What a State of the Nation Address must do.
The State of the Nation Address (SONA) is the most important speech of the Presidency in any given year. The SONA is the President’s prime avenue or opportunity to make his case concerning how he is steering the nation, account for the previous year and lay out what the coming year looks like.
Everyone will be watching for indications of where the economy is and where it is headed, what the health of the nation is and what prescriptions have been laid forth. Major policy initiatives may be announced and the direction, trajectory and tenor of our nation can be determinedly carved out in this address.
The future of country will be shaped, history could be made and your life could be affected. This is the president’s big day; it is also the people’s big day. Still, the president is the performer and he should do everything to make the most of it. Here’s how:
- Make it count:
We have often seen in this country, state of the nation addresses which have been long, dull and boring. President after president often chose the line of least resistance, preferring to give pro forma, tiring speeches nobody ever remembers. John Mahama tried to change this narrative by introducing his “evidenced based” SONAs. He attempted to capture an inspiring tone and had a few impressive lines but we are yet to see the killer punch. If Nana wants to make a difference, he must go out there and give the speech of his life. He must come very well prepared, highly energized, extremely practiced and decidedly impressive. Nana must come to town with that extra ump to seal the deal, carry the nation and inspire confidence. And there are quite a number of ways to do this.
- Words matter
We can argue all we want about how words count for little or much. We can go back and forth about how a smooth tongue doesn’t necessarily translate into action or practicality but the truth of the matter is that no matter how we pan it, words matter. The presidency must dedicate effort to writing eloquent, high-flying and well scripted SONAs that will leave a mark on the walls of history. A punchy, non-verbose, well-crafted address unbounded by technical language, liberated from winding sentences (that seem more of sleep inducers), tinged with some well thought out and well landed arguments and crowned with some memorable quotes will work the trick for any president looking to depart from the norm.
- Make it memorable
People run for office to impact lives and make a difference. Why let a glorious opportunity to do exactly that pass? There are examples of State of the Nation addresses in other places where leaders have used their time in the limelight to decisively shape the architecture of history. James Monroe’s State of the Union address shaped the course of his nation’s foreign policy for over a hundred years. Franklin Roosevelt gave a State of the Union address that popularized his doctrine of the four freedoms. So inspiring was the speech that it instigated a park in Rhode Island and monuments across the nation. Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan gave such similar history defining speeches. Why can’t we have a State of the Nation address with similar impact?
A great way to make the State of the Nation address memorable is to inspire. Citizens often look to the president as the father of the nation as a source of inspiration. A moving speech can jolt a nation to action, affect the national mood positively and inspire a new era. This is what State of the Nation Addresses are for. This is what SONAs must do.
- Make it brief
While a speech accounting for the status of the nation can run long, the Presidency must do well to curb this temptation. A speech does not have to be long to be good. A brief, tight, well packaged and well-articulated address can do the trick.
- Political culture, Patriotism and National Cohesion
One of the things a state of the nation address must do is to engender national unity. SONAs must not be partisan, divisive or unnecessarily political. This is the chance to tap into the nation’s values and history, promoting them, while seeking to bring people together.
It goes without saying that the State of the Nation address must do exactly just that: tell us how we faring on the thermometer and account for public office. However, it’s amazing how there’s sometimes no accountability in certain areas, a complete disjoint from the previous address and sometimes absolute inconsistency or departure from a previous address. This is where our journalists must get to work with their fact checking, research and follow ups!
Alright, let’s leave it here for now. What do you expect from the State of the Nation address both in terms of substance, speech and delivery.
Is there anything I left out or you disagree with?
Have your say!