An ANNUAL CIVIC RITUAL AND PARTICIPATORY ART PROJECT

In January of most years, the President delivers a State of the Union Address highlighting the past year and suggesting priorities for the coming year. It’s a broadcast from one to many. But democracy is a conversation, not a monologue. Understanding the state of our union takes We the People reflecting in our own communities on our challenges and opportunities locally, nationally, and globally.

Since 2015, the USDAC has hosted the People’s State of the Union as an invitation to supplement the President’s stories by coming together in our own homes, schools, houses of worship, and community organizations to share our own take on the state of our union. More than 120 communities have taken part for each of the last two years.

The People’s State of the Union has two main parts: Story Circles across the nation, and a collaboratively composed Poetic Address to the Nation. The USDAC offers toolkits and online trainings to support anyone hosting a Story Circle, bringing people together to share stories from their own experience. Stories are uploaded to an online story portal where they can be shared and browsed. Then—inspired by these stories—an invited group of poets collaboratively composes the Poetic Address to the Nation, performed and broadcast live. This year, Story Circles will take place nationwide from January 27-February 5, 2017. The Poetic Address will be hosted by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco on Saturday, March 11, 2017.

Want to take part? IT'S SIMPLE!

  1. Download the Toolkit and learn how to host a Story Circle.
  2. Schedule your event and put it on the map.
  3. Host your event and upload stories to the Story Portal.
  4. Tune in to the Poetic Address. (If inspired to do more, you could create your own local Poetic Address, use stories shared as testimony for a city council meeting, or start a USDAC group in your community.)

more info on #psotu17

In Presidential inauguration years like 2017, there is no official  State of the Union Address. But after this campaign cycle, We the People are likely to have even more light than usual to shed on this nation’s recent past and immediate future. Every time a new President is elected, a Transition Team of experts is assembled to advise on the new administration’s directions and strategies. But a handful of experts can’t represent all of us. This year, we’re thinking of everyone who takes part in #PSOTU2017 as a member of the  USDAC Transition Team, sharing your experiences and the wisdom they carry with each other and the next President, who really needs to hear them. To help focus stories, we're offering the following prompts:

  • Share a story about something you have experienced that gave you insight into the state of our union.
  • Share a story about a time you felt a sense of belonging—or the opposite—to this nation.
  • Share a story about a time you broke through a barrier to connect with someone different from yourself or with whom you disagreed.

You can also create your own prompts around a specific theme such as education, environment, or racial justice (e.g., “Share a story about something you have experienced that gave you insight into the state of education in this country”) (The keyword is story: your ideas and observations will move people most if they are grounded in something you actually saw, heard, or did, rather than just expressing opinions.) 

Whether you're hosting a few folks in your own living room, a dozen simultaneous circles in a high school gym, or inviting members of your organization or network to host their own circles, the Toolkit explains absolutely everything you need to know to organize, promote, and pull off your event, plus online training and technical assistance. Any individual or organization can sign up!

watch videos from the 2015 & 2o16 People's State of the Union

explore more...


The People’s State of the Union is just one of many USDAC National Actions intended to spark community dialogue and creativity in the service of justice and democracy. To learn about future actions, please enlist as a Citizen Artist.