“What is the state of the union?” The “State of the Union” (SOTU) is the annual message presented by the President of the United States (POTUS) to a joint session of the United States Congress. The speech not only reports on the current condition of the U.S. but also allows the POTUS to outline his legislative agenda (for which the cooperation of Congress is needed) and their national priorities. • First broadcast on radio • ‘Silent’ Calvin Coolidge in 1923. • First “State of the Union” speech • FDR was the first POTUS to refer to the speech as a “State of the Union” address, in 1934. That title didn’t really start to stick until Harry Truman’s 1947 edition. • Shortest speech • Washington’s first SOTU was the shortest (by word count), at 1,089 words. • First prime time State of the Union • For his 1966 address, LBJ decided to give the speech in prime-time rather than during the day, as had been the custom. He realized he would get a much better audience at night. • No message at all • Two presidents; William Henry Harrison (1841) and James Garfield (1881) didn’t live long enough to actually deliver an annual message of any sort. • First broadcast on television • Truman’s 1947 speech was the first broadcast on television. • Longest spoken message, in words • Is anyone surprised to hear it’s Bill Clinton? His 1995 address weighed in at 9,190 words.
“WHY the State of the Union?” “Why does the POTUS give a SOTU to Congress every year?” The SOTU traces its roots back to the U.S. Constitution. ArticleII, Sec. 3, Clause 1 of the Constitution says that the POTUS “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.” Pretty vague, huh? Jefferson discontinued the practice of delivering the address in person. Instead, the address was written and sent to Congress to be read by a clerk (until 1913) … * Required then, CORRECT? Washington delivered the first “Annual Message” in 1790 to a joint session of the Congress in New York City at Federal Hall
“Who are all of the people crammed into the front of the House Chamber?” It's a big crowd for the State of the Union. In addition to the members of Congress, the President usually has the Justices of the Supreme Court, the Joint Chiefs of Staffand his cabinetseated at the front of the audience. Yes, that is Ruth Bader Ginsburg sleeping.
“Who won't be there?” Two words – DESIGNATED SURVIVOR. Since the Cold War, one member of the cabinet has holed up in an undisclosed secure location during big government gatherings like the SOTU and presidential inaugurations. This absent member is dubbed the “designated survivor.” In the unlikely event that an attack or a disaster leads to the deaths of all of the assembled leaders, having a designated survivor hiding out somewhere safe maintains the line of presidential succession!