Tonight President Donald J. Trump will give the 2020 State of the Union Address before a joint session of Congress that will air at 9 PM EST and will be broadcast on CBS. The formal basis for the State of the Union Address is from the U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 3, Clause 1:
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.”
George Washington delivered the first address Congress on January 8, 1790, setting an important precedent for not only future presidents, but also for how to implement and interpret the Constitution, and define the roles of the different branches of government. From 1790 to 1946, it was formally known as the Annual Message. It began to be informally called the “state of the Union” message/address from 1942 to 1946, and since 1947 it has officially been known as the State of the Union Address.
From 1801-1912 the address was given as a lengthy letter or report that was then given to the new session of congress. Since 1933, it became the standard to deliver the address in the form of a speech. Because of the evolution of broadcast television and other streaming services, the State of the Union address has shifted from Congress being the primary audience to the entire nation.
First radio broadcast of Message: President Calvin Coolidge, 1923.
First television broadcast of Message: President Harry Truman, 1947.
First live webcast on Internet: President George W. Bush, 2002.
First high definition television broadcast of Message, President George W. Bush, 2004.
This year’s State of the Union is historic because it is only the second time in history in which a presidential impeachment trial will be taking place at the same time. The only other time that this has happened was during the Clinton impeachment, in which the president did not mention the trial during his address to Congress. Because the Senate is scheduled to hold the final verdict of their trial on the day following the 2020 SOTU, it will be interesting to see whether or not the president mentions the trial during his address. Because the Iowa Democratic Caucus has also yet to release their official results, it could play into news coverage of the SOTU.
Because President Trump is running for a second term this year, he is likely to include a campaign pitch to his audience by checking in on his past promises, while laying out what he expects to do in the future on the economy, the southern border, and the new US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement that replaces Clinton’s NAFTA. President Trump will most likely attribute his actions as some sort of great American comeback that will propel him into the 2020 election cycle.
Michigan Governor Gretchen will deliver the Democratic response to President Trump’s State of the Union address.
How you can participate.
Watch: CBS will be hosting a free live stream of the address that can be accessed on any internet streaming device. There will also be many new sites such as the New York Times, Fox News, MSNBC news, and many more that will be offering live coverage on their websites during and after the event to discuss what the president says and what it will mean for the country. It is also sometimes helpful to join in on discussions being posted on Twitter and other social media sites that will be giving live updates on the program. It is important for college students and young people across the country to participate and stay educated about such events because they will help inform our decisions about who we want to vote for in the upcoming primaries as well as in the general election.
Discuss: If you’re watching with friends or roommates, here are some ideas to spark discussion.
- What made President Trump’s SOTU or the Democratic Response successful or memorable? (Was it the content, style of delivery, tone or coherence, e.g.?)
- What made President Trump’s SOTU or the Democratic Response convincing?
- How does the SOTU and response matter?
- Do you agree with the assessments of journalists and political commentators about the SOTU and response? Would you change your evaluation of the speech after listening to the professional commentators?
Want a more in-depth history of the SOTU? Read this newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service: History, Evolution, and Practices of the President’s State of the Union Address: Frequently Asked Questions