“The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. … In giving freedom to the slave we assure freedom to the free—honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just—a way which if followed the world will forever applaud and God must forever bless.”
- Abraham Lincoln, State of the Union December 1st, 1862
By Reggie Connell
I love the State of the Union Address. I have watched every one since the Reagan administration. It is an historic opportunity for a President to give an account of how the nation has fared over the previous year, and more importantly a chance to lay out their plan for the future. It involves almost every part of federal government weighing-in from cabinet positions to staff and a chance for the White House writers to really shine.
My first Apopka City Council meeting was a little less than a year ago as Managing Editor of The Apopka Voice. At the end of the meeting during public comment someone asked Mayor Joe Kilsheimer about a "State of the City" address. Kilsheimer said they were working on it.
I was excited to hear this news. I didn't realize a mayor gave a state of the city address. I sent a followup question to Apopka Public Information Officer Robert Sargent, and he confirmed they were working on it, but did not have a date. Every few months since then I have asked about the State of the City, until finally at the City Council Workshop in November, Kilsheimer announced the date - December 12th.
“President Washington began this tradition in 1790 after reminding the Nation that the destiny of self-government and the ‘preservation of the sacred fire of liberty’ is ‘finally staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.’ For our friends in the press, who place a high premium on accuracy, let me say: I did not actually hear George Washington say that.”
- Ronald Reagan, State of the Union January 26th, 1982
I had a million questions about the State of the City. I whittled it down to nine and emailed Sargent:
1. Who is the primary author of the speech? Who else worked on it as far as writing the address?
2. How many departments weighed-in? Will the speech cover each department or is it more of a general outline of the state of the city?
3. Has Mayor Kilsheimer delivered a State of the City address before? If not do you know when the last State of the City was delivered?
4. Why did you decide on December 12th? And why did you decide on 8AM?
5. Why did you choose The Highland Manor over City Hall as a venue?
6. How many words/pages (some measurement) is the address?
7. Do you or Mayor Kilsheimer (or both) have any comments or thoughts on the State of the City address?
8. Are there any excerpts or a theme you can release? Is there a title (such as "setting Apopka up for success" type of phrase you will use).
9. What issues will be addressed in the speech?
Sargent provided this response:
"Here’s what I can tell you about Monday’s presentation: The State of the City address is important to recognize Apopka’s accomplishments during the past year and to share the many transformative changes coming in 2017 and beyond. This is an exciting time for our city when we are improving public services, creating new city facilities, inviting new and expanding business and improving the quality of life for residents. Mayor Kilsheimer is working with city staff to research information, compile data and write Monday’s address. We plan to present a synopsis of city projects and goals. We also will have some big announcements."
Okay... not exactly direct answers to my questions. But I understand. They want to keep it close to the vest. They have surprises in store. They want to control the message. I can understand that, even respect it. But I am a reporter. I'm curious. I want to know, and I want my readers to know as well.
And the only thing left to do in the light of limited information as a reporter is to change hats and become an analyst. It's time for a little healthy speculation on tomorrow's speech.
“We know big government does not have all the answers… The era of big Government is over. But we cannot go back to the time when our citizens were left to fend for themselves. Instead, we must go forward as one America, one nation working together to meet the challenges we face together.”
-Bill Clinton, State of the Union January 23rd, 1996
Why an early morning address? And why in December? I'm not sure why the administration wants to start at 8AM. It seems like an after 5PM start time would allow more people to attend, but does the December 12th date have meaning? It is about one year from the deadline for Apopka Mayor and City Commission candidates having to file their applications to run for office... So is Kilsheimer going to announce his re-election campaign for Mayor of Apopka tomorrow?Why choose The Highland Manor over City Hall?Certainly The Highland Manor is a beautiful and appropriate venue for a speech, but is there symbolism involved? Earlier in 2016 there was controversy over The Highland Manor being potentially moved or torn down to make way for The City Center to come. Why frame that tension of old and new Apopka unless you had a solution? Will this be one of the "big announcements" Sargent referenced?
“…We should all want a smarter, more effective government. And while we may not be able to bridge our biggest philosophical differences this year, we can make real progress. With or without this Congress, I will keep taking actions that help the economy grow. But I can do a whole lot more with your help. Because when we act together, there is nothing the United States of America can’t achieve.”
- Barack Obama, State of the Union January 24th, 2012
We won't know the answers to any of these questions until tomorrow when Kilsheimer takes the stage and delivers this historic speech. The content, surprises, and announcements will be unveiled then. One thing is for certain, the speculation and conversations will not end with the conclusion of his address.
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