West Wing Continuity Guide
path: Home / #35 "Bartlet's Third State of the Union" * State of the Union Addresses

If this is Bartlet's Third January 20th in office, is it his third State of the Union?
This being an inauguration year and Bush not scheduling a State of the Union, we have received several emails saying that Bartlet wouldn't have given a State of the Union the year he took office and that therefore, this would only be his second such address.

Many Presidents say what they want about the state of the union in their first inauguration speech and don't feel they want or need to give another such speech to the congress immediately. That does not mean that a President can't also give a state of the union address immediately after inauguation. Bush is not doing so this year but John MacDonald reminds us that Clinton gave one on February 17, right after his first inauguration and he send us a link to the speech with that date.

Additional information has been supplied by Lynn Jepsen, who works for a state senator and the state democratic party, and when the legislature is out of session teaches a night class in political science. She writes:

"There's definitely a history of new Presidents addressing Congress. Jefferson was the first to give a State of the Union immediately after coming to office. In April of 1801, he sent a letter to Congress, which was the traditional method of addressing Congress through a number of early administrations. The tradition of a verbal State of the Union did not become popular until Woodrow Wilson addressed Congress in 1913 immediately after taking office to present his State of the Union. In recent history, there have been a number of Presidents, such as Johnson and Ford, who were of course, not in a position to present a State of the Union immediately after coming to office. Carter, Reagan, and Bush did not give their State of the Unions until their second year in office because Ford, Carter, and Reagan chose to deliver the address before their successors came to office. . . .

"I can refer you to ABCNEWS.com: History of State of the Union Addresses for a brief history of the State of the Union. . . .

"As a result of George Bush's decision not to deliver a State of the Union, this will be the first time in close to fifty years, that a State of the Union has not been presented to Congress."

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