February 24th, 2009
02:45 PM ET
6 years ago

Obama address: 'Annual message' evolved from British ritual

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The president's annual message to Congress evolved from the British tradition of the monarch addressing Parliament.
The president's annual message to Congress evolved from the British tradition of the monarch addressing Parliament.

(CNN) – The concept of State of the Union addresses and annual presidential messages to Congress has its roots in the British monarchy.

Under that system, the king or queen delivers a speech from the throne at the opening session of Parliament. The founding fathers modified and adopted the practice for use in the United States.

George Washington delivered the first “annual message” to Congress in 1790 at Federal Hall in New York. John Adams continued the practice. However, Thomas Jefferson ended the practice of delivering the speech in person in 1801, saying that the elaborate ceremony, complete with a “president’s throne,” too closely resembled a king addressing his subjects. He instead opted for a written message.

Woodrow Wilson resumed the practice of delivering the message as a speech before Congress in 1913. Franklin Roosevelt’s annual message to Congress in 1941 was the first to be referred to as a “State of the Union” address.


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