The annual State of the Union speech isn’t just stagecraft: the message is mandated by the U.S. Constitution (trivia alert: Article II, Section 3). It’s intended to give Congress a status update on the country and make recommendations where needed, but the tradition has evolved over time.
The history of the address is rich, even if the individual speeches sometimes seem fleeting and forgettable.
Who was the first person to deliver this presidential memo? (George Washington.)
Has every president delivered one? (No. William Henry Harrison and James Garfield never did. Each died prematurely, from illness and assassination, respectively.)
Are they always presented orally? (Nope. For over a century, a written document was submitted to Congress.)
Here are some of the top moments in State of the Union history.