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State of the Union For Kids - History

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State of the Union For Kids

Historical Facts

What is the State of the Union Message?

*red star* The State of the Union Message is a message from the President to Congress, usually given once a year in January or February.   In the message, the President talks about important issues facing Americans and offers his ideas on solving the nation's problems, including suggestions for new laws and policies.

Why is it Necessary?

*white star* The Constitution of the United States requires that the President give Congress a State of the Union message from time to time on the condition of the country.   Some Presidents delivered their message in writing — others have given a speech.   This year, President Clinton will deliver his State of the Union Message on Thursday, January 27 at 9:00 p.m.

How Does It Work?

On State of the Union night, members of the House of Representatives and the Senate gather together in the House chamber, along with the Speaker of the House and the Vice President (who is also President of the Senate). The Speaker and the Vice President sit on the dais, a raised platform directly behind where the President speaks. When the President arrives, he is escorted to the chamber by members of both the House and the Senate. The arrival of the President is announced by the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Representatives. The Speaker then introduces the President, who delivers his speech to the Congress.

*blue star* In custom, one member of the President's Cabinet does not attend the State of the Union address. This way, if a catastrophe should happen that harms the President, the Vice President, and the other members of the Cabinet who are attending, the Cabinet Secretary who did not attend could then take over the duties of the President.

The President usually invites several American citizens to the House chamber for his State of the Union message. These citizens have been invited because they have done something extraordinary. During his speech, the President introduces them and honors them for their achievements.

After the State of the Union message, there is an "opposition response." This gives the opposing political party a chance to express their views on what the President said. Usually, they will offer suggestions different from the President's on how to improve America.

Fun Facts on State of the Union Messages

* The first State of the Union message was given by George Washington in 1790.   It was also the shortest message (833 words).
* The longest State of the Union Message was given in 1946 by President Harry Truman.   It was over 25,000 words long!
* President Franklin Roosevelt gave 12 State of the Union Messages – more than any other President.
* President Calvin Coolidge was the first President to give a State of the Union Message over the radio (1923).
* President Harry Truman was the first President to give his State of the Union Message on television (1947).

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