Tonight, after the President finishes his State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress, Massachusetts Congressman Rep. Joe Kennedy III will give the official English language Democratic response in front of an assembled crowd at a technical school in his district. Newly-elected State Delegate Elizabeth Guzman, D- Va., will give the official Spanish language Democratic response.
These official opposition party rebuttal speeches date back to 1966. They’ve taken a variety of formats, ranging from call-in shows, to press conferences, to focus groups. Regardless of how they’re delivered, they always aim to give the other party a chance to offer their two cents. In the modern era, there are typically one or two official rebuttals, as well as a couple unofficial ones. They are often short speeches which are written in advance, and thus, don’t directly address the President’s remarks. While these speeches have next to no policy importance, they can give a young up-and-coming elected official a chance to speak to a large audience. Just ask Bill Clinton.
Unfortunately for those up-and-comers, in recent years there has been something of a “career curse” on the person chosen to deliver the remarks. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s poorly received 2009 speech damaged his career. Florida Senator Marco Rubio had a case of cottonmouth and was forced to swig water in the middle of his remarks. The clip went viral on YouTube and became a not-so-complimentary point in his opponents’ speeches during the campaign. One can imagine the 37-year-old Congressman Kennedy is hoping to break the curse. Stay tuned!
- By Jared Payne