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State of the Union: Famous quotes by past presidents

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The State of the Union is one of the most important speeches that the U.S. president will present each year. It is one of the few times that the president will address a joint session (both House and Senate) of Congress. More importantly, it will address all political parties, dominated by the Democrats and Republicans, to present the President’s agenda for coming the year.

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This address is mandated by Article II, section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, which states 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 [.]”

So, the Constitution requires that the President (Executive) state his or her agenda and policy priorities to the Congress. Notice that there is no requirement that the address be made orally. Thomas Jefferson, who made the first State of the Union Address in 1801, presented his agenda in written form to prevent any appearance of a grand monarchy.

This tradition continued until 1913, when President Woodrow Wilson presented the address as a speech to make the presidency seem more vibrant and alive to the people. His tradition continues to this day.

The following list contains memorable quotes from State of the Union addresses given by past presidents. Each quote has a recognizable historical context or significance and can remind all Americans of the struggles, controversies, and triumphs that this nation has endured. Read on!



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