Top 5 Things to Know About the State of the Union

February 8, 2013

On Feb. 12, the president will address Congress in the first State of the Union address of his second term. Here are the top 5 things to know about the State of the Union address:


1. What is the State of the Union address?

The State of the Union address is a speech delivered to Congress every year. According to Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, the President is given the opportunity to “from time to time give to the Congress Information” that dictates his administration’s policies and priorities for the upcoming year. While the law does not require a specific time or date, presidents typically address Congress in late January or early February.


2. When was the first State of the Union?

The first State of the Union address was given by George Washington on January 8, 1790. Delivered to a joint session of Congress, it was the shortest address given by any president, coming in at just over a thousand words.


3. Was it always called the “State of the Union Address”?

Originally, the State of the Union address was titled the “Annual Message to Congress.” A few years later, Thomas Jefferson began sending separate letters to Congress by the same title. It was not until 1913, that Woodrow Wilson restarted the tradition of delivering a speech, and in 1934 that FDR coined the official phrase “The State of the Union.”


4. What were some of the issues discussed in the last address?

In President Obama’s previous State of the Union address, he discussed a variety of economic proposals as the U.S. economy continued to recover from a recession. He encouraged Congress to follow the “Buffet Rule,” a 30 percent income tax rate applied to households earning an income of more than $1 million a year. He made direct calls for the extension of the mandatory school attendance age and stated “all students must remain in high school until they graduate or turn 18.” Finally, he urged the country for comprehensive immigration reform, which is expected to be included this year’s address.


5. How can we expect this year’s address to different?

At the recent House Democratic Issues Conference meeting, President Obama outlined several priorities for his second term, including job creation, education and America’s energy agenda.  Here is what the president said about his priorities:

“I’m going to be talking about making sure that we’re focused on job creation here in the United States of America. It means that we’re focused on education and that every young person is equipped with the skills they need to compete in the 21st century.  It means that we’ve got an energy agenda that can make us less dependent on foreign oil, but also that we’re cultivating the kind of clean energy strategy that will maintain our leadership well into the future.” Obama added, “It means that we’re going to talk about, yes, deficits and taxes and sequesters and potential government shutdowns and debt ceiling….” 

Perhaps the most important part of the State of the Union will be how President Obama “proposes to capitalize on his reelection and where he intends to invest most of his energy.”  Let’s hope that involves getting federal government spending under control.

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