February 24th, 2009
07:14 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama address: A prime spot in prime-time

(CNN) – It isn’t President Obama’s first stint in the prime-time spotlight — his White House press conference to push for the stimulus came during the evening hours - but the nation’s chief executive will have the national stage to himself tonight.

The State of the Union address wasn’t always a prime-time event. Which president moved the speech from midday to the evening?

Answer after the jump
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Filed under: Obama address
February 24th, 2009
07:13 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama address: The first broadcasts

Millions will watch President Obama on tv Tuesday night.  Find out when the State of the Union address was first televised.
Millions will watch President Obama on tv Tuesday night. Find out when the State of the Union address was first televised.

(CNN) – On television (and on the Internet), millions of Americans will watch President Obama’s speech Tuesday night.

The practice of broadcasting presidential addresses to Congress goes back decades. How far back?

Answers after the jump

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Filed under: Obama address
February 24th, 2009
05:45 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama address: A singular distinction

(CNN) – Since it became tradition for the president to deliver the annual message to Congress in person, who is the only president to deliver the State of the Union in writing?

Answer after the jump

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Filed under: Obama address
February 24th, 2009
04:49 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama address: The logistics

As president of the Senate, Vice President Biden will sit behind President Obama at his first State of the Union address next year.
As president of the Senate, Vice President Biden will sit behind President Obama at his first State of the Union address next year.

(CNN) – A number of traditions govern the logistics of a presidential address to a joint session of Congress.

State of the Union addresses or annual messages are delivered in the chamber of the House of Representatives before members of both the House and Senate, as well as the justices of the Supreme Court, the president's cabinet, and international dignitaries.

The president is escorted into the House chamber by House and Senate leaders. The arrival of the president is announced by the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Representatives. The Speaker of the House then introduces the president.

The top member of each chamber of Congress - the president of the U.S. Senate (the vice president) and the House Speaker – are seated behind the president during the addresses before a joint session. If there is no vice president, or if the vice president does not attend, the president pro tempore of the Senate sits in the vice president's seat.


Filed under: Obama address
February 24th, 2009
03:45 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama address: The record for most addresses to Congress

(CNN) – It would be a tall order for President Obama to set any records in addressing Congress.

Who would the new president have to best to take that spot in the history books?

Answer after the jump

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Filed under: Obama address
February 24th, 2009
03:32 PM ET
5 years ago

Three guests in first lady box revealed

 Then-first lady Laura Bush stands with her guests before the 2004 State of the Union address.
Then-first lady Laura Bush stands with her guests before the 2004 State of the Union address.

(CNN) - The White House announced Monday three of what may be at least two dozen guests in the first lady's box at President Barack Obama's address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night.

The guests include an eighth-grader who wrote a letter to congressmen appealing for help in rebuilding her deteriorating school, a Miami banker who gave away $60 million of his own money to his employees, and a Miami-area bank teller.

Ty'Sheoma Bethea, an eighth-grader at the J.V. Martin Junior High School in Dillon, South Carolina, received the prized invite after a letter she wrote to lawmakers appealing for help rebuilding her school made its way to President Obama.

Obama referenced the school during his first press conference earlier this month as evidence of crumbling schools across the country.

The White House said Leonard Abess Jr., the banker who gave away $60 million of proceeds he received over the sale of shares of City National Bank in Florida, demonstrates the kind of "responsibility" the president has called for from high-profile financial CEOs.

Geneva Lawson, a 51-year-old bank teller who benefited from Abess' generosity, will also sit with the first lady. According to the Miami Herald, she has worked as a collection teller, payroll teller, savings teller, print shop clerk, and proof/bookkeeping clerk.

The practice of inviting guests to sit in the House Gallery is a tradition dating back to 1982 when president Ronald Reagan recognized Lenny Skutnick - a good Samaritan who pulled a survivor out of the frozen Potomac River in Washington, DC after an Air Florida plane crashed into the 14th Street Bridge.

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Filed under: Obama address
February 24th, 2009
03:15 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama address: 220 and counting

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(CNN) – President Obama’s speech Tuesday night will mark the 220th annual message from a U.S. president to Congress.

The vast majority of these presidential messages were not delivered in person as a speech to lawmakers. Although Presidents George Washington and John Adams delivered the annual message as speeches, Thomas Jefferson ended the tradition — the nation’s third chief executive said it was too similar to the British practice of the king addressing parliament. The annual message was delivered in written form until 1913, when Woodrow Wilson resumed delivering the message as a speech before Congress.

Obama’s address Tuesday will mark the 76th time a U.S. president has relayed his message to legislators by speaking in person.


Filed under: Obama address • President Obama
February 24th, 2009
03:00 PM ET
3 years ago

Obama address: SCOTUS in the House

Court attendance has improved since Chief Justice John Roberts was sworn-in in September 2005.
Court attendance has improved since Chief Justice John Roberts was sworn-in in September 2005.

WASHINGTON (CNN) –- Some of the best seats in the House of Representatives chamber at President Obama’s first address to Congress Tuesday night will be reserved for members of the Supreme Court. But despite being guaranteed front-row center seats, the jurists frequently decide to skip the event entirely.

Attendance at presidential annual messages by the nine-member Supreme Court has not exceeded six since at least 1995. At each address from 2000 through 2008, there were fewer justices in attendance than the five required to pass a majority opinion on the high court.

Court attendance has improved since Chief Justice John Roberts was sworn-in in September 2005. Four justices were in attendance for each address delivered from 2006 through 2008. Among those was Justice Samuel Alito, who attended his first address as a member of the Supreme Court in 2006, just hours after winning Senate confirmation.

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Filed under: John Roberts • Obama address • President Obama • Supreme Court
February 24th, 2009
02:45 PM ET
5 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.


Filed under: Obama address • President Obama
February 24th, 2009
02:30 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama address: Obama to make history with speech

As the country's first African-American president, Obama will also become the first African-American to address a joint session of Congress.
As the country's first African-American president, Obama will also become the first African-American to address a joint session of Congress.

(CNN) – President Obama will become the first African American in history to address a joint session of Congress Tuesday night.

Although a number of prominent black officials from around the globe, including Nelson Mandela in 1990 and 1994 and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2006, have addressed Congress in the past, no African American has ever been tapped to address both houses of Congress from the chamber of the House of Representatives, as Obama will do Tuesday.

Technically, only U.S. Presidents can deliver a solo address before a joint session, which is an actual working session of Congress, whereas prominent Americans and foreign heads of state are invited to address joint meetings, which are less formal gatherings.


Filed under: Obama address • President Obama
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