KUNM

'State Of The Union Machine' Patches Together Speeches Of Presidents Past

Jan 20, 2015
Originally published on January 21, 2015 9:25 am

The State of the Union Machine is an online tool that randomly generates text based on different presidents' actual speeches. Nine presidents' words and phrases can be patched together to create a multi-administration text

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

If you're terribly excited about the State of the Union address, why wait till 9 o'clock Eastern? You can patch together a speech of your own right now.

CHRIS GATES: We have a very fun tool on our website called State of the Union Machine.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

That's Chris Gates. He's president of a group here in Washington, D.C., called the Sunlight Foundation. It advocates for government transparency.

CORNISH: And its State of the Union Machine lets you create a mashup of actual sentences delivered by nine different presidents in their annual messages to Congress.

GATES: You could compare the Georges. You could compare George W. Bush, George H. W. Bush and George Washington. And you could compare Teddy Roosevelt to George Bush or Ronald Reagan.

SIEGEL: And, Audie, we are now ready to try using it.

CORNISH: OK, look out speechwriters.

SIEGEL: (Laughter) We are logged on to sotu.sunlightfoundation.com. And can you see those handy sliders along the left side of the screen?

CORNISH: I do, Robert. I feel like we should make a speech right now. Let's do it.

SIEGEL: This is 50 percent George W. Bush, 50 percent Thomas Jefferson. Here's a transition where Bush speaks of the evil that inspired and rejoiced in 9/11 is still at large. And it transitions to (reading) while the other Barbary States intended as part of the state of our seaports and harbors were made under former authorities from Congress.

It switches right back to dealing with pirates in the Mediterranean in the early 19th century.

CORNISH: (Laughter).

SIEGEL: So (foreign language spoken).

CORNISH: All right, well I made a mix that has 29 percent Reagan and 29 percent Lincoln and 14 percent George Washington and Barack Obama, 29 percent. And, actually, as you scroll up and down the page, it's, like, there are highlights so you can know what speech...

SIEGEL: Yes, yes.

CORNISH: Came from where. So one says, from Lincoln (reading) this shows an average decennial increase of 4 percent, has run faster than the North for its continuance.

And what follows is Ronald Reagan saying (reading) we will call for historic reform for fairness and fellow citizens.

CORNISH: But he didn't say decennial.

CORNISH: (Laughter) He did not - didn't make the cut.

SIEGEL: We've been playing with the State of the Union Machine created by the Sunlight Foundation. You can follow President Obama's speech tonight on many NPR stations and at npr.org and also tomorrow on MORNING EDITION. Tune in for more analysis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.