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State of the Union Address: 20 Fun Facts That You Probably Don’t Know

Barack ObamaTuesday night President Obama will deliver the State of the Union address.

If you’ve ever watched one of these you’ve seen all the grandiosity that goes into the event, and that’s not even including the speech. The president enters, shakes hands and then delivers what turns out to be a speech of about an hour in length.

But it hasn’t always been that way. In fact, many presidents never delivered a speech at all. How did they swing that?

Turns out, the constitution isn’t very specific about this annual event. Over the years, presidents have added their own little twists to the State of the Union, which, as it turns out, hasn’t even always been called the State of the Union.

You can catch President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night at 9pm EST. Do I really need to tell you a channel? You’re probably gonna be mad when you find out your favorite show isn’t on. Anyway, check this out. 20 Fun Facts about the State of the Union Address that you probably didn’t know. Read onward, and tomorrow when your kid asks you some questions about what’s going down, you can sound like a genius.


  • With a Goat or on a Boat… 1 of 20
    With a Goat or on a Boat...
    Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution stipulates that the president "shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union." The Constitution says nothing about when the president should deliver the information or how he should deliver it.

    Source: cnn.com
    Photo Credit: haykin.net
  • The First One 2 of 20
    The First One
    The first State of the Union message was given by George Washington in 1790. It was also the shortest message (833 words) and is believed to have lasted ten minutes.
    Source: clinton4nara.gov
    Photo Credit: history.com
  • That’s A Lotta Speech! 3 of 20
    That's A Lotta Speech!
    From ten minutes to ninety. Bill Clinton delivered the longest lasting speech coming in at an hour and a half with his final State of the Union in 2000.
    Source: nationaljournal.com
    Photo Credit: top10hell.com
  • Written State of the Union 4 of 20
    Written State of the Union
    George Washington and John Adams gave their reports in the form of speeches, but Thomas Jefferson, the third president, started a long tradition of presidents sending their reports up in written form.
    Source: clinton4nara.com
    Photo Credit: usnews.com
  • Jefferson Writes It In 5 of 20
    Jefferson Writes It In
    Jefferson chose not to issue a speech declaring it too monarchical, like a speech from a throne. For many years, the speech was referred to as "the President's Annual Message to Congress." The term "State of the Union" first emerged in 1934 when Franklin D. Roosevelt used the phrase, becoming its generally accepted name since 1947.
    Source: nationaljournal.com
    Photo Source: npr.org
  • First Radio Address 6 of 20
    First Radio Address
    President Calvin Coolidge was the first President to give a State of the Union Message over the radio in 1923.
    Source: cnn.com
    Photo Credit: roughdaily.com
  • That’s A Lotta Speeches! 7 of 20
    That's A Lotta Speeches!
    President Franklin Roosevelt gave 12 State of the Union Messages more than any other President.
    Source: clinton4nara.gov
    Photo Credit: imglib.gov
  • Roosevelt Starts Speech Tradition 8 of 20
    Roosevelt Starts Speech Tradition
    Franklin Roosevelt started the modern tradition by delivering his first report to Congress, in 1934, as a speech. It was the first such address titled the "State of the Union."
    Source: nationaljournal.com
    Photo Credit: nww2m.com
  • First Televised Address 9 of 20
    First Televised Address
    President Harry Truman was the first President to give his State of the Union Message on television in 1947.
    Source: clinton4nara.gov
    Photo Credit: nationaljournal.com
  • Quick Dick 10 of 20
    Quick Dick
    Among presidents since Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon holds the record for shortest State of the Union speech. His 1972 address clocked in at a shade under 29 minutes.
    Source: blogs.cfr.org
    Photo credit: nationaljournal.com
  • Last Written Speech 11 of 20
    Last Written Speech
    Jimmy Carter in 1981 was the last president to deliver the State of the Union as a written message. He topped the scales with a 33,667 word address so I guess folks are probably glad he didn't deliver that speech on TV. You can read it here.
    Source: blogs.cfr.org
    Photo credit: dcmilitary.com
  • President’s Annual Message To Congress 12 of 20
    President's Annual Message To Congress
    The speech was known as the "President's Annual Message to Congress" prior to the middle of the 20th century, when it became known as the State of the Union.
    Source: Foxnews.com
    Photo Credit: milestonedocuments.com
  • Longest Applause Interruption 13 of 20
    Longest Applause Interruption
    The longest applause interruption, clocked at 52 seconds, was in honor of Staff Sgt. Daniel Clay, who was killed while serving in Iraq.
    Source: cnn.com
    Photo Credit: 8thandi.com
  • Only Postponement 14 of 20
    Only Postponement
    The first and only postponement of a State of the Union occurred in 1986. President Ronald Reagan was scheduled to deliver his address on January 28, 1986, the same day the space shuttle Challenger exploded. The speech was delayed until February 4.
    Source: cnn.com
    Photo Credit: buffaloynn.com
  • In Case of Catastrophe… 15 of 20
    In Case of Catastrophe...
    One member of the president's Cabinet is always absent from the address in order to maintain the continuity of government in case of catastrophe.
    Source: Foxnews.com
    Photo Credit: wikimedia.org
  • After 9/11… 16 of 20
    After 9/11...
    After Sept. 11, 2001, Congress also adopted a plan for continuity of government, which dictates that two members from each chamber are absent.
    Source: Foxnews.com
    Photo Credit: humanevents.com
  • Congressional Campout 17 of 20
    Congressional Campout
    Congresspeople camp out all day to get an aisle seat at the State of the Union, just so they can shake the President's hand and be seen on TV. Seat-saving isn't allowed so they arrive and pick the prime seats as early as 8am that day then spend the day working from those seats.
    Source: sarahstruder.com
    Photo credit: lubbockonline.com
  • First Internet Broadcast 18 of 20
    First Internet Broadcast
    Bill Clinton was the first president to have his State of the Union message broadcast over the Internet in 1997.
    Source: cnn.com
    Photo Credit: sunnycv.com
  • This is C Work Barack, I Want Your Best Work! 19 of 20
    This is C Work Barack, I Want Your Best Work!
    Most State of the Union speeches go through at least 20 drafts.

    Source: cnn.com
    Photo Credit: flickr.com
  • State of the Union 2013 20 of 20
    State of the Union 2013
    First Lady Michelle Obama will be welcoming Apple CEO Tim Cook as one of her guests. he parents of Hidaya Pendleton, the 15-year-old girl killed during a random shooting last month in Chicago, will be among the guests sitting with the first lady. And Mrs. Obama also invited Bobak Ferdowsi, better known as the "Mohawk Guy" from NASA that gained an internet following after the Mars Curiosity rover landed successfully on the Martian surface. Obama's 2011 State of the Union address lasted one hour and two minutes.
    Photo Credit: wikimedia.org

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