Trump’s first State of the Union Address

(by Emily Goodin and Alexander Mallin, ABC News) – President Trump will talk about “building a safe, strong and proud America” in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, according to the White House. That will be the theme of his speech, which focus on domestic and national security issues.

Additionally, “the tone will be one of bipartisanship and it will be very forward looking,” according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters at the White House on Friday. President Trump will be “unifying” and speak “from the heart.”

…Mr. Trump will address five major areas in his remarks: jobs and the economy, infrastructure, immigration, trade and national security.

Few details…were offered about these issue areas. The president’s remarks on immigration are expected to reflect the White House plan released on Thursday that will offer a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, the children brought to this country illegally, in exchange for billions of dollars in and tighter restrictions on legal immigration.

Infrastructure has long been touted as an issue both parties can get behind – and President Trump will offer a trillion dollar proposal on that – but the issue often gets bogged down in other politics. The president will also emphasize “fair and reciprocal trade,” according to the briefing, and talk about rebuilding the military, using a policy “of peace through strength.”

Mr. Trump will also address the opioid crisis affecting the nation. At least one of the guests in the first lady’s box will be reflective of that, while other guests will be people who benefited from the Republicans’ The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

The annual State of the Union Address is a time for a president to lay out his agenda for the nation.

Tuesday will be Trump’s first formal time at bat. He gave a speech to Congress on February 27, about a month after he was inaugurated, but that occasion is referred to as an address to a joint session given the short amount of time a president is in office at that point.

In his February address, President Trump pledged to “soon begin the construction of a great, great wall along our southern border.” He also called on Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare. …

Members of Congress, the Cabinet, Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs, members of the Diplomatic Corps and the justices of the Supreme Court attend the State of the Union, which takes place in the U.S. House chamber. Applause from the president’s party and occasional boos from the other party are a normal part of the event, which is televised across all news networks. The members of the court, the military and diplomatic corps traditionally do not clap to show their impartiality. …

Several Democrats lawmakers are bringing sexual assault victims and women rights activists as their guests that night. Other Dems are bringing so-called Dreamers and those affected by the immigration debate. [They will not bring any victims of crimes committed by illegal immigrants, only illegal immigrants who face possible deportation.]

Additionally, at least four members of Congress who dislike the President [and have called him a racist and a liar among other things] — Rep. John Lewis, (D-Ga.), Rep. Maxine Waters, (D-Calif.), Rep. Frederica Wilson, (D-Fla.), and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, (D-Wash.), — said they will not attend the speech…

Including Trump’s 2017 address, there have been a total of 95 in-person Annual Messages/State of the Union Addresses made to Congress, according to the U.S. House Historian’s office. Additionally, the first radio broadcast was President Calvin Coolidge in 1923. Harry Truman in 1947 had the first television broadcast and George W. Bush in 2002 had the first webcast on the Internet.

Two presidents — William Henry Harrison and James Garfield — didn’t live long enough to give an address.

One Cabinet member skips the speech in order to ensure the continuity of government in case of a disaster. That person is usually announced the day of the address. …

Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from ABC News.


NOTE to students:  Read the information under “Background” below before answering the questions. 

1. a) What is the State of the Union address? What is the purpose of the address?
b) When and where is the State of the Union given?

2. What will be the theme of President Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night?

3. What will be the tone of the President’s address, according to White House officials?

4. List the 5 major areas President Trump will cover in his address.

5. a) What policy will President Trump pursue as he details rebuilding the military?
b) Peace through strength is “a philosophy that guided the U.S. to victory in the Cold War.” From wikipedia: “Peace through strength” is a phrase which suggests that military power can help preserve peace. It is quite old and has famously been used by many leaders from Roman Emperor Hadrian in the first century AD to conservative President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Ask a parent or grandparent, “Do you support a U.S. policy of “peace through strength”? Please explain your answer.

6. President Trump’s address will focus on domestic and national security issues. Which of the following do you think are most important for President Trump to include in his State of the Union address? Explain your answer.

  1. the economy/jobs/tax reform
  2. terrorism
  3. North Korea nuclear threat
  4. China, Russia and/or Iran
  5. illegal immigration crisis
  6. building a wall on our southern border
  7. ObamaCare
  8. education
  9. the opioid crisis
  10. other (explain)

7. Ask a parent what issues he/she thinks President Trump should focus on in his State of the Union, and to explain his/her answer.


1.  Tone is the attitude a speaker takes towards a subject. What was the tone of President Trump’s 2018 State of the Union address?

2. What was the overall theme of the president’s speech?

3.  a) What general statement did President Trump make about the economy in his address to the nation?
b) What is your reaction to this encouraging statement?
c) Ask a parent the same question.

4. List some of the things the President promised to do to improve the economy.

5.  What new initiatives did President Trump propose in his State of the Union?

6.  Which issues did the President bypass altogether, or just mention briefly?

7.  What issue presented by President Trump was the most important to you?  Did any aspect of the speech disappoint you?  Explain your answers.

8. a) Do you think the President is focusing on the correct issues? Explain your answer.
b) Ask a parent the same question.

10. Watch/read the Democratic response to the President’s State of the Union on live TV following the President’s SOTU or at The response speech is shorter and often given as a rebuttal to the opposition party’s ideas and plans. This practice began once television became a major part of politics. According to the Senate’s website, the first opposition party response to a State of the Union speech was in 1966 when then-Senate Majority Leader Everett Dirksen (R-Illinois) and House Minority Leader Gerald Ford (R-Michigan) gave a response to President Lyndon Johnson’s State of the Union address. What do you think of Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III’s response?



“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.”  US Constitution Article II, Section 3

  • The State of the Union is an annual address presented by the President to the United States Congress. The address not only reports on the condition of the nation but also allows the president to outline his legislative agenda (for which he needs the cooperation of Congress) and his national priorities.
  • By tradition, the President makes this report annually.
  • While not required to deliver a speech, every president since Woodrow Wilson has made the State of the Union report as a speech delivered before a joint session of Congress. Before that time, most presidents delivered the State of the Union as a written report.
  • Since Wilson, the State of the Union is given typically each January before a joint session of the United States Congress and is held in the House of Representatives chamber of the United States Capitol.
  • George Washington gave the first state of the union address on January 8, 1790 at the Federal Hall in New York City.
  • Thomas Jefferson, the nation’s third president, did not continue this practice. In 1801, Jefferson detailed his priorities and sent written copies of his message to each house of Congress. Jefferson “was concerned that the practice of appearing before the representatives of the people was too similar to the British monarch’s ritual of addressing the opening of each new Parliament with a list of policy mandates, rather than ‘recommendations.’”
  • For the next 112 years, the President’s annual message was written, not spoken.
  • In the 20th Century, the oral address was revived, first with Woodrow Wilson in 1913. Like Washington, he spoke to both Houses of Congress. Ten years later, Calvin Coolidge broadcast his address on radio.
  • Franklin D Roosevelt called the speech the “State of the Union” in 1935. In 1947, Harry Truman, FDR’s vice president – who succeeded him as President, was the first to broadcast his State of the Union address on television.
  • Since 1966, the State of the Union address has been followed by a response from a member of the opposition party.


  • To read pro-Trump and anti-Trump perspectives, go to a website that links to op-eds from both perspectives: RealClearPolitics.
  • Liberals/progressives vehemently oppose President Trump. For a liberal perspective of President Trump’s speech, go to the liberal website (updated)
  • Conservatives generally support the President’s policies.  Although in President Trump’s case, several traditional consevative websites like National Review have been opposed to him personally as well as his policies on several important issues. For a conservative perspective of President Trump’s speech, read a commentary by Michael Goodwin or Mark Steyn or listen to conservative radio talkshow hosts Rush Limbaugh or Mark Simone.
  • It is customary for the opposing party to respond to a President’s State of the Union address.  Democratic Congressman Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts will give the Democratic response to President Trump’s State of the Union Address. Watch Rep. Kennedy’s response at the Democratic Party website
  • For texts and/or videos of Presidential State of the Union Addresses since 1945, go to
  • Watch or read President Trump’s entire speech at  or
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