DemDaily: State of the Union Fun Facts

Barack Obama will give his final State of the Union Address as President of the United States tonight.  While we await the pundits' assessment, a few ...

Fun Facts about the State of the Union

When:  Tuesday, January 12th @ 9pm (ET), US House Chamber, US Capitol

What: The State of the Union (SOTU) is an annual message from the President to Congress outlining issues facing the nation, the administration's accomplishments over that past year and an agenda for the future.

Why: Mandated by Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, requiring the President to periodically give Congress information and recommendations on the "state of the union."

Who: Presented to a joint session of the United States Congress, the Justices of the Supreme Court, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Cabinet. The House Speaker and the Vice President (*also President of the Senate) sit behind the President.

Guests:  Since Ronald Reagan's 1982 recognition of Lenny Skutnik for heroism following the Air Florida Flight 90 crash, the term "Lenny Skutniks" refers to everyday Americans honored at the address by the President.   

Designated Survivor(s): Since the Cold War, one member of the Cabinet does not attend so, in event of a disaster, there is a surviving Cabinet member.  Since 9/11, a few members of Congress also relocate to undisclosed locations

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Address: George Washington on January 8, 1790, in New York City (the provisional U.S. Capitol).  Also the shortest: just 833 words long.

Radio Broadcast: Calvin Coolidge (1923)

Televised: Harry S. Truman (1947). Before that time, most delivered the State of the Union as a written report.  Truman's was also the longest speech (over 25,000 words v today's 5,000)

Web Broadcast: Bill Clinton (1997).  The first available live on the World Wide Web.

Woman: (2007). Nancy Pelosi was the first time woman to occupy the Speaker's Chair.

Mixed Crowd:  In 2011 Senator Mark Udall, in response to the Tucson/Gabrielle Giffords Shootings, proposed a break in tradition -- that all members of Congress sit together regardless of party.

Most: FDR gave 12 State of the Union Messages

Opposition Response

After the State of the Union message, there is a broadcast response or rebuttal by a member of the major opposing political party.  Firsts:

Televised response (1966): Republican Senator Everett Dirksen and Congressman Gerald Ford's rebuttal to LBJ.

Spanish Delivery (2004): Democratic's response by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.

For a Political Movement (2011): Tea Party Express response by Congresswoman Michele Bachmann 

Many states have a similar annual "State of the State" address given by the governor. Check with your state party!

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