Once a year, the President delivers the State of the Union address, a speech meant to highlight important national issues from the past year and suggest priorities for the coming year. It’s a broadcast from one to many. But what if, once a year, we could all speak and listen to each other? What if We the People reflected in our own communities on the condition of our culture and the state of our union locally, nationally, globally? What if we could supplement the President’s stories with our own? The People’s State of the Union is an invitation to do just that.
The action will take place in three phases with opportunities for participation at any or all levels.
- Coming Together – Live Events, Story Circles
From January 23-30, 2015, we’ll come together to tell our own stories, filling in some of the things that didn’t make it into the official speech. In living rooms, theaters, community centers, places of worship, parks, schools, and other settings, individuals and organizations will host creative gatherings with three main ingredients: art, food, and meaningful dialogue. Using a simple method called “story circles,” we’ll reflect on the last year through the following prompts:
- Tell a story about a moment you felt true belonging—or the opposite—in this country or in your community.
- Describe an experience that showed you something new or important about the state of our union.
- Share about a time you stood together with people in your community.
2. Sharing back Stories – For everyone, by everyone
Scribes at each site will document and upload stories shared at the live event to an online web portal, tagging significant themes to be easily sortable. Additionally, those who who did not attend a live story circle event will be invited to contribute their story online. These stories will be publicly accessible. Anyone can visit and discover the themes arising across the U.S.
3. Poetic ADDRESS & National Context
In the week following the story circles nationwide, members of the USDAC National Cabinet will comment on themes that arise, tying individual and collective experiences to a larger narrative of who we are as a people and what we might imagine and stand for together.
Simultaneously, a diverse group of poets from across the U.S. will be invited to co-create the “2015 People’s State of the Union Address,” drawing from the stories shared online as source material for a collective poem. The Poetic Address to the Nation will be performed and broadcast live from its premiere at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City on February 1, 2015. Transcripts will be made available for future readings and performances.
How To Participate
Host a story circle! It's as simple as it sounds. A story circle is a group of people, sitting in a circle, telling personal stories with the support of a facilitator. Those who register to host a People’s State of the Union event will be invited to take part in a story circle facilitation training online and will receive a toolkit to support them in holding a successful event. Find out more about how to host a story circle in your community using the button above!
The People’s State of the Union is the first in a series of reimagined American holidays, developed by the USDAC and partners, intended to spur community dialogue in the service of justice and democracy through new, participatory civic rituals.