Silent Calvin Coolidge delivered the first State of the Union (though it was called an annual report until 1934 when FDR called it a “State of the Union” speech) that was broadcast over the radio, in 1923. Harry Truman’s 1947 speech was the first broadcast on television. George W. Bush’s 2002 address (“axis of evil”) was the first livecast from the House’s website.

Over the years, several black speakers from other countries have addressed a joint meeting of Congress. Among the notable examples are Nelson Mandela in 1990 and 1994 and Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2006.

Until the 1960s, these speeches were delivered around midday. It was Lyndon Johnson who first thought to take advantage of a larger prime time audience, in 1966. That in turn prompted Republicans to ask for chance to respond, starting the tradition of opposition party responses. That first was delivered by House Republican Leader Gerry Ford, who would eventually give his own State of the Union speeches.

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Knowing Your Government: What You Should Know About The State Of The Union Address  was originally published on

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