Historical Highlights

The first televised evening State of the Union Address

January 04, 1965
The first televised evening State of the Union Address Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
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On January 4, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson delivered the first televised, evening State of the Union Address.
On this date, President Lyndon B. Johnson delivered the first televised evening State of the Union Address. The House and Senate met in the House Chamber on the opening day of the 89th Congress (1965–1967) to hear the President speak before a national audience. Johnson’s decision to break with the tradition of a standard daytime presidential address enabled him to reach a wider audience and to convey the message that the State of the Union should be a report to both Congress and the American people. The President’s inspiration for the change of protocol came in great part from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first nighttime State of the Union address in 1936. In the midst of the civil rights movement, President Johnson used his speech—broadcast by radio and television—as an opportunity to promote his Great Society reforms. “A President’s hardest task is not to do what is right, but to know what is right,” Johnson explained to Congress and the American public. House Majority Leader Carl Albert of Oklahoma called the speech “as inspiring as any I ever heard,” adding, “specific proposals will receive the most careful and expeditious consideration by the Congress.” Newly elected Minority Leader Gerald Ford of Michigan responded to the address: “We expect to support him when we believe he is right and offer alternatives when our consciences so demand.”

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