According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the bully pulpit is defined as, “a prominent public position that provides an opportunity for expounding one’s views.”

Last week, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear delivered the perfect example of a pro-labor governor using the bully pulpit to bring attention to an issue he feels strongly about.

As nearly 100 USW members met with Kentucky state legislators to advocate for various pro-worker bills, Gov. Andy Beshear issued a proclamation declaring the day “Union Workers Supply Kentucky Day.”

Flanked by Steelworkers in the gallery of the state capitol, Gov. Beshear announced his proclamation, noting Kentucky's C-minus infrastructure grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers, and recognizing that USW members produce the aluminum, asphalt, chemicals, packaging and other materials that are needed to make the improvements.

In doing so, Beshear highlighted union workers’ key role in preparing the Commonwealth for the next generation. On social media, Beshear said, “Unions lift up our communities and raise the standard of living and quality of life for our workers, and I'm proud to stand with them.”

Click here to read the USW's full statement on “Union Workers Supply Kentucky Day.”

Origin of the term

The term bully pulpit came to be in the early 1900s when President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt capitalized upon the inherent power of his office to speak strongly about the dangers of economic and corporate monopolies, advocate for an eight-hour workday, and expound upon the need for limiting court injunctions which employers would use as leverage against striking workers.

While Roosevelt’s agenda failed to muster Congressional approval in the waning days of his presidency, his use of the bully pulpit helped build public support for pro-labor reforms, setting the stage for the New Deal era of the 1930s.

Many historians believe Roosevelt forever changed the presidency by making character as important as any policy or issue. With the evolution of television and the rise of countless social media platforms, governors even continue to utilize the bully pulpit to affect policy discussions even after they leave office.

In January 2022, published the article Why Being Governor is the Best Job in Politics, which argued that governors aren’t limited to the bureaucracy and polarization that often undercuts the influence of individual lawmakers in the federal government.

One former governor quoted in the article said, “The ability to propose and enact an agenda is one of the more satisfying parts of being governor…governors, more so than a president even, can set the agenda in a way that’s lasting.”

Photos courtesy Gov. Beshear's Twitter account.