Delivery of the Speech

Fast Facts

Woodrow Wilson Addresses Congress/tiles/non-collection/w/wilson_addressing_congress_lc.xml Image courtesy of Library of Congress On December 13, 1913, Woodrow Wilson gave the first in-person Annual Message since the 18th century.
  • President George Washington combined the Inaugural Address with his Annual Message on April 30, 1789. He read the address to a Joint Session of Congress in the Senate Chamber, Federal Hall, New York City. Washington delivered his first regular Annual Message to a Joint Session of Congress in New York City on January 8, 1790.
  • President Thomas Jefferson began the practice of sending separate, written Annual Messages to the House and Senate, with his first one on December 8, 1801.
  • President Woodrow Wilson revived the practice of delivering the Annual Message in person to a Joint Session of Congress on December 2, 1913, after delivering three special messages to Congress in person earlier in the year (tariff on April 8, currency and bank reform on June 23, and Mexican affairs on August 27).
  • Some Presidents have sent a written Annual Message or State of the Union address rather than delivering it in person. These include Presidents Woodrow Wilson (1919, 1920), Calvin Coolidge (1924-1928), Herbert Hoover (1929-1932), Franklin Roosevelt (1944, 1945), Harry Truman (1946, 1953), Dwight Eisenhower (1956, 1961), Richard Nixon (1973), Jimmy Carter (1981).
  • President Ronald Reagan’s State of the Union address for 1986 was rescheduled because of the Challenger disaster that took place earlier in the day.

Topical Speeches

Several recent Presidents have chosen not to send or deliver a formal State of the Union address during their first year in office, preferring to deliver more special messages to Congress on various policies and topics:

  • President Ronald Reagan on economic recovery, 1981.
  • President George H.W. Bush on “Building a Better America,” 1989.
  • President William J. Clinton on the economy, 1993.
  • President George W. Bush on the economy, 2001.
  • President Barack H. Obama on the economic crisis, 2009.

Two Messages in a Year

In a few cases, during a transition between administrations, there have been two State of the Union messages in a single year. In these cases, usually one message is in writing while the other is personally delivered by the President before a Joint Session of Congress:

  • Presidents Harry Truman (written message) and Dwight Eisenhower (address before Congress), 1953.
  • Presidents Dwight Eisenhower (written message) and John Kennedy (address before Congress), 1961.