A Short History of SOTU Rebuttal Speeches

Its State of the Union season, a rare moment for formal rhetorical flourish in American life–at least outside of campaign season.  This morning Mara Liasson explored how giving the opposition party rebuttal speech has been a bit of a career killer of late.

Giving a good rebuttal speech is tough.  Poor Marco Rubio was pilloried for just drinking water (lesson learned: optics matter).  The speech, a 1NR as debaters might call it requires careful analysis and summation. Many  rebuttals were delivered by Abraham Lincoln in his renowned debates with Stephen Douglas and they have been analyzed in great detail.

In 2007 another story delved deeper into the hidden meaning underlying the speech:

As part of NPR’s Crossing the Divide Series, political historian Tim Naftali tells Steve Inskeep that rebuttal speeches are an excellent “tell-tale” of how much confidence the “loyal opposition” has in itself, and how popular the sitting president is with the American people.

via State of the Union Response: A Brief History : NPR.


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