What is it about the end of January that makes all of our leaders so introspective? They like to look back. They like to look forward. They like to talk in half-hour or hour-long speeches in front of other leaders. We here at the City Paper have parsed the states of the union, state, city, and schools for the resonant points, the repeated words and phrases, and the unintentional gaffes you likely can’t recognize until you’ve had a week to look over the text.

State of the Union

The bar is never set high for President Bush, a man not really known for his stunning oratory. But this year more than most, a lot of people weren’t listening. Why? Because a Democratic Congress likely won’t even look at any of Bush’s ideas that it wasn’t willing to endorse in the first place. The president pleaded for patience on Iraq and introduced a proposal for improving health care that, not surprisingly, will be controversial. He missed New Orleans (oops) and defending marriage (great!), but the president hit a few things that everybody wants to see: a better economy and energy reforms.

• Sum it up:

“Like many before us, we can work through our differences, and achieve big things for the American people.”

• Classy move of the night:

“In his day, the late Congressman Thomas D’Alesandro Jr. from Baltimore, Maryland, saw presidents Roosevelt and Truman at this rostrum. But nothing could compare with the sight of his only daughter, Nancy (Pelosi), presiding tonight as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Congratulations, Madam Speaker.”

• That didn’t come out quite right:

“I congratulate the Democrat majority.”

• Early sign it will be a long night:

“The rite of custom brings us together at a defining hour — when decisions are hard and courage is needed.”

• “Yep, that’s my job”:

“To extend this nation’s prosperity; to spend the people’s money wisely; to solve problems, not leave them for future generations; to guard America against all evil; and to keep faith with those we have sent forth to defend us.”

• Most ironic moment of the night:

“What we need to do is impose spending discipline in Washington, D.C.”

• Watch the funny guy:

“(Earmarks) are often slipped into bills at the last hour — when not even C-SPAN is watching.”

• Too complicated to explain here:

The new health insurance policy

• Who needs the reminder?:

“The evil that inspired and rejoiced in 9/11 is still at work in the world. And so long as that’s the case, America is still a nation at war.”

• Best definition of an extremist:

“Take almost any principle of civilization, and their goal is the opposite. They preach with threats, instruct with bullets and bombs, and promise paradise for the murder of innocent.”

• Word overboard: Kill

“They want to kill Americans, kill democracy in the Middle East, and gain the weapons to kill on an even more horrific scale.”

• Understatement of the year:

“This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we’re in.”

• Mr. Miyagi moment:

“To whom much is given, much is required.”

• Insult to injury:

“See you next year.”

State of the State

It’s odd to say this about a governor who overwhelmingly won reelection just a few weeks ago, but Gov. Mark Sanford always seems to find a way to piss off at least 51 percent of the General Assembly. The governor dashed hopes for a pleasant legislative session this year after attacking the House in his executive budget. Come time for the State of the State, he was conciliatory, but it may be too late.

Sanford’s top priority was government restructuring, including the Department of Transportation (a sure thing) and the other constitutional officers on the ballot (already dead). He also called for worker’s comp reforms, an income tax cut, and small business health care reform. Citing big-ticket costs on the horizon, Sanford asked the legislature to hold down spending. He also mentioned DUI reforms, improving education, and putting more money toward conservation.

• Sum it up:

“We still have many miles to go in improving our state and the lives of people in our state.”

• Saw it on a T-shirt:

“Freedom is not free.”

• Early sign it will be a long night:

“The State of the State is that we are still a state in transition, and both our opportunities and our challenges stem from the way that the world is changing and in how we choose to respond to those changes.”

• State of the Book Club:

Red Hills and Cotton: An Upcountry Memory by Ben Robertson

• Key words:

Streamlining and changing

• Watch the funny guy:

“The good Lord and the voters have given me only four more years. That means I’ll be saying a whole lot of the Irish prayer in asking God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

• Hey, didn’t Mayor Riley say that?:

“Think globally, act locally”

• Saw it on Jeopardy!:

“South Carolina’s Gross State Product is roughly $140 billion a year. That puts us just below Israel, Finland, Venezuela, and Ireland in the size of our economy.”

• Mr. Miyagi moment:

“In life, you can be just a little bit off the mark and completely miss the mark.”

• Parade of the financial clichés:

“Hold the line on how much government grows,” “…crawl right back into the financial hole we just spent four years climbing out of,” and “There are serious storm clouds on the financial horizon.”

• Did he really just say that?:

“There is nothing more fundamental to quality of life than life itself.”

• Yeah, right:

“I look forward to working with each of you this year.”

State of the City

Providing a multimedia State of the City speech, Mayor Joe Riley got quickly to the story of 2006 for the City of Charleston — record homicides. He noted nine new positions in the Police Department and the recent hiring of Chief Greg Mullen. Highlighting city and community efforts to battle the violence, Riley introduced a few new efforts, including a collaborative statewide effort to increase penalties for violent crimes and the creation of a community action group to reach out to young people. Riley also made it clear what he wants 2007 to be known for: economic development and responsible growth, including the establishment of a Charleston Green Committee to shepherd “environmentally sensitive practices and policies.” He also has plans for a Martin Luther King Jr. statue in the city.

• Early sign it’s going to be a long night:

“Your sense of citizenship, community engagement, volunteerism, and service are what makes Charleston such a special place.”

• Things Joe is “proud” of:

The State of the City speech itself, the city’s Class 1 fire rating, the city’s low taxes, the restoration of City Hall, the Charleston Law School

• Things that “please” Joe:

The state of the City in general, Charleston’s (overall) crime rate, selecting Police Chief Greg Mullen, the national headquarters of NanoScreen, Arthur Lawrence’s Harold Koon Volunteerism Award

• Who needs the reminder?:

“Any criminally-caused death is an act of violence that damages the peace and security of a community.”

• Too complicated to explain here:

Bike route expansion plans

• Did he really just say that?:

“We all must be committed to and engaged in our community’s commitment to educational excellence…”

• Let’s get those numbers again:

In 2006: There were over 60,000 tons of trash, 194,880 police calls, 6,064 fire calls, 6,981 children in the city Youth Sport Program, more than 17,000 participants in the health and wellness program, 67,000 rounds of golf at the municipal course, and 259 newly annexed properties with 503 new citizens.

Hey, didn’t Gov. Sanford say that?:

“Think globally, act locally.”

State of the Schools

Charleston County Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson gave the good news of success for the district, but she also gave the bad news about failing schools and the hard truth that more programs will be needed to make sure that we don’t fail our children and our children don’t fail.

The superintendent announced plans to improve customer service in the district and asked for expanding programs for at-risk children, including early childhood classes for four-year-olds and mandatory summer school for at-risk fifth- and eighth-graders.

“Test results reveal that a significant segment of students in unsatisfactory rated schools are far below grade level and are not making the gains that they need to catch up and close the gap,” she said. “They need extended time for intense instruction to raise their fundamental skills.”

• Sum it up:

“We have had many victories and we have had some disappointing setbacks. We knew it wouldn’t be easy and it hasn’t been.”

• Key words:

Improve, significant, gap, and implement

• Yep, that’s my job:

“…making each and every Charleston school a source of pride for the community and the best in the state by 2010.”

• Cliché alert:

“A call to action …”, “We cannot rest on our laurels …”, “We will continue to strive to improve …”

• Name-drop that program:

Coherent Curriculum, Measures of Academic Progress, Differentiated Instruction, READ 180, Academy of Reading and Math, Parent Engagement Protocol, The New Teacher Project, Positive Behavioral Support

• The good and the bad:

“More than half of our schools are doing exceptionally well academically and the other half have more work to do.”

• Stride right:

“We have made great strides …”, “We have made tremendous strides …”, “We will be relentless in our strides …”

• State of the Book Club:

Good to Great by Jim Collins

• Praising the Average Joe:

The superintendent’s mother, a 42-year educator.

• Wrapping it up:

“You can look forward to a brighter 2007 with higher achieving schools for all of our students.”