A History of Memorable State of the Union Addresses

As America awaits President Obama's State of the Union Address tonight, here is a look at the history of some of the most memorable SOTU speeches in America's history. It begins with Article II Section 3 of the United States Constitution which states, "He shall from time to time give Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." 

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    Obama

    President Obama's 2011 State of the Union address on Monday is expected to focus on jobs, innovation and cooperation. In his 2010 address, President Obama spoke about the recession, saying, "People are out of work. They're hurting. They need our help. And I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay." His closing remarks included, "A new decade stretches before us. We don't quit. I don't quit. Let's seize this moment to start anew, to carry the dream forward, and to strengthen our union once more.
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    GeorgeBush

    In 2002 President George W. Bush addressed the nation with statements about freedom. He began with, “All nations should know America will do what is necessary to ensure our nation’s security.” His closing remarks included, “Steadfast in our purpose we now press on. We have known freedom’s price. We have shown freedom’s power. And in this great conflict, my fellow Americans, we will see freedom’s victory.”
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    BillClinton

    The 1998 State of the Union Address by President Bill Clinton was highly anticipated by the public, as it was in the midst of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Clinton went on to announce that federal budget surpluses should be used for Social Security purposes and the need to pursue a strong national community, as well as ways the nation should begin to prepare for the new millennium. 
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    GeorgeHWBush

    In President George H.W. Bush's 1992 State of the Union address, he told the nation that "Communism died this year." He then went on to declare that, "By the grace of God, America won the Cold War." 
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    JohnFKennedy

    On January 20, 1961, President John F. Kennedy addressed the nation in his Inaugural Address and said what some consider his most famous statement, "And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world; ask not what America will do for you, but what we can do for the freedom of man." 
    AP1961
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    DwightEisenhower

    In 1953 President Dwight D. Eisenhower said the most important order of business was, "the elimination of the annual deficit." He went on in each of his four State of the Union addresses in his first term to mention the "captive peoples," behind the Iron Curtain. 
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    HarryTruman

    In 1947, President Harry Truman gave the first televised State of the Union Address. He wore semiformal morning dress with a turned-up collar. In 1947 Republicans were calling for a repeal of the wartime excise tax, but Truman opposed the move saying he wanted to keep America strong. 
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    FranklinRoosevelt

    In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt spoke about four essential human freedoms that people "anywhere in the world" should enjoy. The freedoms he held above others were, "freedom of speech and expression," "every person to worship God in his own way," "freedom from want" and "freedom from fear." 
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    WoodrowWilson

    In 1913 President Woodrow Wilson broke protocol and orally delivered his State of the Union address to Congress. He labeled the United States, "champions of constitutional government," and called on General Huerta to step down in Mexico, and specifically addressed miners, farmers and the importance of railroads. 
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    GroverCleveland

    In 1888, President Grover Cleveland warned about the discovery of trusts, combinations and monopolies. Specifically he wrote, "corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people, are fast becoming the people's masters." His address also included suggestions made by the commissioners of the District of Columbia, among those were, liquor licenses, observing Sunday, proper assessment and collection of taxes and speedy punishment of minor offenders. 
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    Monroe

    In 1823 President James Monroe wrote to Congress to warn European powers against intervention in the affairs of North and South America. This is now known as the Monroe Doctrine. He also wrote of proposed legislation that would permit trade with the British colonies in the West Indies, and measures to boost the U.S. Navy. 
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    ThomasJefferson

    From the time of Thomas Jefferson's presidency in 1801, until the end of William Taft's presidency in 1912, the State of the Union was delivered in the form of a written letter to Congress. 
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    GeorgeWashington

    George Washington established that the phrase "from time to time" in the Constitution meant once per year. Modern State of the Union addresses usually extend to more than an hour. It is speculated that had George Washington delivered his address orally, as opposed to in a letter, it would not have exceeded 10 minutes. 
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