History of the State of the Union address

As President Donald Trump prepares to deliver his first State of the Union address, we take a look at the history of the annual message.

The address is mandated in the U.S. Constitution under Article II, Section 3, Clause 1. It requires that the president “shall 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.”

President George Washington delivered the first address in 1790, which also happened to be the shortest ever with just 1,089 words.

From 1790 to 1946 the address was referred to as the “President’s Annual Message to Congress.” The annual messages included budget requests and economic health updates, but the message later evolved.

When President Woodrow Wilson revived the practice of presenting the message to Congress in person in 1913, it became a platform for the president to rally support for his agenda. Ten years later, President Calvin Coolidge would become the first to deliver the address in a radio broadcast.

In 1947, it began to be more commonly called the State of the Union address. President Harry Truman delivered the address that year and it was also the first to be broadcasted on TV.

As technology advanced in the U.S. so did the State of the Union address. President Lyndon B. Johnson was the first to deliver the address during an evening TV broadcast in 1965.

President George W. Bush had two firsts for the address, becoming the first to deliver the address on a webcast in 2002 and also the first to deliver the speech in an HD broadcast in 2004.

The longest written address was President Jimmy Carter’s 1981 speech, which had a whopping 33,667 words. The longest spoken address was President Bill Clinton coming in at 1 hour, 24 minutes and 58 seconds in 1995.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered the most addresses with 12. Only two presidents did not deliver an address: President William Henry Harrison and President James A. Garfield. They both died in office before they were able to give their speeches.