The State of the Union: Defining America From a Tightrope

An audio Q&A with Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of History Mary Frances Berry

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

By Blake Cole

It's a daunting task for President Obama: Put to words your vision for America's future while doing your best to pacify grievances. Fresh off the wake of the violence in Arizona, President Obama will shift speaking styles to deliver the State of the Union. How will the tragedy in Tucson affect his tone? Can we expect an air of civility from the congressional audience, or another "You Lie!" outburst?

Mary Frances Berry is the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of History and author of a myriad of books tackling everything from race to political rhetoric. Her recent co-authoring of Power in Words: The Stories Behind Barack Obama's Speeches, From the State House to the White House positions her as one of the leading experts on President Obama's oratory skills.

Prime yourself with expert knowledge so you too can dissect the pivotal speech.

To what degree will the Arizona shootings impact the State of the Union? 

President Obama's response to the violence in Tucson has generally been received favorably. Why? 

During the State of the Union, how will President Obama balance his administration's victories (Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal), with its setbacks (healthcare repeal threat)? 

What do you think will be the focus of the Republican rebuttal? 

Following the tragedy in Arizona there were calls for increased civility in politics. Moving forward, will these calls be adhered to? 

How might the State of the Union affect President Obama's political momentum? 

Though the message and tone of his Arizona speech was unique to the tragedy, do you foresee President Obama trending more toward more "emotional" speeches during his second term?