When I worked for Gov. Mitch Daniels and on the White House communications team, the day of the State of the State speech or the State of the Union speech, respectively, was always one of my favorite days. Though there is obviously only one star of the show, there was always an especially strong sense of “team” that day, because the speech and all the scrutiny and pageantry surrounding it was effectively a report card on what our collective team had done the year before. The speech was often the first preview our team would receive about the big projects we would be working on in the months ahead. And there was always an enhanced sense of pride watching your boss knock it out of the park in front of multiple allies and opponents.
The exact content of the speech is a closely held secret. At the Statehouse, we held a briefing for reporters in the afternoon to let them read the speech and ask questions so they could begin writing their stories and meet their copy deadline after the speech, despite the late hour. Most of the time, the speech specifics would stay secret until afterwards, but occasionally, a copy would end up in the wrong hands and “opponents” would use it to craft their talking points for post-speech spin. In the White House, we did something similar, but since we were under no illusions that any “surprise” speech component would hold, so we usually gave someone an “exclusive” and hoped he/she would write a “clean” and straightforward version of whatever initiative we were announcing.
Additionally, I always feel nervous for the person giving the speech. No matter who it is, there’s no walking away. The person is going to receive cheers or jeers from half the crowd, half the time. The rest of the time is generally filled with either total silence or thunderous applause from everywhere. However, no matter how good the speech content is or how it’s delivered, the person giving it knows that the minute he or she is done, there’s a line of people waiting to burn it in effigy.
Ah, politics, what a business.
I was proud to watch Gov. Eric Holcomb give his fourth State of the State speech this past week. I’m as biased as they get when it comes to his administration, but I was truly impressed by the speech he gave and how he delivered it. He led with incredible economic news about Fiat-Chrysler’s $400, million investment in Kokomo. He focused on infant mortality, making adoption easier and he talked in detail about steps to reduce health care costs. He highlighted a new initiative to support Hoosier veterans, a desire to bring a holistic approach to reducing recidivism in our correctional system and bring a solution to the challenges surrounding teacher pay. He talked about the need to pass a hands-free driving law and even made a commitment for the state to plant 1 million trees over the next five years. He covered all these topics and more under the theme of “putting people first.” What a wonderful concept.
I was happy to watch our governor deliver a great speech about the promises he has kept and will keep. There have been a lot of accomplishments, and yet he says there is more to do. The pageantry and the adrenaline will always be a memorable experience, but the style and substance are what matters. Well done, Gov. Holcomb! I look forward to seeing you back again in the House chamber next January for your fifth State of the State. You deserve it.•
Rateike is founder and owner of BAR Communications and served as director of cabinet communications for President Donald Trump. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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