CNN’s State of the Union quiz: How well do you know the history of the yearly presidential address?

By Paul LeBlanc, CNN

Published February 6, 2023

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Which president delivered the first televised State of the Union speech?

Truman’s 1947 address was the first to be televised. Eighteen years later, Lyndon B. Johnson would begin the tradition of delivering the address in prime time.

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In which State of the Union address did President Franklin D. Roosevelt present his “Four Freedoms”?

Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union speech famously outlined four of the nation’s goals during World War II: “The freedom of speech, the freedom of worship, the freedom from want and the freedom from fear.”

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What event led to the first postponement of a State of the Union address?

The explosion of NASA’s Challenger shuttle on January 28, 1986, killed all seven crew members onboard and shook the American public. President Ronald Reagan had been scheduled to deliver his State of the Union address the evening of the disaster, but he decided to postpone the speech.

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In what year was the State of the Union webcast live on the internet for the first time?

President George W. Bush’s 2002 State of the Union address was the first to be livestreamed on the internet. Bush famously used the speech to brand North Korea, Iran and Iraq the “axis of evil.”

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Which president was first to call his annual speech to Congress a “State of the Union” address?

Roosevelt was the first president to refer to the annual address to Congress as the “State of the Union.” That name didn’t become official, though, until 1947 under Truman.

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Which president has delivered the shortest State of the Union address to date?

Washington‘s 1790 address was only 833 words and is believed to have lasted less than 10 minutes.

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Which topic did President Joe Biden spend the most time on in his 2022 State of the Union address?

Biden spent 25 minutes of his 2022 State of the Union address discussing the economy. By comparison, the president spent 12 minutes on Ukraine, 11 minutes on his unity agenda and seven minutes on the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Which pair of presidents never delivered State of the Union addresses?

Both Harrison and Garfield died in office before they had a chance to deliver a State of the Union address. Harrison died from disease, while Garfield was assassinated.

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In what decade was the “designated survivor” role introduced?

Every year, the administration appoints one member of the Cabinet to remain outside the House chamber during the State of the Union in case disaster strikes. This role of designated survivor began during the Cold War in the 1960s alongside concerns of a nuclear attack. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo served as the designated survivor last year.

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In what year did the response to the State of the Union start?

The practice of a rebuttal speech to the State of the Union began in 1966. When the president is a Republican, the response is given by a Democrat, and vice versa.

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