Press/Journalists

Media Alert
January 26, 2005

Special Display Of State Of The Union Addresses For Press Only

WHAT: The only opportunity for the media to see and photograph select pages of the original State of the Union addresses from Presidents Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.
WHEN: Tuesday, February 1, 2005 at 10 am.
WHERE:    "Washington Room," National Archives Building, 700 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Media should use Pennsylvania Avenue entrance between 7th and 9th Streets NW.
WHO: Jessie Kratz, an archives specialist in Legislative Records at the National Archives, will give a brief overview and history of the addresses on display and explain some of the documents in detail.

PLEASE NOTE: NO ARTIFICIAL LIGHT MAY BE USED ON THE DOCUMENTS.

Background: The Constitution requires 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." (Article II, Section 3, Clause 1). Presidents George Washington and John Adams personally appeared before a joint session and read their addresses to the House and Senate. All Presidents from Thomas Jefferson to Woodrow Wilson sent only written annual messages to the House and Senate. In 1913 President Wilson broke with that tradition by delivering a speech on the tariff to a joint session of Congress. Since then nearly every President has appeared before Congress to deliver the annual message in person. The constitutionally-mandated Presidential address has gone through a few name changes. From 1790 to 1934 it was formally called the "Annual Message." Franklin Roosevelt began using the phrase "State of the Union" in 1935, which became the common name of the President's annual message. Technological changes (radio, TV and the Internet) have transformed the President’s annual message, giving the President the opportunity to communicate with Congress and the American people, as well.

On Special Display:

Thomas Jefferson’s First Annual Message, 1801
President Thomas Jefferson delivered his first annual message to Congress in writing via a messenger on December 8, 1801. Jefferson believed that the act of the President speaking in person before Congress was time consuming and monarchical, too closely resembling British royal practices. Jefferson’s precedent of submitting the annual message in writing lasted through the next 24 presidents until 1913, when Woodrow Wilson personally delivered his address to Congress.

Abraham Lincoln’s Second Address to Congress, 1862
The Union lay in shambles when President Lincoln delivered his December 1, 1862 Annual Message to Congress. He compared the war and struggle for freedom to a "fiery trial through which we pass. . . . In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free–honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best, hope of earth."

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s State of the Union Address, 1941
President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s State of the Union message in 1941 is known as his "Four Freedoms" Speech. When President Roosevelt stood before Congress to deliver this State of the Union message, war was raging around much of the globe and Nazi Germany’s power was growing. To galvanize the American people into action, Roosevelt reached back to the same concepts of liberty that had inspired the nation's Founders throughout the years of the American Revolution. In this speech – later immortalized by Norman Rockwell -- Roosevelt internationalized the notion of individual freedoms and, with his own powerful, repetitive rhetoric, set forth a vision in which four essential freedoms were extended throughout the world (the pages from Roosevelt’s seventh draft of this address that contain the "four freedoms" message are on display in the National Archives Rotunda in an exhibit entitled "A New World is at Hand").

John F. Kennedy’s State of the Union Address, 1961
In his first State of the Union Address on January 30, 1961, President Kennedy invited all nations to join in a collective space race: "I now invite all nations — including the Soviet Union — to join with us in developing a weather prediction program, in a new communications satellite program and in preparation for probing the distant planets of Mars and Venus, probes which may someday unlock the deepest secrets of the universe."

Ronald Reagan’s State of the Union Address, 1982
Ronald Reagan’s first State of the Union Address, January 26, 1982, lays out his domestic and foreign policies. The opening and closing pages of the speech demonstrate the gift that made him known as "The Great Communicator." Reflected in this speech is his abiding faith in the American people and their ability to achieve what he calls the "oldest hopes of our Republic—prosperity for our Nation, peace for the world, and the blessings of individual liberty for our children and, someday, for all of humanity." He also quoted from President Lincoln's fiery trial message, saying "We cannot escape history...We of this Congress and this administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves." The "trial through which we pass will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest [last] generation."

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For press information please contact the National Archives Public Affairs Staff at (202) 501-5526.

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