WASHINGTON (Michigan News Source) – Tuesday night marks the 99th State of the Union (SOTU) address given in person by a president of the United States since 1790. In Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, it says, “He (president) shall from time to time give Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

This has resulted in an annual message that is delivered to a joint session of the U.S. Congress near the beginning of the year to report the current condition of the nation including information on achievements, progress, the economy, legislative proposals and the president’s priorities.

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Because the Constitution doesn’t require a “speech” to be made, before the 28th president, Woodrow Wilson appeared before Congress to deliver his address, most presidents delivered their SOTU as a written report. Wilson made it a regular practice to deliver the speech in person in order to rally support for his agenda and along the way, with the addition of radio, TV and the internet, people all over the world are able to watch the yearly event. The Congressionally mandated report to Congress has now become a communication to the entire country as well as allies and enemies of the United States across the planet.

The first radio broadcast of the message was in 1923 and given by President Calvin Coolidge. The first TV broadcast of SOTU was in 1947 by President Harry Truman. The first live webcast on the internet of the address was in 2002 and given by President George W. Bush.

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Although George Washington actually delivered the first State of the Union message before a joint session of Congress in 1790, Thomas Jefferson stopped the practice in 1801 citing it as being too monarchial. Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave the most in-person SOTU speeches at ten followed by Washington with eight. The last president to give a written message without a speech was Jimmy Carter in 1981 which occurred in the days before the end of his term after he was defeated by Republican Ronald Reagan.

SOTU was previously called the “Annual Message” from 1790 to 1946 and then was informally called the “State of the Union” message/address from 1942 to 1946. Since 1947, it’s become officially known as the State of the Union Address.

According to the House History and Archives website, earlier messages from the president included agency budget requests and general reports on the health of the economy. Over time, the content of the message changed from giving an administrative report on the departments and budgets to becoming a platform to rally support for the president’s agenda.

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To date, the longest SOTU speech was by President Carter in 1981 with 33,667 words (written) followed by President Clinton in 1995 with 9,190 words (spoken). The shortest was President George Washington in 1790 with 1,089 words.

Over the years, presidents have invited about two dozen guests to attend their SOTU speeches. This year, it’s reported that the guests at Biden’s 2023 SOTU speech include U2’s Bono, Monterey Park shooting hero Brandon Tsay, Paul Pelosi, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, abortion rights activist Olivia Julianna, a Holocaust survivor, and Tyre Nichols’ parents.

Past guests have included Rosa Parks, Jim Brady, Gov. Bill Clinton, baseball players Sammy Sosa and Hank Aaron, football player Tom Brady, and former president Trump invited radio personality Rush Limbaugh in 2020 in order to award him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Most SOTU speeches end with, or contain the words, “The state of the union is strong” or some variation of it and we will hear President Biden’s report of the state of the union starting at 9 p.m. EST. tonight.