President Ronald Reagan delivered his fifth State of the Union address to Congress and the nation on February 4, 1986. Originally scheduled for January 28, the speech was delayed a week to allow the nation to mourn the astronauts lost in the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. The President acknowledged the delay and the disaster at the beginning of his prepared remarks: “We paused together to mourn and honor the valor of our seven Challenger heroes. And I hope we are now ready to do what they would want us to do: Go forward America, reach for the stars.” Reagan made minor adjustments to the speech as he delivered it, so this copy, known as the “reading copy,” varies slightly from his spoken remarks. Reading copies of presidential messages given before a Joint Session are records of the Office of the Clerk.
Article II of the Constitution requires that the President, “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” A type of presidential message, the name of the speech has changed over time from an “Annual Message” to the current “State of the Union” title. The form of the address has also varied throughout its history from a written document sent to both chambers to one delivered in person to a Joint Session of Congress.
In this comparatively short speech, Reagan asked for Congress’s help in achieving a balanced budget for the country while reaffirming his determination not to raise taxes. Having earlier in the address acknowledged Speaker Tip O’Neill’s pending retirement, the President asked for his help to “finally give the American people a balanced budget.” The President also called for an “agenda for the future” and proposed a sweeping study of the nation’s welfare system and an examination of the country’s access to affordable insurance.