Liz Maxwell


U.S. Department of Arts and Culture Hosts “People’s State of the Union” Events in 150 Communities Across the Country

Following Obama’s Speech, Thousands Gather to Share Stories, Inspiring Poetic Address Broadcast from New York City’s Bowery Poetry Club 

New York, NY (January, 14, 2015) – Following President Obama’s State of the Union address on January 20, the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC)* will host a week of events in schools, theaters and community centers across the country in which citizens will contribute their own stories to form the first-ever People’s State of the Union (PSOTU).

At story circles convened in over 150 communities between January 23-30, participants will gather to share stories reflecting on the state of the union as experienced in their own lives and communities. As a way to augment the President’s annual speech, these stories will be collected and shared through an online portal, supplemented by commentary from the USDAC National Cabinet. Inspired by these stories, a group of award-winning poets will create and deliver a Poetic Address to the Nation, broadcast live from New York City’s Bowery Poetry Club on February 1, 2015. Contributing poets include: Margaret Randall, Patricia Smith, Bob Holman, Luis Rodriguez, E. Ethelbert Miller, Claudia Rankine, Joy Harjo, Eileen Myles, and many others.

The People’s State of the Union is the first in a series of new civic rituals planned by the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture. 

WHAT:             People’s State of the Union story circles and Poetic Address

WHO:              Hundreds of individuals and civic organizations, partial list below

WHEN:             Story circles: January 23-30, 2015

Poetic Address: February 1, 2015, 6PM ET

WHERE:             Story circles: over 150 communities, partial list below;

Poetic Address: Bowery Poetry Club, 308 Bowery, New York, NY

Attend Event:


Online Conversation: #PSOTU, #USDAC

“We're holding these events across the country because we believe that democracy is a conversation, not a monologue,” said USDAC Chief Instigator Adam Horowitz. “Instead of a speech spoken by one, the Poetic Address is a work of art created by many.”

USDAC Minister of Poetry and Endangered Language Protection Bob Holman, an award-winning writer and creator of Language Matters (soon to be broadcast on PBS), is leading creation of the collaborative address inspired by the stories.   

A small sampling of participating communities and organizations includes:

  • Ferguson Youth Initiative (Ferguson, MO)
  • Gender and Sexuality Center and the University of Illinois at Chicago (Chicago, IL)
  • Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Ashland, OR)
  • Esperanza Peace and Justice Center (San Antonio, TX)
  • Westmoor High School, 10th Grade English (Daly, CA)
  • United Caring Services Homeless Shelter (Evansville, IN)
  • Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City (Overland Park, KS)
  • Migrant Education Program (Salinas, CA)
  • University of Nebraska Social Practice Coalition (Lincoln, NE)
  • Bronx Music Heritage Center Lab (Bronx, NY)
  • Wise Fool Circus (Peñasco, NM)

“Coming out of a year as divisive as this past one,” Horowitz continued, “it is more important than ever that we forge new bonds of empathy by truly listening to one another’s stories.” Anyone who wants to take part but can’t attend a story circle is invited to submit a story online during the week of Jan. 23-30. For more information the first annual People’s State of the Union and Poetic Address, please visit



*The USDAC is the nation’s newest people-powered department, committed to harnessing the power of art and culture to cultivate empathy, equity, and social imagination. Launched in October, 2013 (and immediately attacked by Glenn Beck), the USDAC is a growing national action network of artists and cultural organizers, embodying the values, actions, and policies that could and should shape any agency representing the public interest in art and culture. This past summer, USDAC Cultural Agents hosted large-scale community “Imaginings” in eleven cities, bringing together more than 2,500 participants to envision their communities 20 years on, when “mission has been accomplished” for the department. The USDAC is not a government agency. Learn more at