State of the Union

The White House website has posted this video on how the President Obama is approaching tonight’s State of the Union address. The video discusses the history of the State of the Union address with comments from U.S. House of Representatives Historian Matthew Wasniewski. It also has archival footage of Addresses from decades past.

Article 2, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution requires 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”. Prior to 1913, Presidents delivered the State of the Union in writing. That year, Woodrow Wilson delivered the State of the Union orally.

Since then, the themes of the past century of State of the Union addresses offer a historical kaleidoscope of our nation’s themes and buzzwords. Today’s Daily Beast has created a Media Gallery of word clouds—using Wordle—to provide a way to explore those themes. Word clouds take a chunk of text—in this case State of the Union addresses—and magnify the most-used words while minimizing the least used, providing a new way to look at the State of the Union address. Here is the word cloud from last year’s State of the Union address: