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State of the Union 2011

"The President 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, Sec. 3, U.S. Constitution

The Speech

In 1790 George Washington delivered the first "Annual Message" to Congress. Now, over 220 years later, the tradition continues. President Barack Obama gave the annual State of the Union address to Congress and the American people on January 25, 2011.

In a press release, the White House gave the following overview of this year's address: "In his State of the Union, President Obama spoke of the need to maintain America’s leadership in a rapidly changing world so that our economy is competitive – growing and working for all Americans. To do so, he is putting forward a plan to help the United States win the future by out-innovating, out-educating, and out-building our global competition. At the same time, the President understands the need to reform the way our government does business and take responsibility for our deficit – by investing in what makes America stronger and cutting what doesn’t."

President Obama's full State of the Union Address is available online: [transcript][video]

The Response

Each year the State of the Union address is followed by a response from the opposition party. This year it was Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan who delivered the response.  View his full response to President Obama's State of the Union address on YouTube. There were also responses from the Tea Party Movement, the Libertarian Party, and the Socialist Party

Fact Check

As with Presidents before him, President Obama made many large statements in his annual address.  How do these statements hold up to fact? Various agencies have checked the validity of many of the statements made in the 2011 State of the Union address, see how the facts stack up: Associated Press, PolitiFact,, National Public Radio, and ABC News.

Did you know?

  • In 2011 Congress broke with the long standing tradition that had Republicans sitting across the aisle from Democrats. The bipartisan seating was a symbolic gesture of unity following the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and several bystanders in early 2011. [source]
  • Each year one member of the President's cabinet is absent from the address. This is done to ensure a line of succession in case the unthinkable happens. [source]
  • Thomas Jefferson did not like the idea of delivering a formal speech to Congress, opting instead to deliver the address in writing. This tradition endured for a century until Woodrow Wilson, in 1913, revived the practice of delivering the address in person.  [source]
  • The tradition of the opposition response began in 1966 when two Republican congressmen delivered a televised Republican response to President Johnson's State of the Union address. [source]

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