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The State of the Union

Since this book had to go to press immediately following American polling day in November, I took the liberty of writing the new presidents first State of the Union address early. This constitutional duty is often discharged soon after the January 20th swearing in, but sometimes the speech is only delivered several months later. What follows is based on precedentwhat presidents have said in their addresses since Washingtons time. It also takes into account the times we live in and the issues that will face the new president. Its short enough that new modules can be added right up to delivery time to address issues that may arise. Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, members of the Congress, my fellow Americans. On this Hill which was my home, I am stirred by old friendships. Though total agreement between the Executive and the Congress is impossible, total respect is important. In 1765, nine assembled colonies first joined together to demand freedom from arbitrary power. For the first century we struggled to hold together the first continental union of democracy in the history of man. In 1865, following a terrible test of blood and fire, the compact of union was finally sealed. But the unity we seek cannot realize its full promise in isolation. For the state of the Union depends, in large measure, upon the state of the world. We renew our commitment to the continued growth and the effectiveness of the United Nations. We want to grow and build and create, but we want progress to be the servant and not the master of man. I propose that we begin a program in education to ensure every American child the fullest development of mind and skills. I propose that we launch a national effort to make the American city a better and more stimulating place to live.

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I propose that we increase the beauty of America and end the poisoning of our rivers and the air that we breathe. I propose that we carry out a new program to develop regions of our country that are now suffering from distress and depression. I propose that we make new efforts to control and prevent crime and delinquency. I propose that we make an all-out campaign against waste and inefficiency. We will continue along the path toward a balanced budget in a balanced economy. I will ask for funds to study high-speed rail transportation between urban centers. We will begin with test projects between Washington and Boston. On high-speed trains, passengers could travel this distance in less than 4 hours. I will propose reforms in the Electoral College. A presidents hardest task is not to do what is right, but to know what is right. Occasionally there comes a time when profound and far-reaching events command a break with tradition. This is such a time. New knowledge and hard experience argue persuasively that both our programs and our institutions in America need to be reformed. Because of Americas overwhelming military and economic strength, because of the weakness of other major free world powers and the inability of scores of newly independent nations to defend, or even govern themselves, America had to assume the major burden for the defense of freedom in the world. Neither the defense nor the development of other nations can be exclusively or primarily an American undertaking. We act not as Republicans, nor as Democrats, but as Americans. It is time to quit putting good money into bad programs. Otherwise, we will end up with bad money and bad programs. We have a tragic example of this problem in the Nations Capital, for whose safety the Congress and the Executive have the primary responsibility. I doubt if many members of this Congress who live more than a few blocks from here would dare leave their cars in the Capitol garage and walk home alone tonight.

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In the next 10 years we shall increase our wealth by 50 percent. The profound question is: Does this mean we will be 50 percent richer in a real sense, 50 percent better off, 50 percent happier? I shall propose to this Congress a $10 billion nationwide clean waters program to put modern municipal waste treatment plants in every place in America where they are needed to make our waters clean again, and do it now. We have the industrial capacity, if we begin now, to build them all within 5 years. As our cities and suburbs relentlessly expand, those priceless open spaces needed for recreation areas accessible to their people are swallowed upoften forever. Unless we preserve these spaces while they are still available, we will have none to preserve. Therefore, I shall propose new financing methods for purchasing open space and parklands now, before they are lost to us. The automobile is our worst polluter of the air. Adequate control requires further advances in engine design and fuel composition. We shall intensify our research, set increasingly strict standards, and strengthen enforcement proceduresand we shall do it now. We can no longer afford to consider air and water common property, free to be abused by anyone without regard to the consequences. Instead, we should begin now to treat them as scarce resources, which we are no more free to contaminate than we are free to throw garbage into our neighbors yard. This requires comprehensive new regulations. It also requires that, to the extent possible, the price of goods should be made to include the costs of producing and disposing of them without damage to the environment. We depend on others for essential energy. Now, I want to speak very bluntly. Ive got bad news, and I dont expect much, if any, applause. The American people want action, and it will take both the Congress and the President to give them what they want. Progress and solutions can be achieved, and they will be achieved. A massive program must be initiated to increase energy supply, to cut demand, and provide new standby emergency programs to achieve the independence we want. I am proposing a number of actions to energize our nuclear power program. I will submit legislation to expedite nuclear leasing and the rapid selection of sites. I am recommending the construction of power plants that do not use natural gas or oil.
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Increasing energy supplies is not enough. We must take additional steps to cut long-term consumption. I therefore propose to Congress: legislation to make thermal efficiency standards mandatory for all new buildings in the United States; a new tax credit for those homeowners who install insulation equipment; the establishment of an energy conservation program to help low-income families purchase insulation supplies. Within the next 10 years, my program envisions: 200 major nuclear power plants; 30 major new [oil] refineries; 20 major new synthetic fuel plants; the drilling of many thousands of new oil wells; the insulation of 18 million homes; and the manufacturing and the sale of millions of new automobiles, trucks, and buses that use much less fuel. Our growing dependence upon foreign sources has been adding to our vulnerability for years and years, and we did nothing to prepare ourselves. We must end vulnerability to economic disruption by foreign suppliers. We have developed an economic policy that is working, because its simple, balanced, and fair. Its based on four principles: First, the economy must keep on expanding to produce new jobs and better income, which our people need. The fruits of growth must be widely shared. More jobs must be made available to those who have been bypassed until now. And the tax system must be made fairer and simpler. Secondly, private business and not the Government must lead the expansion in the future. Third, we must lower the rate of inflation and keep it down. Inflation slows down economic growth, and its the most cruel to the poor and also to the elderly and others who live on fixed incomes. And fourth, we must contribute to the strength of the world economy. Despite the inevitable pressures that build up when the world economy suffers from high unemployment, we must firmly resist the demands for self-defeating protectionism. But free trade must also be fair trade. And I am determined to protect American industry and American workers against foreign trade practices which are unfair or illegal. In a separate written message to Congress, Ive outlined other domestic initiatives, such as consumer protection, basic education skills, urban policy, reform of our labor laws, and national health care. To serve the interests of every American, our foreign policy has three major goals. The first and prime concern is and will remain the security of our country.
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Security is based on our national will, and security is based on the strength of our Armed Forces. Security also comes through the strength of our alliances. Security can also be enhanced by agreements with potential adversaries which reduce the threat of nuclear disaster while maintaining our own relative strategic capability. We are also working vigorously to halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons among the nations of the world which do not now have them and to reduce the deadly global traffic in conventional arms sales. Our stand for peace is suspect if we are also the principal arms merchant of the world. Every American has a stake in our second major goala world at peace. Our third major foreign policy goal is one that touches the life of every American citizen every dayworld economic growth and stability. Our task is reconciliation, rebuilding, and rebirth. Reconciliation of private needs and interests into a higher purpose. Rebuilding the old dreams of justice and liberty, and country and community. Rebirth of our faith in the common good. Our individual fates are linked, our futures intertwined. And if we act in that knowledge and in that spirit, together, as the Bible says, we can move mountains. Thank you very much. P .S.every word of the above short speech comes directly from four actual presidential State of the Union addresses. I got the idea after reading most of the addresses made by US presidents. I was struck by the common themesmuch like the themes in campaign speeches and inaugural addresses. I was then struck by how some public-policy issues have lingered for decades. Getting off foreign oil, cleaning up the environment, alternative fuels, high-speed rail, budgeting for the disposal and recycling of goods are all relevant now. So is stopping the spread of nuclear and conventional weapons, working with allies, reducing debt and the other issues. Where did these ideas come from? Ironically, they came from four of the most controversial presidents of the
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modern eraLyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. LBJ didnt think he could run for a second term because of the animosity created by the Viet Nam War. Yet he announced high-speed rail in 1965. His target of four hours traveling time between Boston and Washington is only half the time it still takes 43 years later. Endlessly fascinating and tragically flawed, Richard Nixon made a remarkable comeback in 1968 with an innovative campaign, after his landslide re-election in 1972, but he had to resign to avoid impeachment over the Watergate scandal. His great domestic policy was overshadowed and we often forget his health-care and environmental initiatives. Most interesting was his desire to build the full lifecycle cost of goods into the price consumers pay. Gerald Ford was unelected to either the vice-presidency or presidency and couldnt get elected as an incumbent. But he had a series of bold initiatives on the energy file. The coal initiatives might be controversial today, but the more modern approach would be to supplant this with wind and solar power, transported over an improved grid, accessible to individual homeowners and farmers. Jimmy Carter ran a smart and innovative campaign but presided over an era of malaise, the Iranian hostagetaking and the failed rescue attempt that followed. But his proposals for the economy and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons would be worthy public policy today. To put this speech together, I simply took full sentences from each presidential State of the Union address. I deleted a very few words or dates that were distractions or redundant. I did not use ellipses to show those small edits or the many full sentences and paragraphs I deleted from each speech. Ive made it easy to identify the policies advocated by each president. The excerpts from their speeches are in chronological orderJohnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter. Each excerpt ends with three bullets ( ), after which the text from the next presidential State of the Union address begins. What is the ironic point Im making here? Is it just that controversial, even disgraced presidents had some good policy? Certainlyand historians, political scientists and commentators must try to analyze the whole person in context, not just repeat clichs or conventional wisdom.

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Is the irony that Americans have squandered great opportunities to make themselves more secure and independent? Surely. There are always competing priorities, but if LBJ had had his way on high-speed rail and then put in lines to Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles, imagine the effect on airports, highways and the air we breathe? Nuclear power is controversial, but one of the environmental dicta from the 1960s is that there is no free lunch. Home insulation? Thats what recently enabled Austin, Texas to scrap a new power plant. Imagine if the US had pursued these policies? They would have led to alternative energy; innovation in automobile technology, including electric; and a foreign policy less dependent on oil, arms sales and regional alliances. Perhaps the US would now be selling new technology in energy and transportation to China, Thailand, South America and even Europe. It might be Americas century one or two more times.

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