The People's State of the Union

The Concept

Once a year, the President delivers the State of the Union address, a speech that is 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

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 dig into 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.
  • Describe a time you stood together with people in your community.

At each of these sites, we’ll collect stories to share publicly online, along with comments and responses from the USDAC National Cabinet. We’ll then invite a diverse group of poets from across the country to come together and collaboratively compose a poetic address inspired by these crowd-sourced stories on the state of our union. This address will take place on February 1st and be broadcast live online. Transcripts will be made available for future readings and performances.  


How To Participate

Anyone who registers to host a People’s State of the Union 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. Be sure to enlist as a Citizen Artist to stay posted on how to take part. If you represent an organization, coalition, or network that you think might be interested in partnering with the USDAC on this action, please be in touch with Chief Dot Connector Liz Maxwell (

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.