State of the Union addresses were not always the full-flowered pomp-and-circumstance affairs we see on television these days. In fact they weren't always addresses and even when they were, they weren't necessarily referred to as the "State of the Union" addresses. Confused? Read on for State of the Union trivia, history, and firsts.
First State of the Union speech: George Washington. No great surprise there. Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution require the president to "from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." Washington and his successor John Adams did this in the form a speech. Thomas Jefferson, the third president, deemed this approach too "kingly" and instead submitted his reports in written form. It wasn't until 100 years ago, in 1913, when Woodrow Wilson started giving it as a speech again. Overall only 79 out of 223 reports on the state of the union have been delivered as speeches. (Two presidents—William Henry Harrison in 1841 and James Garfield in 1881—died before they had the chance to deliver a State of the Union in any form.)
First "State of the Union" speech: Franklin Roosevelt was the first president to formally refer to the speech as the "State of the Union" address, in 1934. Even then the title didn't enter common parlance until Harry Truman's 1947 speech.
First broadcast on radio: Calvin Coolidge—"Silent Cal"—was the first president to have his speech broadcasted over the airwaves.
First broadcast on television: Truman's 1947 speech was the first to reach the television sets.
First "second": John F. Kennedy gave his first State of the Union speech on Jan. 30, 1961. Then he gave an unprecedented second such speech of the year on May 25. It was in that later speech that he pledged to put a man on the Moon by the decade's end.
First prime time State of the Union: Lyndon Johnson figured he was likely to get a better audience for his 1966 speech in prime time than during the customary mid afternoon time.
First opposition response: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio can thank LBJ for the thankless task this evening of responding to the president. Congressional Republicans demanded the opportunity to respond to the president after Johnson took his speech into prime time. Future President Gerald Ford (then the House GOP leader) gave the response that night, along with Republican Senate leader Everett Dirksen.
First carried on the House website: President George W. Bush's 2002 speech (famous for his denunciation of the "Axis of Evil").
First broadcast in HD: Bush's 2004 speech.
Shortest State of the Union: No surprise it's Washington again. He first was an economical 1,089 words.
Longest, written: Jimmy Carter's farewell State of the Union was a monstrous 33,667 words long. Thank god he didn't deliver it orally—we'd still be listening to it.
Longest, spoken in words: Bill Clinton's 1995 address weighed in at 9,190—nearly half of which were not even part of his original speaking text. Clinton had a unique talent for extemporizing, even in the highest profile situations.
Longest, in minutes: Clinton's 2000 speech clocked in at one hour, 28 minutes, 49 seconds. Let's hope Obama doesn't break that record tonight
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