The State of the Union: How You Can Watch and Engage

Posted by Moira Whelan
January 11, 2016
President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill

On January 12, 2016 at 9:00pm ET, President Barack Obama will deliver the final State of the Union address of his presidency -- a chance for him to both to reflect on the last seven years and to look ahead to the concluding year in office.

The State of the Union (SOTU) is a long-held American tradition, the formal basis for which is found in the U.S. Constitution, requiring the President to periodically give Congress information on the "state of the union.”  Since January 8, 1790, when George Washington personally delivered the first annual message to Congress, presidents throughout the years have continued to do the same in what has become known as the State of the Union Address.  Today, the SOTU serves as both an exchange between the president and Congress and an opportunity for the president to directly address the American public, and the world.

In recent years -- thanks in part to the popular television drama The West Wing -- the Obama Administration has brought back another White House tradition:  the Big Block of Cheese Day.  The original event, first hosted by President Andrew Jackson on February 22, 1837, featured a 1,400-lbs block of cheese placed prominently in the main foyer of the White House from which the public was welcome to carve off a slice as they interacted with White House cabinet officials.

Befitting American ingenuity and drive for innovation, this long-ago tradition has been transitioned into the 21st century through technology, with Americans today being invited to engage digitally with senior Obama Administration officials on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and other social media platforms.

Participate in a foreign policy focused Twitter Q&A on Wednesday, January 13 with Deputy Secretary Heather Higginbottom (@HHigginbottom) at 4:00pm and Deputy Secretary Antony Blinken (@ABlinken) at 4:30pm as part of the White House’s Big Block of Cheese Day. #BigBlockofCheeseDay

I know what you are thinking. Cheez Whiz! How can I watch and engage on the State of the Union? Well, here are some ways you can take part:

About the Author: Moira Whelan serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Digital Strategy in the Bureau of Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.


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