"The President 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."
US Constitution Article II, Section 3
George Washington gave the first state of the union address on 8 January 8, 1790 at the Federal Hall in New York City.
Thomas Jefferson, the nation's third president, did not continue this practice. In 1801, Jefferson detailed his priorities and sent written copies of his message to each house of Congress. Jefferson "was concerned that the practice of appearing before the representatives of the people was too similar to the British monarch's ritual of addressing the opening of each new Parliament with a list of policy mandates, rather than 'recommendations.'"
For the next 112 years, the President's annual message was written, not spoken.
In the 20th Century, the oral address was revived, first with Woodrow Wilson in 1913. Like Washington, he spoke to both Houses of Congress. Ten years later, Calvin Coolidge broadcast his address on radio.
Franklin D Roosevelt called the speech the "State of the Union" in 1935. In 1947, Harry Truman, FDR's vice president - who succeeded him as President, was the first to broadcast his State of the Union address on television.
Since 1966, the State of the Union address has been followed by a response from a member of the opposition party.
- C-SPAN State of the Union videos and transcripts (since 1945)
- State of the Union Address (1790-2001) by United States Presidents - Gutenberg Project