FEBRUARY 12: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech before a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol February 12, 2013 in Washington, DC. Facing a divided Congress, Obama concentrated his speech on new initiatives designed to stimulate the U.S. economy and said, 'It�s not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth'. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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I bet you didn’t know that, Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution clearly 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."

It doesn’t say anything about how the “Information of the State of the Union” will be more boring than watching paint dry.

Here are a few more things you might not know about this time-honored tradition.

Fun Facts About the State of the Union

  • It took a while before the “State of the Union Address” (SOTU) was actually called that. More on that in a minute.
  • The first two presidents, George Washington and John Adams did give their SOTU addresses in oratory form but it was good ole Thomas Jefferson who began putting them in written form. And presidents have been doing it ever since.
  • It wasn’t until Woodrow Wilson came along that speeches were back in vogue. He did the first one in December 1913. Six of his eight were spoken in person, the other two he wrote out. Tired perhaps.
  • Warren Harding spoke his both of his.
  • Calvin “Silent Cal” Coolidge lived up to his nickname. Five of his six were in written form.
  • Herbert Hoover wrote four as well.
  • None other than FDR delivered the first speech actually called the “State of the Union” before Congress in 1934. But the name did not find its way into common usage until 1947.
  • Three Media Darlings – Calvin Coolidge did the first radio address in 1923, Harry Truman the first TV version in 1947, and George W. Bush did the first webcast in 2002.
  • The long and short of it. Jimmy Carter gave the longest written address, at least in number of words, spouting 33, 667 of them. Clinton holds the record for verbal discourse at 9,190 words.  The shortest by our first president, George Washington, in 1790, at a very skimpy 1,089 words. I guess they hadn’t had time to really screw things up yet.
  • Lyndon Johnson was the first “ready for prime time” presenter of the SOTU on prime time TV in 1965. In 1966 the Republicans came up with the bright idea of how to make a boring evening even more boring so they decided a rebuttal would be a swell idea.

Some Final Thoughts

Most of you who might be reading this probably had better things to do last Tuesday. If I didn’t have to watch it for radio I would probably have been doing something much more entertaining — perhaps watching melting snow or a soccer game.

Is C-SPAN still on?

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