tv History of the State of the Union Address CSPAN January 10, 2016 7:46pm-8:01pm EST
endicott, and captain webb. >> you're watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend, on c-span3. to join the conversation like us , on facebook at c-span history. members of the congress, i , thethe great pleasure high privilege and a great honor, of presenting to you the president of the united states. [applause] >> i'm don ritchie. i am the senate historian. state of the union message
is mandated by the constitution, in the words that from time to time, the president of the united states should give a message to congress on the state of the union and recommendations of programs that should be followed.
george washington began that practice of giving a state of the union message to congress when the first congress met. but washington went in person to the congress, went to the senate chamber, and delivered the speech that has a serious of recommendations, relatively -- series of recommendations, relatively short speech. in those days they actually used to cut the state of the union message up into paragraphs and create ad hoc committees to address each one of the issues the president suggested. washington and adams followed that practice. they created this idea that from time to time was an annual message. in fact the years it was known , as the annual message. it didn't become known as the state of the union message until the 1940's. in 1948, there was a hollywood movie called state of the union. that cemented the idea that it
that became the tradition. the constitution is not that specific about what it is. time to time, this needs to be given on the state of the union. in 1913, we had a new president to have been trained as a political scientist. he had a phd in political science. that was woodrow wilson. woodrow wilson written a dissertation about congress and congressional government. one of the things he felt was the american president needed to be more like the british prime minister. he couldn't be separate from the legislative branch. he had to be the chief legislator and chief executive. wilson decided he would go in person to deliver his message. the first was in 1913. it was about the tarriff, not about the state of the union per se. they didn't know what to do with it. they were shocked.
the president was going to speak to them? they decided they would do in the house chamber and invite the senators over. there was a lot of grumbling. if congress had been left on its own, they probably would not have wanted the president to come and do it. the president said he wanted to end the party said ok. he began the tradition of presidents going each year to give their state of the union message. he gave his first state of the union in december of 1913. he continued to do it in person until he was in paris negotiating the end of the first world war. he actually telegraphed his state of the union message back to congress in 1919. then, presidents have followed both patterns. the only who has not given a state of the union message in person was herbert hoover who was not a great public speaker, didn't think much of the occasion and just sent his message out. almost every other president has felt that this is too good an
opportunity to miss, not to go in person, to have the drama of the situation to give an address to congress. >> the president of the united states. [applause] >> this is the point when everybody in congress is sitting there, listening to you. the cabinet is there diplomats , are there. it is a major moment coming together. it is packed with people. the only other occasion is the inauguration. >> i propose we begin a massive attack on crippling and killing diseases. >> i should propose to this congress a $10 billion
nationwide clean waters program to put modern municipal waste treatment plants in every place in america where they are needed to make waters cleaned again and do it now. [applause] >> it does influence the legislative agenda for the year , whether or not congress chooses to follow the president 's suggestions or ignores them, or rewrites them. at least the president has given an outline of what he wants to see. sometimes the president's never got a chance to give their inaugural address. william henry harrison died. james garfield died also, before the first opportunity. they came into office in congress wasn't going to begin march, than until december. in the 19th century, they were almost all given in december. then they moved the beginning of congress to january, and now it is usually in january and
february. there have been some miscues. grover cleveland sent a controversial proposal dealing with the tariff. the chief source of revenue was that, and it was one of those things that divided parties and created great passions. unfortunately for cleveland his party was not united on the issue, and the lost the next election probably because of that division. a lot of people blamed his state of the union message. in most cases, most messages are really a long laundry list of things the president wants to see done. they are not controversial speeches. nor are they particularly inspiring. they are wish lists. when anything is done in congress the galleries are open. , as long as there are galleries, there have been galleries in the senate since 1795. the public can come in.
but of course, there aren't that many seats in the galleries. there is great demand. each gets a single ticket for a spouse or member of the staff, or favorite constituent, somebody to sit in the gallery. the press gallery is packed. the diplomatic gallery is packed. usually the first lady is there with guests of the president. there is not a lot of space in the public. over time, the public has gotten to see this through the media. newspapers covered it in general. in the 19 century you would have read the speech in most newspapers. in the 20th century the beginning in 1930, it was -- 1923, calvin coolidge's message was broadcast on the radio. in 1936, franklin roosevelt
suggested moving the state of the union from the middle of the day when it was traditionally given, to the evening, because it would get a much larger audience on the radio. in the 1940's it was back to during the day, but television came along. harry truman state of the union was covered by television. in lyndon johnson said let's 1965, move the tv show back into the evening so more people can get to see the state of the union message. now it is an evening performance, live tv, major networks are all covering it. he gets a considerable audience that way. and the late 90's, they have been streaming on the internet around the world. in recent years, the two parties has sort of become cheerleading squads for their president. there are moments when clearly something the president says inspires something more than just a partisan reaction. there is a bipartisan reaction.
you can tell what the mood of the congresses going to be. -- congress is to some degree. >> all the world knows that no successful system builds a wall to keep its people than and in, and freedom out. [applause] >> of course, immediately after each speech members of congress , will rush out into statuary hall where there will be dozens of cameras set up for television stations around the country. they will be getting personal reactions immediately. nowadays in the house chamber you can twitter and tweet. some people will be responding instantly. >> mr. speaker, the president, distinguished members of the house and senate, when we met here seven years ago many of us , for the first time, it was with the hope of beginning
something new for america. we meet here tonight in this historic chamber to continue that work. if anyone expects to put proud recitation of the administration, let's leave that to history. we are not finished yet. [applause] >> one thing you cannot do is different than most parliaments, heckling is considered fair sport -- in the u.s. congress, you are to be respectful of the president when he speaks. a few years ago, one member of the house did interrupt the president, and shout out. he was censured by the house of representatives for doing that. that is considered to be unbecoming conduct. >> the reforms would not apply to those here illegally. >> [yelling]
>> the office of the constitution believed in transparency and did require, even though they wrote constitution in secret, they required certain things to be open. not everything. for instance, they don't actually require congress to meet in open session. just from time to time to publish a journal. the same thing is they don't ask the president to give an annual message. they ask him from time to time to deliver a message to the state of the union. i think they would be pleased to see that the president comes pretty much every year to do this. they would be astonished to realize the congressional record is published every day after the proceedings. not only the state of the union message, but the words of every member of the house and senate on the floor of that particular day. that was something they had certainly intended. this was a republic. it was a democratic republic. it was represented by the people.
the people had a right to know what was going on. in that sense even though they , were not all that specific they certainly set goals that , the government has met. >> i can report to you the state of this old but youthful union is good. [applause] >> students around the country are working on c-span's student can documentary contest, telling us they want the issue that the presidential candidates should discuss. through social media, we are following students as they produce videos. this is canterbury, fort wayne eighth-grade students, they were excited to hear ben carson address gun control. another from maryland, principal at eastern middle school studentsthis week, interviewed former attorney
general eric holden for their c-span video project. also, illinois representative was shimkus tweeted, i interviewed by students for their c-span project. the deadline is january 20, 2016, and the winners will be announced march night -- nine. for more information, visit our website, studentcam.org. next,cer: coming up students debate coolidge versus debate,and during the they will discuss the legacies and personalities of both presidents. the audience votes for a winner. the calvin coolidge potential foundation and the new hampshire institute hosted this hour-long event. host: good evening, and welcome. i am the executive director of the calvin coolidge