The State of the Union Address

Dear Educators,

The Education and Public Programs Team at the Nixon Library is pleased to remind you that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) continues to be an excellent source for entertaining and historical content! Simply follow the links below for additional information.

The State of the Union Address


“Mr. Speaker: the President of the United States!”  House Doorkeeper William Miller, 1972


President Richard Nixon Delivering the 1971 State of the Union Address. NAID 16920526

The State of the Union Address (SOTU) is an annual message given by the President to a convened U.S. Congress regarding the current condition of the Nation. It is also an opportunity for the President to address significant issues facing the country and possible legislative and policy ideas to solve them. The message is delivered early in the calendar year, usually in January or February. Formally known as the Annual Message from 1790 to 1946, it officially became known as the State of the Union Address in 1947. 


The Constitution of the United States. NAID 1667751

The basis for the SOTU lies within Article II, Section 3, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution. It states that 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 shall judge necessary and expedient.”


The SOTU's methods of delivery changed as technology evolved. In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge delivered the first radio broadcast of the SOTU. President Harry Truman delivered the first televised address in 1947, and President George W. Bush delivered his speech in the first live webcast via the Internet in 2002. 


“Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, my colleagues in the Congress, our distinguished guests and my fellow Americans…”  President Richard Nixon, January 20, 1972


January 20th marked the 50th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s 1972 State of the Union address. In one of the shortest addresses on record, he calls for political unity in a divided government, emphasizes an appeal to American ideals and values, and calls for Congressional action on legislation such as Welfare Reform. 

72 SOTU read file 23_ConstantContacts.jpg


72 SOTU read file 24_ConstantContacts.jpg

Excerpts from President Nixon’s Reading Copy, State of the Union, 1972 Address. 
Speech; The President's Reading Copy State of the Union; 20 January 1972; folder: Thursday, January 20, 1972, State of the Union, I, Reading Copy and Tape [Audiovisual Withdrawn] Memoranda to the President; Box 70; White House Special Files: Staff Member and Office Files: President's Personal Files; Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, Yorba Linda, California.

Using DocsTeach, the National Archives’ online tool for teaching activities, we invite you and your students to better understand the three branches of government and their interaction with each other through this exercise in historical analysis and interpretation.

Please feel free to contact us at if you have any questions.

Stayed tuned for regular updates from the Nixon Library Education and Public Programs Team.


The Nixon Library Education and Public Programs Team