What Could Make Obama’s Final State of the Union ‘Untraditional’?

The White House said his final State of the Union will be “untraditional” – but what could that mean?

By Rhonda FanningJanuary 12, 2016 3:40 pm,

Tonight the folks at the White House are teaming up with the same people who brought you the holographic Michael Jackson and Tupac to deliver what they’re claiming to be as a completely different kind of State of the Union. Are Lincoln and Washington set to make appearances on Capitol Hill?

Maybe the hologram thing is a rumor, but the White House is billing President Obama’s seventh and final State of the Union address as “untraditional.” What could that mean?

Rita Kirk, a professor of communication studies at Southern Methodist University, says people want to be engaged.

“They’re no longer satisfied just to be a passive observer,” she says. “We’re seeing more people react online through Twitter and Facebook and other means.”

Kirk says it’s difficult to keep the system from being “gamed” in which someone’s personal or partisan agenda comes into play.

“What people are really wanting to do is to have an authentic experience,” she says. “What we’re rejecting in so many ways is all of the conventional sorts of things that are out there.”

At the same time, Kirk says people are concerned that there’s “no decorum” anymore and the office of the President hasn’t been given its proper respect.

“Some of the things we do to make it more interesting and to try to draw people in,” she says, “are the very things that, in some ways, cheapen the system.”

Kirk says drinking games are one of the “spoofy, interactive” ways that people can be engaged during the State of the Union.

“You can get plowed under in a very short period of time, I’m afraid,” she says. “In some ways, it kind of degrades the spirit of the thing, but it also kind of issues a challenge to the candidate, to Obama himself, to not do that.”