State of the Union Address

Although President Obama and his staff have stated that his address before a joint session of Congress tonight is NOT a State of the Union address, it nonetheless fits the criteria of one. He is not the first president not give a state of the union address during his first term; his predecessors Presidents Reagan, both Bushs, and Clinton did not give an address during their first year in office, having given an inaugural address just one month previously. In fact, it is nowhere stated that the president has to speak before Congress at all; Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution merely states  that the president”…shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union…” Washington and John Adams spoke to Congress, but Thomas Jefferson eschewed that practice, sending his personal secretary to deliver copies to both houses, where they were read. (His secretary, by the way, was Meriwether Lewis, of Lewis and Clark fame.) So began a tradition of the president not appearing before Congress; that continued until Woodrow Wilson in 1913 went to Congress, initiating the more modern-day process. And even then, not all the reports were delivered orally, many were submitted in writing. The custom of delivering a  speech before Congress became the norm with FDR in 1934,  yet not all subsequent reports were in the form of speeches. For additional information,  please consult the following:  The President’s State of the Union Address: Tradition, Function, and Policy Implications (CRS); The President’s State of the Union Message: FAQ (CRS, very informative)); C-SPAN: State of the Union(videos back to 1989); State of the Union Messages (American Presidency Project, with a good historical introductory note and other special features); and State of the Union (New York Times, numerous articles and links; )

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1 Comment »

  1. […] January 28, 2010 at 8:29 am · Filed under Government, Speeches Read the transcript here and watch the speech here as well as the Republican response. Reactions to the speech can be accessed on CNN and more opinions are found at the Washington Post and NPR. For more information on the State of the Union speech in general, please visit this previous blog entry. […]

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