WASHINGTON -- If you’ve heard it once in a president's State of the Union speech, you’ve heard it 100 times: There is nothing the American people can’t do when they pull together.
But you haven’t heard that thought in a State of Union address from William Shakespeare: “Lo,” said the bard. “With kindness, love, and understanding clear, we shall conquer all, and have naught to fear.”
Nor from the noggin-knocking Three Stooges of last century's fame: “We just put our heads together, come up with a plan, and bam! Problem solved!”
Let's face it, State of the Union speeches are mostly rote. Presidents roll out a list of accomplishments, a few anecdotes about guests in attendance, a sober assessment of the problems of the day and a crescendo about glory times ahead.
To shake up the formula before President Joe Biden's speech to Congress on Tuesday night, The Associated Press instructed the artificial intelligence program ChatGPT to work up State of the Union speeches as they might have been written by some of history's greatest minds as well as some stooges.
AP ordered up 300-word versions, in contrast to Biden's sprawling 6,400 words last year, and tapped a few people so iconic we know them by only one name. The virtual Greek philosopher Aristotle gracefully quoted Socrates, Cleopatra the historic Egyptian ruler asked for the blessing of the gods, Madonna cited her perspective as a mother and a woman in the entertainment industry.
ChatGPT was also asked to channel singer Elvis Presley, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, the ground-breaking NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, Tesla and Twitter CEO Elon Musk, the abolitionist Sojourner Truth, and baseball's Yogi Berra, among other luminaries.
We also wanted to see what a bright, unidentified 10-year-old might say to the assembled lawmakers.
The app is part of a new generation of AI systems that can converse in human-like fashion and generate text on demand based on what they’ve learned from a vast database of digital books, online writings and other media. It petrifies teachers who fear their students will use it instead of their brains for school papers.
ChatGPT rendered Shakespeare's State of the Union speech in rhyme, scrolling on the screen faster than anyone could read it. The version channeling comedian Jerry Seinfeld captured his verbal mannerisms and signature phrasings.
“I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I’ve realized that the state of our union is like a sandwich,” wrote the app-generated Seinfeld. "You’ve got the top bun, which is all the good stuff. You’ve got the cheese, the lettuce, the tomato, the mayo. It’s all delicious.
“But then, when you take a closer look, you see the bottom bun, and that’s where the real work is. That’s where the foundation is."
Yada, yada yada.
For all the app's smarts and speed, it wasn't all-knowing. In the speech channeling King, it had the civil rights leader quoting himself. It conveyed none of Abraham Lincoln's eloquence. And it declined to take a run at drafting 2023 Biden's speech, instead serving up a rehash of his last one.
It also drew a blank when asked for a speech from George Santos, the new Republican congressman from New York who was caught fictionalizing his past. It seemed to sense, though, that there was something make-believe in the picture.
“George Santos is not a widely recognized public figure or historical figure,” the app responded. “There is no widely known information about a person by this name in the public domain. It’s possible that the name was created for a specific use or scenario, such as a fictional character or a person in a private setting.”
A look at some of the speeches ChatGPT generated:
My Lords and Ladies, countrymen and women, Gather ye here today to hear what I say, In this great hall of ours, let us unite, And listen to the state of our fair state.
We stand today as one, in good health and grace, Prosperous and free, with a peaceful space, Our trade and commerce flourish, wealth abounds, With bountiful harvests, and peace surrounds.
But, lo, there are still challenges we face, For not all are equal in our fair place, We must work together to bridge the divide, And bring forth equality, from side to side.
Let us not forget, our soldiers bold and brave, Who fought for freedom, and our country gave, Their lives and limbs, for our safety and peace, We must repay them with honors and release.
And so I say, let us work hand in hand, To build a brighter future, in this fair land, With kindness, love, and understanding clear, We shall conquer all, and have naught to fear.
And now, my friends, I bid thee all farewell, And trust that thou wilt work, with heart and will, For the good of all, and the betterment of man, Together we shall build, a stronger, better land.
SOJOURNER TRUTH, the 1800s abolitionist and evangelist born into slavery
As a former slave, I stand before you today as a witness to the ongoing struggle for freedom and equality in this great nation. Despite the progress made since the abolition of slavery, I cannot help but feel a deep sense of disappointment at the persistence of racial injustice.
African Americans are still being denied their basic rights, facing discrimination and prejudice at every turn. This is evident in the disproportionate number of black people who are incarcerated, unemployed, and living in poverty. It is also evident in the ongoing struggle for voting rights, as Black citizens are still being denied the right to vote through various means, including gerrymandering and voter suppression tactics.
But I have not lost hope. I have faith in the resilience of my people, and I am inspired by the efforts of those who continue to fight for justice. I am heartened by the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and the many other groups who are speaking out against systemic racism and calling for change.
I call upon all of you to join me in this fight. We must not be complacent in the face of injustice. We must continue to stand up for what is right, even when it is difficult. We must continue to fight for equal rights for all, regardless of race, gender, or religion.
Together, we can create a future where all people are free from discrimination and prejudice, where everyone has the opportunity to succeed, and where justice and equality reign supreme. This is the state of our union, and it is a call to action. Let us work together to build a brighter future for all.
Good evening, my fellow Americans. How’s everyone doing tonight? I’m here to give you the State of the Union address, and I must say, I’m a little nervous. I mean, usually when I give a speech, I have a microphone and a stage and a live audience. But tonight, it’s just me and you, so I hope you don’t mind if I sprinkle in a few jokes to lighten the mood.
Now, let’s talk about the state of our union. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I’ve realized that the state of our union is like a sandwich ...
We’ve got the top bun, which is all the good stuff. We’ve got the economy, which is looking pretty tasty. We’ve got low unemployment, and businesses are thriving. ... I want to focus on the bottom bun. I want to focus on the foundation. I want to talk about the things that we don’t always see or talk about, but that are so important. I want to talk about education, and healthcare, and infrastructure. I want to talk about the things that make our country strong ...
Let’s make sure that our country is a delicious sandwich that we can all be proud of.
YOGI BERRA, baseball hall of famer
It’s like deja vu all over again, folks! We’ve been here before and we’re here again. The state of the union, it’s complicated, but we’re makin’ progress. We’ve got our ups and our downs, but we gotta keep swingin’ at those curveballs life throws our way.
Now, let me tell ya, we’ve been workin’ hard to make this country a better place for all of us. We’ve got a lot of people doin’ a lot of good things, and we gotta keep that up. And for those who ain’t doin’ so well, we gotta help ‘em out. We’re all in this together, like a big ol’ family.
We’ve got a lot of challenges ahead of us, but we’ve also got a lot of opportunities. We’ve gotta take ’em both on, head on. And we’ve gotta work together, ‘cause ain’t nothin’ we can’t do if we work together.
So, let’s keep up the good work, folks. Let’s make this country the best it can be. It ain’t gonna be easy, but ain’t nothin’ worth doin’ ever is.
KATHERINE JOHNSON, a mathematician whose calculations enabled NASA to put the first Americans into Earth's orbit and on the moon
My fellow Americans,
As a mathematician, I have spent my career using numbers and equations to solve complex problems and push the boundaries of what is possible. And as I look at our nation today, I see a problem that demands our attention and our action.
We are facing a crisis in mathematics education. Too many of our children are struggling to keep up, and too few are pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. This not only undermines their future opportunities, but also threatens our ability to compete in an increasingly technological world.
But the solution to this problem is within our reach. We must invest in math education, from early childhood through high school and beyond. We must provide our teachers with the support and resources they need to help students succeed, and we must encourage girls and underrepresented minorities to pursue careers in STEM fields.
As we work to address this crisis, let us also remember the incredible potential of mathematics. Math is not just a subject to be studied, but a powerful tool that can help us tackle the greatest challenges of our time. Whether we are working to cure diseases, address climate change, or build a more just and equitable society, math will be an essential part of the solution.
My own journey as a mathematician has taken me from the halls of NASA to the history books, but it all started with a love of numbers and a desire to use them to make a difference in the world. And I believe that every child in America, regardless of their background or circumstances, should have the opportunity to discover their own love of math and use it to make a difference.
So let us recommit ourselves to ensuring that all Americans have access to a quality math education, and let us harness the power of math to build a better future for ourselves and for generations to come.
Well, hello there, my fellow Americans!
It’s great to be here today, talking to you all about the state of our union. Now, let me tell you, we’ve been rockin’ and rollin’ over the past year, and I’ve got some good news to share with you all.
We’re making progress, friends. Our economy is stronger than ever, our businesses are booming, and our country is more united than ever. You know, when I look out into this crowd, I see Americans from all walks of life, all coming together for the greater good of our nation.
Now, I know some folks out there might say we’ve got some challenges to overcome, but I’ve got to tell you, I believe in the American people. We’ve faced tough times before, and we’ve always come out on top. And we’re gonna do it again.
We’re gonna keep on truckin’, we’re gonna keep rockin’ and rollin’, and we’re gonna keep building a better future for all Americans. I’ve got faith in you, my fellow Americans, and I know that together, we can do anything.
So let’s get to work, let’s keep this train rollin’, and let’s make America great again. Thank you, and God bless America!
ARISTOTLE, ancient Greek philosopher
Citizens of the Republic, I stand before you today to address the state of our great society. In the words of my predecessor, Socrates, the measure of a state is not the number of people in it, but the quality of life they lead. And it is with this measure that I assess the state of our union.
We must strive for excellence in all that we do, for it is this pursuit of excellence that will bring about true happiness and fulfillment. It is through virtuous action that we find our true purpose and meaning, and it is through the cultivation of virtue that we build a strong and just society.
But we must not simply aim for personal excellence, for a society is more than the sum of its individual parts. We must also strive for excellence in our relationships with one another, promoting justice and harmony among our citizens. Only then can we build a society in which each individual can flourish and reach their full potential.
It is our duty as citizens to actively participate in the governance of our society, to use our reason and our wisdom to help shape the policies and laws that govern us. And it is our duty to educate future generations in the art of virtuous living, to ensure that our society remains strong and virtuous for generations to come.
So let us work together, citizens of the Republic, to build a society that is truly excellent, a society in which each and every one of us can reach our full potential and find true happiness and fulfillment. For it is only through such a society that we can truly say that the state of our union is strong and virtuous.
Thank you, and may the gods bless our great Republic.
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
My fellow Americans,
We gather here today, at a momentous time in our nation’s history, to address the state of our union. And as we do so, I am reminded of the words of the great prophet Amos, who declared, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
For too long, justice has been denied to too many in our society. For too long, righteousness has been an elusive dream. And it is time for us to awaken from this slumber and work together to build a more perfect union.
We cannot be satisfied until every American, regardless of race, religion, or background, has an equal opportunity to achieve the American dream. We cannot be satisfied until every child, regardless of zip code, has access to a quality education. We cannot be satisfied until every worker, regardless of industry, is paid a fair wage and treated with dignity and respect.
But let us not become discouraged, for we have made progress. We have seen a civil rights movement that brought about change, and we will continue to see change in our time. For as Dr. King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
So let us bend that arc, together. Let us roll down justice and righteousness like waters. Let us create a society where every person is valued and respected, where every person has an equal chance to succeed.
And let us not forget, as we work for this noble cause, that we are all one people, bound together by our common humanity. For as Dr. King also said, “We may have all come on different ships, but we are in the same boat now.”
So let us come together, as one people, to build a better future for all. Thank you.
Hi everyone! I’m really excited to be here today, talking about the state of our country.
I think that overall, things are going pretty well. We have a lot of great things happening, like new schools being built, new parks being made, and new jobs being created. But there are still some things that we can do better.
For example, there are still a lot of kids who don’t have enough to eat, or who don’t have a safe place to live. That’s not okay, and I think we need to do more to help them. I think we should make sure that every kid has enough to eat, and that every kid has a warm and safe place to sleep at night.
Another thing I think we need to work on is making sure that everyone gets along. There’s still a lot of fighting and meanness, and that’s not cool. I think we should all be friends and help each other out.
Finally, I think we need to make sure that everyone has a chance to be happy and have fun. That means making sure that everyone has access to parks, playgrounds, and places to play. It also means making sure that everyone has access to books, computers, and other things that can help us learn and grow.
So that’s what I think about the state of our country. I think we’re doing pretty well, but there’s still a lot of work to do. But I’m optimistic, because I know that if we all work together, we can make things better for everyone.
Thanks for listening, and let’s work together to make our country the best it can be!
My dear friends, I stand before you today as a humble servant of the people, to address the state of our nation.
In the face of adversity, it is easy to lose sight of what is truly important. But I implore you, let us not forget the values that have guided us for generations. Let us not forget the power of nonviolence, the strength of truth, and the importance of compassion.
For it is only through these values that we can truly build a just and equitable society. It is only through these values that we can truly claim to be a great nation.
But we have much work to do. The poverty, the inequality, and the discrimination that still plagues our society must be eradicated. We must be unwavering in our commitment to justice, to peace, and to compassion.
And we must not be afraid to challenge the status quo, to resist the forces of oppression, and to stand up for what is right. For it is only by doing so that we can truly claim to be a great people.
So let us come together, my friends, and let us work for a brighter future for all our citizens. ...
And let us do so with nonviolence, with truth, and with compassion. For it is only through these values that we can truly claim to be a great nation, a great people, and a great civilization.
Thank you, and may God bless us all.
THE THREE STOOGES of vaudeville, film and TV fame
My fellow Americans, it’s a honor to stand before you today to talk about the state of our great union. And let me tell you, it’s been quite the ride so far! But we’re not ones to back down from a challenge, are we? No sirree, not the Three Stooges! ....
But we can’t do it alone. We need the support of all Americans. ... So, let’s keep working hard, my fellow Americans. Let’s make this country the best it can be. And most importantly, let’s keep laughing and having a good time while we do it! After all, life is too short to take it too seriously.
WINSTON CHURCHILL, 20th century British prime minister and orator
My fellow citizens, it is with a heavy heart and steadfast determination that I address you today. Our great nation stands at a crossroads, facing challenges that would test the mettle of any generation. But I have faith, faith in the resilience and courage of the American people, that we shall overcome.
We have seen the forces of division and despair seek to tear at the fabric of our society, but we shall not be swayed. We shall stand united, firm in our resolve to defend the principles upon which this great nation was founded. Freedom, justice, and equality for all shall not be sacrificed upon the altar of greed or hatred.
The road ahead will not be easy, and there will be obstacles, but we shall not falter. We shall continue to work tirelessly, to build a future of prosperity and security for all our citizens. A future where every American has the opportunity to fulfill their dreams, regardless of the circumstances of their birth.
It is time for us to rededicate ourselves to the ideals that have made this country great. It is time for us to come together, to set aside our differences, and work towards a common goal. A goal of a better future for all Americans, a future where our children and grandchildren can live in peace, security, and prosperity.
So let us stand together, my fellow citizens. Let us face the future with the same courage and determination that has made this country the envy of the world. Let us continue to move forward, always remembering that, “We shall never surrender.”
Thank you, and may God bless the United States of America.
CLEOPATRA, queen of Egypt 51-30 B.C.
My fellow Egyptians,
It is with great pride and humility that I stand before you today, as your Queen and leader, to deliver this State of the Union address. I am honored to serve the people of this great nation, a nation with a rich and proud history that has stood tall and strong for centuries.
In recent years, we have faced many challenges, but through hard work and determination, we have emerged stronger and more united than ever before. Our economy is thriving, our communities are flourishing, and our people are thriving.
However, we cannot rest on our achievements ... we must remain vigilant against those who would threaten our security and our way of life. We must work with our allies to promote peace and stability in the world, and to defend our values and our interests.
But most of all, we must remember that our greatest strength lies in our people. It is the hard work, the ingenuity, and the determination of the Egyptian people that has always made our country great, and it is their continued efforts that will keep us strong and prosperous in the years to come.
So let us continue to work together, to strive for a better future, and to build a stronger, more prosperous Egypt.
Thank you, and may the gods bless Egypt.
My fellow Americans,
It is with a heavy heart but steadfast determination that I stand before you today to deliver this State of the Union address. Our great nation is embroiled in a conflict that has tested the very fabric of our union, but I am confident that with the perseverance of our people and the grace of God, we will emerge from this trial stronger and more united than ever before.
This war, fought over the fundamental principles of freedom and equality, has taken a tremendous toll on our country and our people. But despite the hardships, we have not wavered in our commitment to preserving the Union and ending the scourge of slavery.
As we move forward, we must work together to heal the wounds of this conflict and build a better future for all Americans. We must work to reunite our divided nation and ensure that the blessings of liberty and equality are extended to all, regardless of race or station.
We must also take steps to ensure that this dark chapter in our history is never repeated. We must ensure that the sacrifice of so many brave Americans was not in vain, and that we never again turn a blind eye to the injustice and suffering of our fellow citizens.
So let us come together, as one people, and work towards a brighter future for our nation and for all who call it home.
Thank you, and may God bless America.
ELON MUSK, CEO of Tesla, SpacEx and Twitter, and one of the founders of Open AI, the research lab that created ChatGPT
My fellow Americans,
It is an honor to address you today, as your elected leader, and to deliver this State of the Union Address. ... I am proud to announce a bold new plan to invest in the technologies of the future, and to create millions of good-paying jobs in the process. We must lead the world in the transition to a clean energy economy, and we must ensure that our infrastructure is the most advanced and resilient in the world ...
I am announcing a new initiative to increase funding for space research and development, so that we can continue to explore the mysteries of the universe and maintain our position as a leader in space exploration ...
But we must also address the inequalities that have been exposed by the pandemic, and we must ensure that all Americans have access to the opportunities of the future. That is why I am announcing a comprehensive plan to improve access to education, job training, and affordable healthcare.
BIDEN, delivered by the app as a rehash of past remarks
It is an honor to stand before you today as your President and deliver this State of the Union address. This past year has been one of the most challenging in our nation’s history, but through it all, the American people have shown remarkable resilience, bravery, and compassion.
We have faced a once-in-a-century pandemic that has taken too many lives and disrupted our economy, but we are making progress. We have delivered vaccines to millions of Americans and are seeing cases decline, and we are working to reopen our schools and businesses safely.
But we cannot rest on our achievements. We must do more to rebuild our economy and make sure that the benefits of this recovery are felt by all Americans, not just the wealthy and well-connected. That is why I am proposing a bold infrastructure plan to create millions of good-paying jobs, modernize our roads, bridges, and highways, and make America more competitive in the global economy.
At the same time, we must address the long-standing injustices in our society, particularly racial and economic inequality. That is why I am committed to passing legislation to protect voting rights, advance racial justice, and ensure that everyone has a fair shot at the American Dream.
And as we look to the future, we must also address the existential threat of climate change. We cannot afford to wait any longer to address this crisis, which is already affecting communities across our country. That is why I am committed to achieving a 100% clean energy economy and creating good-paying jobs in the process.
So let us come together, as one nation, and build a better future for all Americans. Together, there is nothing we cannot achieve.
Thank you, and may God bless America.