks. To combat that, some members sit with members of the other party. See if you see any examples of that or any evidence that partisanship is declining. As you watch the address, try to view it objectively, whether you like President Obama or not, and identify things that you think are good and bad about it. Then, after it’s over, decide whether you think it should be continued in its present form and, if not, what changes you’d like to see made.” -Jim Todd

Dr. Jim Todd is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Virgina. Dr. Todd has taught at JSA Summer School programs for over twenty years. pg.3


“We have a pretty good idea of what’s coming from the president’s State of the Union address next week: a long list of ideas and policy proposals. Democrats will applaud, while Republicans will mostly sit in silence. Meanwhile, Washington’s gridlock won’t change at all. No Labels is launching a three-year campaign for a new governing process that will lead to a national strategic agenda by bringing leaders from both sides of the aisle together to create shared goals for America. During the State of the Union, look for nearly 70 members of Congress wearing orange No Labels pins at the State of the Union to signal their support for this common-sense approach to governing and tweet @NoLabelsOrg when you see one.” -Mark McKinnon and Nancy Jacobson

Rock the Vote is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization whose mission is to engage and build the political power in young people. Rock the Vote has registered more than five million young people to vote. pg. 3

Mark McKinnon has served as a principal media adviser for hundreds of campaigns for candidates, companies, and causes, including: George W. Bush, John McCain, Ann Richards, Charlie Wilson, and Bono. No Labels is dedicated to bipartisanship. pg. 3

STATE of the HON. CHRIS CABALDON MAYOR OF WEST SACRAMENTO “Federal agencies work in isolation from each other even when they’re dealing with the same place or people. The President broke down these walls in his first term with a little-known but very important Sustainable Communities Initiative that got the Department of Transportation, Department of Housing & Urban Development, and EPA working closely together, jointly coordinating their programs and grants to support integrated transit, land-use, toxics cleanup, and affordable housing strategies that together strengthen local economic development, help move goods and people efficiently, reuse old abandoned brownfield land, get people out of dependence on cars, clean up the air, and reduce inequality. It has been a big success, so I’m listening for the President to double down, and announce the same kind of integration in order to strengthen workforce skills, increase college completion, meet employer needs, and sharpen our global economic competitiveness—perhaps by breaking down silos between the departments.” -Chris Cabaldon

FOR FURTHER READING: Preview of the State of the Union Speech in The Hill Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal Brad Bannon in U.S. News and World Reports

BE THE PEOPLE Dan Schnur is the director for the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California. Currently Schnur is on leave as he campaigns for California Secretary of State . Schnur currently serves on the JSA Board of Trustees pg.4


DAN SCHNUR DIRECTOR OF JESSE M. UNRUH INSTITUTE OF POLITICS “Most American presidents run into difficult times during their second terms, and Barack Obama has been no exception to that historical trend as a result of controversies surrounding health care reform and national security and surveillance policy. But the president still has an unrivaled bully pulpit to capture the attention of the American public, so watch to see what he has to say about job creation and income inequality, about college affordability, and about immigration reform. Most of all, though, pay attention to how he addresses the Republicans in Congress. Does he sound like he’s looking for common ground to work across the aisle, or is he spoiling for a fight? The tone he takes may be as important as the substance of what he says as an early indicator to whether 2014 can be a productive year in Washington.” -Dan Schnur

HON. MARK TAKANO REPRESENTATIVE “The President’s State of the Union address is part of a tradition that dates back to our Founding Fathers. In his speech, the President will outline many of his goals and priorities as he begins his second term, including addressing the dysfunction in Congress, strengthening our economy, reducing income inequality, and advocating for immigration reform. It gives me great hope that young people are engaged in the political process and I hope that the President’s words spark a discussion and conversation between you and your peers.” - Mark Takano

Representative Mark Takano serves as a United States Congressman for the 41st District of California. Rep. Takano has a long history of public service. Rep. Takano is a recipient of the Martin Luther King Visionaries Award. Congressman Takano is a JSA Alum. pg.4

Mayor Chris Cabaldon is currently serving his fourth elected term as Mayor of West Sacramento. Previously, Mayor Cabaldon served on the West Sacramento City Council. Mayor Cabaldon is a JSA Alum. pg.4

State of the Union - What to Watch For  

In preparation for the 2014 State of the Union, we asked experts to share their thoughts on what to expect from President Obama's address to...

State of the Union - What to Watch For  

In preparation for the 2014 State of the Union, we asked experts to share their thoughts on what to expect from President Obama's address to...