- State of the Union Address
The State of the Union is an annual message which the
President of the United Statesgives to Congress, usually an address to a joint session of Congress (the House of Representatives and the Senate). It has occurred in January (except for six occasions in February) since 1934.Sometimes, especially in recent years, newly-inaugurated Presidents have delivered speeches to joint sessions of Congress only weeks into their respective terms, but these are not officially considered State of the Union addresses. The address is also most frequently used to outline the President's legislative proposals for the upcoming year. For these reasons, a State of the Union address is generally not given in years in which a new president is inaugurated.
Modeled after the monarch's
Speech from the Throneduring the State Opening of Parliamentin the United Kingdom, such a report is required by the United States Constitution. Note that there is no requirement that the speech must take place annually, although it typically does::cquote|"He shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." (Article II, Section 3)"
George Washingtongave the first State of the Union address on January 8, 1790in New York City, then the provisional U.S. capital. In 1801, Thomas Jeffersondiscontinued the practice of delivering the address in person, regarding it as too monarchical (similar to the Speech from the Throne). Instead, the address was written and then sent to Congress to be read by a clerk until 1913 when Woodrow Wilsonre-established the practice despite some initial controversy. However, there have been exceptions to this rule. Presidents during the latter half of the 20th century have sent written State of the Union addresses. The last President to do this was Jimmy Carterin 1981.cite web|author = Gerhard Peters|title = State of the Union Messages|publisher = The American Presidency Project|url = http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/sou.php|accessdate = 2006-09-25 (http://americanpresidency.org/sou.php )]
For many years, the speech was referred to as "the President's Annual Message to Congress." The actual term "State of the Union" did not become widely used until after 1935 when
Franklin D. Rooseveltbegan using the phrase.
Ronald Reagan's first State of the Union Address, given January 26, 1982.] Prior to 1934, the annual message was delivered at the end of the calendar year, in December. The ratification of the 20th Amendment on January 23, 1933changed the opening of Congress from early March to early January, affecting the delivery of the annual message. Since 1934, the message or address has been delivered to Congress in January or February. Today, the speech is typically delivered on the last Tuesday in January, although there is no such provision written in law, and it varies from year to year, and it occurred on the last Monday of January in 2008.
The Twentieth Amendment also established
January 20as the beginning of the presidential term. In years when a new president is inaugurated, the outgoing president may deliver a final State of the Union message, but none has done so since Jimmy Cartersent a written message in 1981. In 1953 and 1961, Congress received both a written State of the Union message from the outgoing president and a separate State of the Union speech by the incoming president. Since 1989, in recognition that the responsibility of reporting the State of the Union formally belongs to the president who held office during the past year, newly inaugurated Presidents have not officially called their first speech before Congress a "State of the Union" message. Calvin Coolidge's 1923 speech was the first to be broadcast on radio. Harry S. Truman's 1947 address was the first to be broadcast on television. Lyndon B. Johnson's address in 1965 was the first delivered in the evening. Ronald Reaganwas the only president to have postponed his State of the Union address. On January 28, 1986, he planned to give his address, but after learning of the Space Shuttle "Challenger" disaster, he postponed it for a week and addressed the nation on the day's events. [ [http://www.reaganfoundation.org/reagan/speeches/speech.asp?spid=23 Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Library ] ] Not a single justice of the Supreme Court was in attendance for this postponed address, the first ever such absence. Bill Clintongave his 1999 address while his impeachment trial was underway, and his 1997 address was the first broadcast available live on the World Wide Web. [ [http://clerk.house.gov/art_history/house_history/Joint_Meetings/100tocur.html#31 Office of the Clerk ] ] The Supreme Court was entirely absent again for President Clinton's State of the Union address in January 2000, believed to be a boycott against the President following his impeachment. [ [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3827/is_200006/ai_n8908937 Disbarring Clinton | Human Events | Find Articles at BNET.com ] ]
Delivery of the speech
Ordinarily, the President is not permitted to enter the House Chamber without the explicit permission of Congress. For each State of the Union Address in which the President is going to read his remarks, a formal "invitation" is made. The President's presence upon entering the House Chamber is ceremoniously announced by the
Sergeant at Arms of the United States House of Representatives, who calls out, "Mister/Madam Speaker, the President of the United States!" The President enters the chamber to a standing ovation. This cheering is in support for the Office of the Presidency and not the individual President's politics. The applause is given regardless of political party. The president spends several minutes greeting attendees while walking toward the podium at the front and center of the House chamber. Once there, the President hands copies of the address to the Vice President of the United States, who presides in his capacity as President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, both of whom sit behind and above the President for the duration of the speech. If either is unavailable, the next highest-ranking member of the respective house substitutes.Sitting near the front of the chamber are the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Justices of the Supreme Court, and the members of the President's Cabinet. Customarily, one cabinet member (the designated survivor) does not attend, in order to provide continuity in the line of succession in the event that a catastrophe disables the President, the Vice President, and other succeeding officers gathered in the House chamber. Additionally, since the September 11, 2001 attacks, a few members of Congress have been asked to relocate to undisclosed locations for the duration of the speech. For example, Senator Robert Byrd(D-WV), President "pro tempore", watches the Address at his home on television.
Once the chamber settles down from the President's arrival and the attendees take their seats, the Speaker then taps the gavel and officially presents the President to the joint session of Congress by saying something similar to the following: "Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and distinct honor of presenting to you the President of the United States." Another standing ovation commences before the President finally begins the address.
The President delivers the speech (with the aid of dual transparent
teleprompters) from the podium at the front of the House Chamber. State of the Union speeches usually last a little over an hour. Part of the length of the speech is due to the large amounts of applause that occur from the audience throughout. The applause is somewhat political in tone, with many portions of the speech only being applauded by members of the President's own party. Applause typically indicates support, while applause with a standing ovationindicates enthusiastic support. An exception occurred in 2006 when a large number of Democrats, then the minority party, responded with a mocking standing ovation to the President's statement that "Congress did not act last year on my proposal to save Social Security." [ [http://www.whitehouse.gov/stateoftheunion/2006/index.html * * * * State of the Union 2006 * * * * ] ] Members of the Supreme Court rarely applaud or participate in standing ovations during the speech. It is believed that as the judicial branch they must remain impartial to any political positions, statements or objectives stated during the speech. The Joint Chiefs of Staff applaud statements regarding foreign policy to support the orders of the commander-in-chief, but they do not applaud or participate in standing ovations for statements of domestic policy, as it is believed the military should not interfere with domestic policy. However, all join in the ovations that occur before the speech begins, because by tradition it is the "office" being applauded and not the person holding it. Indeed, the President is never introduced by name).
In the State of the Union the President traditionally outlines the administration's accomplishments over the previous year, as well as the agenda for the coming year, in upbeat and optimistic terms. At some point during the speech, the President usually says "The State of our Union is strong" or a very similar phrase. [cite news | author = Ted Widmer | title = The State of the Union Is Unreal | publisher =
The New York Times| date = 2006-01-31 | url = http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/31/opinion/31widmer.html?ex=1296363600&en=52500d95fa74b0eb&ei=5090 | accessdate = 2007-01-22 ] Since the 1982 address, it has also become common for the President to acknowledge special guests sitting near the First Lady in the gallery, such as everyday Americans or visiting heads of state. The guests are usually relevant to some part of the President's speech, and are referred to by the speechwriters as "Lenny Skutniks" after the first such guest.Fact|date=March 2008
Since 1966,cite web | author = Office of the Clerk | title = Opposition Responses to State of the Union Messages (1966-Present) | url = http://clerk.house.gov/art_history/art_artifacts/stateunion.html | accessdate = 2007-01-23 ] the speech has been followed on television by a response or rebuttal by a member of the political party opposing the President's party. The response is typically broadcast from a studio with no audience. This is the norm, but not the rule. In 1970, the Democrats put together a TV program with their speech to reply to President Nixon. The same thing was done by Democrats for President Reagan's speeches in 1982 and 1983. In 1997,
Oklahomacongressman J.C. Wattsdelivered the Republican response to that year's speech in front of high school students sponsored by the Close Up Foundation.cite news | author = Richard E. Sincere, Jr. | publisher= Metro Herald | date = February 1997 | title = O.J., J.C., and Bill: Reflections on the State of the Union | url = http://web.archive.org/web/20020731143540/http://www.arg-media.com/articles/domestic/dom43.htm | accessdate = 2007-01-23 | quote = Watts told his audience -- about 100 high school students from the CloseUp Foundation watched in person, while a smaller number watched on television at home -- that he is "old enough to remember the Jim Crow" laws that affected him and his family while he grew up in a black neighborhood in small-town Oklahoma.] In 2004, the Democrats also delivered their response in Spanish, delivered by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.cite news | author = Byron York | title = The Democratic Response You Didn’t See | date = January 21, 2004 | url = http://www.nationalreview.com/york/york200401210958.asp | accessdate = 2007-01-23 | quote = And then there was the Spanish-language response — the first ever — delivered by New Mexico governor, and former Clinton energy secretary, Bill Richardson. ] After President George W. Bush's 2006 State of the Union address, Virginia Governor Tim Kainedelivered the Democratic Party's response in English while Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosagave a response in Spanish.cite news | author = Democratic National Committee | title = Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa Will Deliver the Democratic Response to the President's State of the Union Address in Spanish| url = http://www.democrats.org/a/2006/01/los_angeles_may.php | accessdate = 2007-01-23 | quote = Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi announced today that Los AngelesMayor Antonio Villaraigosa will deliver the Democratic response to President Bush's State of the Union Address in Spanish on January 31st.] Virginia Senator Jim Webbmade the 2007 responsecite news | author = Gail Russell Chaddock | publisher = The Christian Science Monitor | title = Sen. Jim Webb to rebut State of the Union | date = January 23, 2007 | url = http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0123/p10s01-uspo.html | accessdate = 2007-01-23 | quote = Tuesday night, Senator Webb is giving the Democratic response to this year's State of the Union – an unusually high profile for a freshman.] and Rep. Xavier Becerraof Californiadelivered the Spanish version.cite news | author = Office of the Speaker | date = 2007-01-16 | title = Becerra to Deliver the Democratic Response to the President's State of the Union Address in Spanish | url = http://speaker.gov/newsroom/pressreleases?id=0034m | accessdate = 2007-01-23 | quote = Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced today that Congressman Xavier Becerra of California, Assistant to the Speaker, will deliver the official Democratic response in Spanish to President Bush's State of the Union Address on January 23, 2007.] In 2008Democrats tapped Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebeliusto give a response in English;cite news | author = Rebecca Sinderbrand | title = Dems tap Kansas governor for State of the Union response | date = 2008-01-28 | url = http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/01/28/sebelius.response/ | publisher = CNN | accessdate = 2008-01-28 | quote = Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius will deliver the Democratic response to President Bush's final State of the Union address - a marquee assignment for a woman who leads a state with fewer than 2 million voters. ] Texas state Senator Leticia Van de Putte did the same in Spanish.cite news | author = Terrence Stutz | title = Texas Sen. Leticia Van de Putte to give Democrats' Spanish State of the Union response | date = 2008-01-28 | url = http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/texassouthwest/stories/DN-vandeputte_28tex.ART.State.Edition1.37af9c2.html | publisher = The Dallas Morning News | accessdate = 2008-01-28 | quote = She will deliver the Spanish Democratic response to the president's State of the Union speech tonight; Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius will give the English one. Ms. Van de Putte was selected for the role by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. ]
Certain states have a similar annual address given by the governor. In
New Jerseyand Mississippi, it is called the "State of the State" address. In Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, this speech is called the "State of the Commonwealth" address. The mayor of Washington, D.C.gives a "State of the District" address. American Samoahas a "State of the Territory" address given by the governor. Puerto Ricohas a "State Address" given by the governor. Some cities or counties also have an annual address given by the mayor or county commissioner, respectively. Some university presidents give a "State of the University" address at the beginning of every academic term.
1797 State of the Union Address
1798 State of the Union Address
State of the State Address
Speech from the Throne
2002 State of the Union Address
2003 State of the Union Address
2004 State of the Union Address
2005 State of the Union Address
2006 State of the Union Address
2007 State of the Union Address
2008 State of the Union Address
* [http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/sou.php The American Presidency Project: State of the Union Messages] "Established in 1999 as a collaboration between John Woolley and Gerhard Peters at the
University of California, Santa Barbara," currently (Aug. 2007), the APP "archives contain 75,663 documents related to the study of the Presidency."
* [http://www.c-span.org/executive/stateoftheunion.asp C-SPAN State of the Union videos and transcripts] (since 1945)
* [http://stateoftheunion.onetwothree.net State of the Union] (Visualizations, Statistical Analysis, and Searchable texts)
* [http://www.whitehouse.gov/stateoftheunion/2008/index.html White House coverage]
* [http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/5050 State of the Union Addresses of American Presidents ( 1790-2002)] (in downloadable electronic file formats)
* [http://www.usa-presidents.info/union/ State of the Union Addresses of American Presidents (1790-2006)] (
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