Media attention has focused on President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address over the last few weeks. However, late Monday night it was announced that Vice President Joe Biden had come to a decision, naming Arkansas to be Official 2014 State of the Union.
The tradition of the Vice President declaring a literal State of the Union dates back further than the annual address to Congress given by the President. George Washington delivered his inaugural State of the Union address to Congress on January 8, 1790. Five days earlier, Vice President John Adams had decided to award his home state of Massachusetts State of the Union in a controversial decision that largely overshadowed Washington’s speech.
Since 1790, it has been the Supreme Court’s prerogative to nominate five worthy states each year, with the Vice President picking the winner. This was largely done, according to George Washington’s diary, to “make Adams and [first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John] Jay feel like they are more than worthless figureheads.” Since then, the process has remained largely secretive; nobody involved has ever revealed information about criteria for selection or rewards for winning.
The win is Arkansas’ 14th, moving them into sole possession of 19th place; they passed West Virginia and Alabama with this victory. It extends Biden’s streak of picking states in a clockwise motion around Missouri; his first selection was Illinois in 2009, followed by Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.
The award was not without controversy this year. As in the past, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Virginia filed a protest with the federal government. They were excluded from consideration as they are technically “commonwealths” and not “states.” Massachusetts’ win in 1790 remains the only win between the four.
At press time, the only statement any Arkansan had made was: “We won what? I’m confused.”