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State of the Union 2014: Student Discussion Questions

"My fellow Americans, no other country in the world does what we do. On every issue, the world turns to us, not simply because of the size of our economy or our military might – but because of the ideals we stand for, and the burdens we bear to advance them."

So said President Obama in his 2014 State of the Union speech, which touched on issues ranging from unemployment and the stalled growth of the middle class to clean energy, immigration reform, job skills training, education policies, military priorities and many others.

Encourage students to read the full text of the address. Then discuss the following:

  1. What national issues did President Obama highlight? What were his positions on these issues? Do you agree with these positions?
  2. What are the most critical issues facing our nation today? If you were president, how would you have prioritized issues to include in the speech? 
  3. What positive things did the President emphasize? What challenges or points of controversy did he not mention?
  4. Overall, do you believe that things are going in a positive direction in our country? Use evidence to support your opinion.
  5. Following the speech, what were the reactions in Washington? 
  6. What would it actually take for President Obama to achieve his goals? Based on last year's achievements, how confident are you that these goals will be met?
  7. Prepare three bullet points (your reaction, opinions, comments, etc.) you would have wanted to share with the President if you had been given the opportunity to speak to him immediately following his speech.
  8. Regardless of whether you agree with President Obama's points, was the address effective from a speechwriting perspective? Which quotes were most memorable or significant? Why? Were there particular words, phrases or ideas that were repeated? What effect did this have on listeners?
  9. How does this State of the Union speech compare to past ones? Also, be sure to check out these Top 11 State of the Union Moments.

Optional Activity

Prepare a 7-minute "state of our school" speech to share with the class and/or your school principal. Which issues are important in your school? What is going well, and not so well? What strategies and words will you use in your speech to inspire others?


Article by Celine Provini, EducationWorld Editor
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