The USA Still a Work in Progress

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Yesterday, President Obama delivered the State of the Union address, his final such speech on the condition of the nation and its future.

Actually, I was in Washington while the President delivered the address to Congress, the rest of the nation and world.

And, no, I was not invited to attend and I would have respectfully declined had I received an invitation. I was in the nation’s capital to attend a transportation conference on behalf of the university where I work.

Photography is not allowed inside the National Archives Museum, but I did take this exterior image.

Photography is not allowed inside the National Archives Museum, but I did take this exterior image.

But, I have some thoughts about our nation, thoughts shaped by what I witnessed in Washington between meetings and education sessions on transportation. First, let me share what inspired this post.

During a break on Tuesday, I strolled a few blocks to the National Archives Museum on Pennsylvania Avenue; it was a cold day, and museum was not crowded, save for some school kids on a field trip and a handful of visitors like myself.

Work continues on the National Mall. I found this symbolic to the nation as a whole.

Work continues on the National Mall. I found this symbolic to the nation as a whole.

There, in the museum Rotunda, is the document that set in motion our nation. Yes, the real Declaration of Independence, and I had the honor of spending a few minutes before it alone.

“Is this one of the originals?” I asked a nice man who was a volunteer docent.

“Original — it’s the only one,” he said, and then offered more insight on the Founding Fathers, who are depicted in spectacular paintings in the Rotunda.

Of course, there’s lots of historical sites in Washington, and lots of money is being spent to preserve our heritage. At the National Mall across Independence Avenue, I could see lots of construction underway to repair and improve America’s front yard.

Dressed for a cold late morning at DuPont Circle.

Dressed for a cold late morning at DuPont Circle.

During my visit, I stayed at a hotel on DuPont Circle, a wonderful neighborhood that’s home to embassies, great restaurants and galleries.  Around the Circle and in doorways on Connecticut Avenue, I saw another side of America, one beyond the great monuments and public spaces.

Men and women lived in cardboard boxes, draped in layers of coats and blankets to stay warm in the January cold.  Yes, this tragedy takes place in many other parts of America — including Chicago — besides Washington; but it was more poignant to witness it in the capital of the richest nation on earth.

Back to the State of the Union address: The President discussed what’s right with America and the accomplishments made during his administration. And, from another perspective, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley offered a rebuttal from the Republican party.

This is how politics works, here and in other democracies.

But I wonder if — for the sake of Americans living on the streets as well as those of us who have homes to go to at night — that the politics could be put aside so the problems facing the less fortunate can be solved.

I think that’s what the Founding Fathers meant by the often quoted “pursuit of happiness” segment.

 

 

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My State of Mind on Tonight’s State of the Union Address

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka The PRDude

In around 5 minutes, President Obama will deliver the 2012 State of the Union address to Congress.  This kind of thing happens every year, you know.  But these days, I think it’s more appropriate to call it the “State of Confusion” address.

Not that I’m picking on the President or any particular member of Congress.  Given the challenging times we face today — and will for perhaps generations to come — there’s a lot of blame to spread around.

The big question:  How did this nation, without argument the most dynamic, prosperous and progressive on earth, trip, stumble and fall?

It’s because we’re confused.

We’re confused about what got us into this mess.  At least, that’s what I read and hear from the leaders of both major political parties: “It’s because of the (fill in the blank, which ever party you don’t like).”

“Bipartisanship?”  I don’t think so, although I did read that Democrats and Republicans will in essence have a “date night” at tonight’s address by sitting next to each other when the President delivers his address.  A nice gesture, but hopefully they can sit next to each other at the negotiation table and compromise on legislation that brings the United States back on track.

So, how should lawmakers address the confusion?  Here’s a few thoughts:

  • Engage in dialogue.  Look up the word if you’re not sure what it means.
  • Be open and transparent.  Hey, it’s what drives effective public relations, should work in Congress.
  • Set realistic, measurable goals.  It took a long time for the nation to fall into this mess. It will take a long time to get back on course
  • And, above all: Put the values of the American people — not the 100 Senators and 435 Congressmen or their lobbyists and special interest groups — at the forefront. We’re the ones who elected you.

What else should we do to end the confusion?  Share your thoughts.

Or, listen to the address live from this site hosted by the New York Times.   I’m taking a break for dinner.

 

 

How Obama and Hagar Help the PR Industry

Not a betting man, but I wager this is the first/only/last time you’ll read commentary on how both President Obama and Hagar the Horrible are advancing public relations.

Stay with me.  I’m not trying to be funny, although Hagar is funny most of the time.  These days, the President doesn’t have much to laugh about.

This is being written a few hours before the President delivers his first State of the Union speech.  Rest assured, he will talk about the economy and job creation, cutting spending and healthcare, government reform and last week’s major Supreme Court decision.

The President also will talk about public relations, in a way.  Specifically, Mr. Obama is expected to point out that an Indianapolis-based communications firm, TrendyMinds, has experienced 200 percent growth, is hiring and has given back to the community in the form of in-kind advertising and public relations support to eight non-profits.  The 2009 volunteer effort was valued at $50,000.   They plan to do more this year. The firm is small:  Seven people and two dogs are listed under the Contacts.

TrendyMinds principal Trevor Yager is expected to be in Washington tonight. I learned about this development from the MyRagan.com PR Junkie blog posted today.  Paid a visit to the TrendyMinds site, but could not find a reference to the State of the Union speech tonight.  But I’ll be watching.

Now to Hagar.  For those of you unfamiliar, Hagar the Horrible is a long-running comic strip written by Chris Browne and distributed by King Features Syndicate.  It chronicles a roguish Viking who likes to pillage and drink beer.  Hagar has a running battle with his wife, Helga, and keeps a nitwit sidekick named Lucky Eddie.

In the January 26 strip, Hagar, Lucky Eddie and other Vikings are leaving a castle, carrying sacks and chests of loot.  There’s another guy addressing the owner of the just-robbed castle: “We’re conducting a survey, sir … We have a few questions about the quality of our raiding … and if our people were courteous and professional at all times?”  Lucky Eddie asks: “Who’s that guy?” “He’s with a public relations firm I just hired to improve our image!,” Hagar replies.

The payoff for those reading this far:  The President is identifying the tremendous work and spirit of a spirited, growing communications firm.  This sends a positive message — that the industry is vital and remains a valuable part of business.  I’m sure Mr. Obama could have identified lots of small businesses that are bucking the trend in this recession.  He selected a firm that delivers messages.

As for Hagar, I’m impressed that he enlisted his PR firm to initiate research!  All sound, effective public relations plans are based on research. Too often our profession is bundled into pure publicity, or as a leading Chicago agency leader said at a reception earlier this year, delegated “to blowing up balloons.”

Looking forward to tonight’s address, and what Hagar is up to tomorrow.