Opinion by Patricia L Johnson
The Federal government of the United States consists of three branches, the Executive, Judicial and the Legislative.
Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution requires the President to provide Congress with information on the State of the Union [SOTU]. The information can be provided either in writing, or orally. Since 1934, with few exceptions, the SOTU address has been submitted orally to both houses of Congress on a yearly basis.
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.
President Obama delivered his State of the Union address on January 25, 2011. Prior to, and following, the SOTU address too much emphasis was placed, by the media, on which Supreme Court Justice did or did not attend this event. Remarks regarding these three justices that did not attend follows:
‘I don’t go because it has become so partisan,’ Justice Clarence Thomas told students in Florida last year just days after the State of the Union speech, which he did not attend.
According to Fox News, an official at the University of Hawaii said the judge [Samuel Alito] will be with students all week and will not be returning to Washington for the address.
Justice Antonin Scalia was even more outspoken.
‘It is a juvenile spectacle, and I resent being called upon to give it dignity,’ he told the Federalist Society in November. ‘It’s really not appropriate for the justices to be there,’ he added.
Should Supreme Court Justices even be invited to State of the Union addresses? The SC consists of eight Associate Justices and one Chief Justice for a total of nine. Six or 67% attended, while 33% did not. When one-third of invited guests are ‘no shows’ to an event, perhaps it time to think about revising the guest list.
Should SOTU addresses be televised? Wouldn’t it make more sense for the President to meet with Members of Congress behind closed doors to deliver his SOTU concerns and at a later date relay that information to the public, in the form of a televised speech?
Members of Congress have an obligation to attend; it’s their job to find out the “State of the Union” and to work with the President to solve problems that affect the lives of “we the people”. If they don’t want to be there, they should go find employment elsewhere.
The fact is, the POTUS holds the highest office in the land and when he invites anyone to any function, they should be honored to attend, not look for any number of excuses why they can’t, or don’t want to attend. What is troubling about this obvious lack of respect is the effect it has on the youngsters in this country. If you have had the opportunity to take a tour of any of our high schools lately, you’ve seen firsthand how little respect today’s youth has for authority figures. It’s time for all of us to take a second look at how we act in front of America’s youth so they turn out to be better citizens.
Giving credit, where credit is due, it was most refreshing to see Members of Congress making an attempt to show bipartisan spirit by pairing up to attend the event. Perhaps they can even pair up in Congress long enough to get legislation passed.