States of the Union uses State of the Union addresses and other presidential addresses to tell the story of the political history of the United States from Washington's inauguration in 1789 through 2023. The addresses provide a remarkable record of how the country saw itself, what problems required solutions--both at home and in the larger world--what solutions presidents proposed, and what was actually accomplished. Meanwhile, election results register the verdicts of the American people. Washington, Jackson, Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Reagan emerge as our most influential presidents. These presidential addresses, it turns out, tell the amazing story of the great American political experiment that began more than two centuries ago, and faces one of its greatest tests today.
Here are some prepublication comments:
“ Drawing on readily available sources, David Kaiser provides a superb and concise political history of the United States. States of the Union provides the concise yet magisterial political history of the United States that today’s college students desperately need but increasingly cannot find.”
—James McAllister, Professor of Political Science, Williams College
“ States of the Union is an unusual book. It looks at American political history as an experiment—as a continuing effort to keep what Washington called the ‘sacred fire of liberty’ alive in the world. Kaiser uses U.S. presidents’ own words as a kind of lens through which to view this whole extraordinary story. And that approach is very effective. It puts the reader in direct contact with the relatively small group of people—the forty-six presidents—most deeply involved with managing the American project. It allows the reader, that is, to hear their voices and thus get a deeper sense for what they were doing and for how the experiment was going. The result is a wonderful book, one that anyone interested in American history will very much enjoy reading.”
—Marc Trachtenberg, Professor emeritus, University of California at Los Angeles
“ In this exceptional study of the speeches of American presidents, David Kaiser explores the way every chief executive—from Washington to Biden—has addressed public events, explained his policies and stated the nation’s first principles. Filled with essential facts and written in lucid prose, Kaiser’s book makes innovative use of State of the Union, Inaugural, and other official addresses as a record of the country’s historic challenges and opportunities, international and domestic. At stake, the presidents realized, were the twin commitments of democracy itself: individual equality before the law and a government elected by the people. Kaiser finds no inflexible model of public address dictated by literary custom or party bias. Rather, most presidents met good and bad news alike with a sense of the responsibilities of their office, an awareness of precedent, and an estimate of citizens’ needs. States of the Union truly brings to life both the leaders’ personalities and the country’s long history, making it a remarkable chronicle of the nation’s political experience.”
—Anne Rose, Distinguished Professor of History and Religious Studies, Penn State University
“ States of the Union surveys how presidential rhetoric has highlighted each president’s policies and politics. Ably summarizing key elements of State-of-the-Union addresses and other major presidential speeches, historian David Kaiser analyzes how well they addressed major domestic and foreign policy issues of each era. Kaiser finds Lincoln’s brief second inaugural as his masterpiece—and this book reprints it in full. The author judges Franklin Roosevelt as the president with the clearest vision and the greatest ability to translate it into practical reality, enabling him to have a unique impact on the history of the modern world. Kaiser also offers trenchant, up-to-date assessments of Obama, Trump, and Biden. Compact, well-written presidential history.”
—Richard Breitman, Professor Emeritus,
The book can be ordered here.
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