Last night President Obama delivered the State of the Union Address for 2012. The first State of the Union Address was on January 8, 1790. President Washington delivered it to a joint session of Congress. Thomas Jefferson ended the practice of the President delivering the address to Congress, regarding the speech as similar to the annual Speech From the Throne of the King of the England, and therefore too monarchical for Jefferson’s Republican tastes. Instead Jefferson sent annual messages to Congress on the State of the Union. The practice of the President personally delivering the speech was revived by Woodrow Wilson in 1913. The State of the Union Address was initially known as the President’s Annual Message to Congress. FDR first used the term State of the Union in 1934, and by 1947 this became the common name for the address.
Washington’s address in 1790 was notable for its conciseness and its clarity of thought. Would that all of his successors could say the same about their addresses! Here is the text of President Washington’s first State of the Union Address: (more…)