As President Obama delivers his State of the Union Address this Tuesday, January 20, it is a good time to remember something about how the State of the Union Address came to be. It is derived from a constitutional requirement found in Article 2, Section 3, Clause 1:

He [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 [the President] shall judge necessary and expedient. [1]

Interestingly, only since 1947 has this address been officially called the State of the Union. [2] Across the years, its general form has varied greatly, with some addresses being delivered orally and some in written form.

The short video below reviews some highlights of the two-century-old history of the State of the Union Address, focusing particularly on the one delivered in 1942 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. You will find this earlier one to be a marked contrast both in spirit and tone to the one delivered by President Obama this year. Enjoy!


*See some of the government-issued posters mentioned in this video here.

[1] Charters of Freedom, “Constitution of the United States,” National Archives and Records Administration (accessed January 19, 2015).


[2]State of the Union Address,” United States House of Representatives: History, Art, & Archives, (accessed January 19, 2015).