In brief remarks -- barely over 1,000 words -- President
The annual event, which has morphed into an hourlong nationally televised affair that includes pageantry and rebuttals, stems from a simple requirement in the Constitution.
"He shall from time to time give to 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 reads.
Since Washington started the tradition, the speech has undergone several changes. For one thing, its delivery went from spoken to written after Thomas Jefferson was elected president in 1800. In 1913, the speech returned to the spoken word and since then has largely stayed that way.
Each year, the president delivers remarks in the House chamber packed with members of both houses of Congress, Supreme Court justices, the