Civics

What is the State of the Union address?

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Traditionally, the President of the United States gives a speech called the State of the Union every year in late January or early February. It is held at the United States Capitol and given in front of the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, who make up Congress.

This speech gives the President the opportunity to talk about how the country is doing, what goals he or she has for the next year and to introduce any major ideas or changes in how the country is being run.

While the President is not required to make the speech every year, the Constitution tells us that from time to time the President must update Congress and the citizens on the state of our country, or the State of the Union. Most presidents in the last eighty years have given at least one State of the Union speech during their presidency. Presidents in the past gave a written report to Congress instead of a speech.

Once TV and radio became popular, the State of the Union became a great opportunity for the President to speak directly to the people and to connect to the nation as whole. Because a democracy encourages different views and ideas, this speech also gives lawmakers who disagree with the President a chance to respond to what he/she had to say.

Further Information

The longest written speech in history was by President James Earl (Jimmy) Carter 33,878 words in 1981 and the longest spoken was by President William J. (Bill) Clinton 9,190 words in 1995.