The State of the Union is an annual address presented by thePresident of the United Statesto the United States Congress. The address not only reports on the condition of the nation but also allows the president to outline his legislative agenda (the office of the President does not have Constitutional power to enact legislation, only Congress can do this legally) and national priorities to Congress.
The State of the Union is typically given before a joint session of the United States Congress and is held in the House of Representatives chamber at the United States Capitol. The address is traditionally given in the month of January.
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 most frequently used to outline the president's legislative proposals for the upcoming year.
Modeled after the monarch's Speech from the Throne during the State Opening of Parliament in the United Kingdom, such a report is required by the United States Constitution. The Constitution does not require that the report take the form of a speech, although virtually every president since Woodrow Wilson has made the State of the Union report in the form of a speech delivered personally before a joint session of Congress. By tradition, the President makes this report annually, even though the clause "from time to time" leaves the matter open to interpretation:
“ 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 of the U.S. Constitution
Since the address is made in the Capitol and during a joint session of Congress, the President must first be invited by Congress to both enter the House of Representatives Chamber and then actually address the joint session. This invitation is customary in form as the speech is now a traditional part of the American political and national schedule.
George Washington gave the first State of the Union address on January 8, 1790 in New York City, then the provisional U.S. capital. In 1801, Thomas Jefferson discontinued 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 Wilson re-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 Carter in 1981.
For many years, the speech was referred to as "the President's Annual Message to Congress". The actual term "State of the Union" first emerged in 1934 when Franklin D. Roosevelt used the phrase, becoming its generally accepted name since 1947.
The text of the first page of 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, 1933 changed 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 Wednesday in January, although there is no such provision written in law, and it varies from year to year. In 2008, the speech was given on the last Monday of January.
The Twentieth Amendment also established January 20 as 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 Carter sent 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 Reagan was 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. Not a single justice of the Supreme Court was in attendance for this postponed address,[why?] the first ever such absence. Bill Clinton's 1997 address was the first broadcast available live on the World Wide Web.
Delivery of the speech
Protocol of Entry into House Chamber
A formal invitation is made to the President for each State of the Union Address.
By approximately 8:30 p.m., the members of the House have gathered in their seats for the Joint Session.Then, the manager of the Majority cloakroom (officially styled the House Majority Floor Services Chief) announces the Vice President and members of the Senate, who enter and take the seats assigned for them. (Prior to 2007, the announcements preceding that for the President were instead given by the House Deputy Sergeant at Arms.)
The Speaker, and then the Vice President, specify the members of the House and Senate, respectively, who will escort the President into the House chamber. The House Majority Floor Services Chief announces, in order, the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, the Chief Justice of the United States and the Associate Justices, and the Cabinet, each of whom enters and takes their seats when called.The justices take the seats nearest to the Speaker's rostrum and adjacent to the sections reserved for the Cabinet and the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Just after 9 p.m., as the President reaches the door to the chamber, the Majority Floor Services Chief and House Sergeant at Arms stand shoulder-to-shoulder just inside the doors, facing the Speaker and waiting for the President to be ready to enter the chamber. When he is ready, the two officers jointly announce his presence, with the Floor Services Chief loudly stating the phrase: "Mister [or Madam] Speaker", to which the Sergeant at Arms rejoins: "The President of the United States." (The announcement of the President was solely the role of the House Sergeant at Arms until 2007, when cloakroom manager Barry K. Sullivan was accorded the honor of uttering the first part by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.)
As applause and cheering begins, the President slowly walks toward the Speaker's rostrum, followed by members of his Congressional escort committee. The President's approach is slowed by pausing to shake hands, hug, kiss, and autograph copies of his speech for Members of Congress. After he takes his place at the House Clerk's desk, he hands two manila envelopes previously placed on the desk and containing copies of his address to the Speaker and Vice President.
After continuing applause from the attendees has diminished, the Speaker introduces the President to the Representatives and Senators, stating: "Members of [the] Congress, I have the high privilege and [the] distinct honor of presenting to you the President of the United States." This leads to a further round of applause and, eventually, the beginning of the address by the President.
Designated survivor and other logistics
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 attacks in 2001, a few members of Congress have been asked to relocate to undisclosed locations for the duration of the speech. Though there is a rumor that many members of Congress are unable to be present in the chamber because while there are 435 members of the United States House of Representatives and 100 members of the United States Senate, the maximum capacity of the House chamber is about 448 seats, this is not the case. According to the Architect of the Capitol, for the State of the Union address, the normal seats are removed and replaced with much smaller seats in order to accommodate seating members of the House and Senate, the Cabinet, the Supreme Court, the Joint Chiefs, and other dignitaries.
President George W. Bush with Senate President (U.S. Vice President)
Dick Cheney and House Speaker Nancy Pelos
Both the Speaker and the Vice President sit at the Speaker's desk, behind the President for the duration of the speech. If either is unavailable, the next highest-ranking member of the respective house substitutes. Once the chamber settles down from the President's arrival, the Speaker officially presents the President to the joint session of Congress. The President then delivers the speech from the podium at the front of the House Chamber.
President Bill Clinton with Senate President (U.S. Vice President) Al Gore and House
Speaker Newt Gingrich during the 1997 State of the Union address.
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.Since the 1982 address, it has also become common for the President to honor special guests sitting in the gallery, such as everyday Americans or visiting heads of state.
State of the Union speeches usually last a little over an hour, partly because of the large amounts of applause that occur from the audience throughout. The applause is often political in tone, with many portions of the speech being applauded only by members of the President's own party. As non-political officeholders, members of the Supreme Court or the Joint Chiefs of Staff rarely applaud in order to retain the appearance of political impartiality. In recent years, the presiding officers of the House and the Senate, the Speaker and the Vice President, respectively, have departed from the neutrality expected of presiding officers of deliberative bodies, as they, too, stand and applaud in response to the remarks of the President with which they agree.
Republican response to the State of the Union address and Democratic response to the State of the Union address
Since 1966, 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. In 1970, the Democratic Party put together a TV program with their speech to reply to President Nixon, as well as a televised response to Nixon's written speech in 1973. The same thing was done by Democrats for President Reagan's speeches in 1982 and 1985. In 1997, Oklahoma congressman J. C. Watts delivered the Republican response to that year's speech in front of high school students sponsored by the Close Up Foundation. In 2004, the Democrats also delivered their response in Spanish, delivered by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. After President George W. Bush's 2006 State of the Union address, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine delivered the Democratic Party's response in English while Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa gave a response in Spanish. Virginia Senator Jim Webb made the 2007 response and Rep. Xavier Becerra of California delivered the Spanish version. In 2008, Democrats tapped Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to give a response in English; Texas state Senator Leticia Van de Putte did the same in Spanish. In 2010, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell gave the Republican response, on the floor of the Virginia House of Delegates.
The opportunity to give the response speech has been compared by some commentators to winning "second prize in a beauty contest," a reference to the board game Monopoly.
Certain states have a similar annual address given by the governor. For most of them, it is called the State of the State address. In Iowa, it is called the Condition of the State Address; in Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, the speech is called the State of the Commonwealth address. The mayor of Washington, D.C. gives a State of the District address. American Samoa has a State of the Territory address given by the governor. Puerto Rico has a State Address given by the governor. Some cities or counties also have an annual address given by the mayor, county commissioner, or Board Chair, such as Sonoma County, California. Some university presidents give a State of the University address at the beginning of every academic term. Some cities also have a State of the City address, including Cincinnati, Ohio; Parma, Ohio; Seattle, Washington; Birmingham, Alabama; Boston, Massachusetts; Los Angeles, California; Buffalo, New York; Rochester, New York; San Antonio, Texas; McAllen, Texas; and San Diego, California. Private companies usually have a "State of the Corporation" or "State of the Company" address given by the respective CEO. The model has also been adopted by the European Union.