State of the Union Milestones
1790 George Washington delivered the first State of the Union Message on January 8 to a joint session of the House and Senate in New York, then the nation's capital.
1823 In his written message, James Monroe set forth the Monroe Doctrine, opposing European intervention in the Americas:

“…as a principle in which the rights and interests of the United States are involved, that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers…”

1862 As the Civil War raged on, Abraham Lincoln wrote his famous message:

"Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history…the fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. In giving freedom to the slave we assure freedom to the free - honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve."

1913 Woodrow Wilson revived the practice of delivering the annual message in person, giving a dramatic speech calling for tariff reform. Realizing that the oral delivery of the State of the Union and the British tradition were interwoven, Wilson felt the need to divorce the delivered address from its monarchical past. He let it be known that he did not expect a formal response from Congress:

"I am very glad indeed to have this opportunity to address the two Houses directly and to verify for myself the impression that the President of the United States is a person, not a mere department of the Government hailing Congress from some isolated island of jealous power, sending messages, not speaking naturally and with his own voice - that he is a human being trying to cooperate with other human beings in a common service."

1923 Calvin Coolidge was the first President to use radio for a State of the Union address.
1941 With war in Europe, Franklin Roosevelt set forth his famous “four freedoms” in his January 6 State of the Union Message:

"In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression - everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way - everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want. . . everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear. . . anywhere in the world.”

1947 President Harry Truman’s January 6 State of the Union Message was the first to be broadcast by television.
1965 Lyndon Johnson shifted the State of the Union address from midday to evening to attract a larger television audience
1986 On the day of his scheduled State of the Union speech, Ronald Reagan intended to use the news that a schoolteacher had been launched into space as a metaphor for the country's bright future. Instead, the speech was postponed when the space shuttle Challenger, carrying schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe and her crewmates, exploded after launch.


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