State of the Union: A Historical Timeline

For those preparing to settle in for President Donald Trump's delayed State of the Union (SOTU) address Tuesday night (Feb. 5) at 9 p.m. ET, the Congressional Research Service has compiled some fun facts on SOTU, including figures on how technology has affected the address.

In what sounds fairly informal for a constitution, The Constitution mandates 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." The President has made it clear that one of those recommendations, which could come in the form of an executive order, is to build The Wall.

While it has been delivered in written form in the past, and the timing has varied, since the advent of electronic media it has morphed into a multi-pronged opportunity, says CRS—"a report to Congress"; "a direct address to the American people"; and "a platform from which the President announced, explained, and promoted his legislative agenda for the coming year."

Related: Trump Issues SOTU Survey Slamming Press

Here is the "new tech" version of the speech by the numbers:

1923: Calvin Coolidge delivered the first SOTU on radio.

1947: Harry Truman was the first to give a televised SOTU.

1965: Lyndon Johnson changed the traditional midafternoon speech to primetime to draw a bigger TV audience.

1993: The year President Clinton drew the biggest TV audience to date.

66.9 million: The number of viewers Clinton's speech drew.

2002: George W. Bush speech was the first to be live-streamed by the White House.

2016: President Barack Obama's address draws the fewest viewers in recent times.

31.3 million: The number of viewers Obama's speech drew.

2018: President Trump's speech generated more tweets than any other.

5.4 million: The number of tweets Trump's 2018 speech generated.

If Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) has her way, President Trump won't be breaking any ratings records tonight. Waters said Tuesday that the President is a liar who is "is not worthy of being listened to" and advised the public to turn off the TV rather than watch him.

Tonight's address, which was postponed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi due to the shutdown, is only the second SOTU to have been delayed. The President must be extended an invitation to speak. The first was by Ronald Reagan, who delayed his address a week because it had been scheduled the same night (Jan. 28) as the Challenger shuttle explosion, which took the lives of seven. The President made rhetorical history anyway with an alternative televised speech about the tragedy, a brief speech that closed with the memorable line: "We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God.'"

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.