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Pick of the day: The State of the Union is disappointed

This morning, while everyone is still abuzz over the president's speech last night, I'd like to bring to your attention a piece by The Post's Eli Saslow, in which he offers an alternate State of the Union told through the experiences of three people who were guests of President Obama at his first address to Congress, last year. It's more compelling than any speech.

The three people Eli focused on were basically used as props during the president's speech. Eli tells what happened to them afterward.

The first guest he catches up with is Ty'Sheoma Bethea, now 15, from Dillon, S.C., with a population of 6,500. Upon her return, public and private officials promised that her decrepit school, J.V. Martin Junior High, would get a new building, paid for partly by federal funds. But those promises failed to become reality, thanks to politics and the credit crunch, which makes it hard for the town to get the necessary loans.

The next guest Eli visits with is the mayor of a town in Kansas that was heavily damaged by a tornado. He rebuilt, even turning the place into a beacon of sustainable energy (wind power, no less) but the population has yet to fully return because there are not enough jobs.

The third guest is a fellow in Florida who is the opposite of a greedy Wall Street banker. Upon selling his bank, he divvied up his $60 million payout among his employees based on seniority. Some janitors received more than vice presidents. He is upset that Wall Street has resumed doling out fat bonus checks.

The story concept is definitely cool and the writing, as per usual from Eli, is great. Here's the nut graf:

One year later, as Obama prepares to address Congress again in a State of the Union speech Wednesday night, the stories of his three guests remain instructive, even if their lessons have changed. The past year has challenged Obama's favored themes of togetherness, resiliency and hope. The economy remains unstable. Partisan contempt has intensified. Polls indicate that Americans are increasingly pessimistic. Obama instead has experienced a trial in patience, frustration and fatigue -- and so have his three guests.

Joel Achenbach mines the same zeitgeist in a non-narrative way in this humorous essay/incisive rant/ seemingly-tossed-off-piece of genius.

By Annys Shin  | January 28, 2010; 8:46 AM ET
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