- State of the Union addresses are annual opportunities for presidents to fill Congress in on how the country is fairing.
- Many State of the Union addresses have come with moments the American people will never forget.
- Former President Harry S. Truman’s speech in 1947 was the first to be broadcast on live television.
Throughout history, presidents have given State of the Union addresses to inform Congress of the state of the country as well as presenting calls to action and promises for the rest of their terms. Some have been powerful, some have been devastating, but many have come with moments the American people will never forget.
Here are some of the most unforgettable moments from State of the Union addresses past.
Parts of Abraham Lincoln’s State of the Union speech were leaked and it prompted an investigation.
Hours after Abraham Lincoln sent his State of the Union address to Congress, the newspaper The New York Herald published a few excerpts from the speech that had been leaked. Readers of the paper got to see parts of the speech before it was formally released.
The leak prompted the House Judiciary Committee to launch an investigation into the cause of the leaks in February 1862.
Former President Harry S. Truman’s speech in 1947 was the first to be broadcast on live television.
On October 5, 1947,Harry S. Truman’s State of the Union address was the first to be broadcast on live TV. At the time, television owners were only in the thousands, so most Americans missed his debut, instead listening to it on the radio.
Nixon called for an end to the Watergate investigation during his State of the Union address in 1974.
In Nixon’s 1974 address, he called for an end to the Watergate investigation, saying, “one year of Watergate is enough.” Then, just seven months later, the Watergate Scandal led Nixon to resign after five and a half years in office.
Former President Reagan invited Lenny Skutnik to the address in 1982, starting a new tradition for State of the Union addresses.
Reagan was the first president to bring a guest to honour at the State of the Union address, which began an annual tradition of recognising everyday American heroes.
Congressional Budget Office employee Lenny Skutnik was honored for saving the life of Priscilla Tirado after an Air Florida plane crashed into the freezing Potomac River. He sat beside the First Lady during the address.
Clinton called for an end to big government during his address in 1996.
In Former President Clinton’s 1996 address, which came after a 27-day government shutdown, he spoke of the need for an end to big government. Later that year, he approved a Republican-sponsored idea for welfare reform.
Networks cut away from Clinton’s State of the Union address in 1997 to air the OJ Simpson verdict.
Clinton’s 1997 address was coming to an end right as the jury was about to deliver the verdict for OJ Simpson’s highly publicized murder trial. Networks cut straight from his address to the Simpson trial before the Republican response to Clinton’s address was aired.
George W. Bush coined “Axis of Evil” in his 2002 address, marking the beginning of the Iraq War.
Soon after the 9/11 attacks, Bush labelled North Korea, Iran and Iraq as an “Axis of Evil,” arguing in favour of what would become the Iraq War.
Justice Samuel Alito shook his head in disagreement during Obama’s 2010 State of the Union address.
As Former President Obama criticised the Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance, the camera cut to Justice Samuel Alito, who quietly mouthed “not true,” according to Politico’s reports.
Former Vice President Joe Biden pointed during Obama’s State of the Union address.
During Obama’s State of the Union address in 2014, many couldn’t help but be distracted by former Vice President Joe Biden’s sudden pointing and laughing behind the president. Many wondered what and who Biden was pointing at during the speech
It instantly became a meme and Biden later explained he was pointing up at a senator who he neglected to name.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fell asleep during Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address.
Justice Ginsburg was caught on camera during Obama’s 2015 address with her head fully bowed, taking a nap.
Later, as per Reuters reports, she explained why her head was down: “The audience, for the most part, is awake, but they’re bobbing up and down all the time. And we sit there as stone-faced, sober judges. But we’re not. At least I wasn’t 100% sober when we went to the State of the Union.”
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