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Weekly Column

An Annual Message

While the State of the Union is certainly one of the greatest American ceremonies, it is much more than a production that takes place each year. Indeed, the gathering adds record to our history, affirming our founding principles and demonstrating our striving still toward a more perfect union.

The president rendering an annual message is called for in the Constitution. In fact, it fulfills the requirement in Article II, Section 3 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.” The first State of the Union address was delivered by George Washington in 1790. When Thomas Jefferson became our third president, he chose to provide a written message rather than an in-person address. Other presidents followed Jefferson’s example of sending a letter. But in 1913, Woodrow Wilson restored the speech format. Now for more than a century, presidents of both political parties have participated in this constitutional exercise by traveling to the U.S. Capitol and delivering an address in the House chamber.


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