Why Trump’s speech tonight isn’t a State of the Union address

NOTE: President Donald J. Trump will be delivering his first address to a Joint Session of Congress tonight at 9 p.m.  In it, the President will be sharing his vision for the country.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Donald Trump is set to give an address to a joint session of Congress [tonight] — but it technically won’t be his first State of the Union address.

Mr. Trump isn’t shaking up any traditions…but is instead following what past presidents have done before him. His speech will be known as an “address to a joint session.”

Traditionally, a president of the United States should be in office for a year before they give their first State of the Union address.

In a State of the Union address, the president usually reflects back on the past year and how the nation is doing, as well as uses the opportunity to highlight the administration’s legislative agenda — which needs congressional support — and priorities for the country.

The Constitution states 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.”

However, [as with previous presidents], it is expected that President Trump will use Tuesday’s speech to continue outlining his goals for his administration.

(from WhiteHouse.gov) – President Trump will address Congress and the American people on Tuesday night:

When: Tuesday, February 28, 2017, at 9 p.m EST.

Where: The United States Capitol in the House Chamber, also known as the “Hall of the House of Representatives.”

Who: The President will address Members of both the House of Representatives and Senate in his first address to a Joint Session of Congress.

The Speech: President Trump is keeping the tradition of previous Presidents by delivering a formal address to a Joint Session of Congress during his inaugural year, and will deliver his first State of the Union address in 2018. The President will deliver his speech from the Speaker’s rostrum.

How to watch: The address will be streamed live at whitehouse.gov/joint-address

How to participate: Follow along live on Twitter @WhiteHouse and @POTUS for real-time information before, during and after the speech. The speech will also be live streamed at facebook.com/WhiteHouse.

During his first Joint Address to Congress, the President will communicate his vision for the future of the country directly to the American people as he moves forward with his plans to take on the many challenges facing this nation. Building on his inaugural address, President Trump will continue to lay out his agenda to Make America Great Again. …

Find out more about the President’s Executive Actions

View the legislation President Trump has signed into law

The President’s Cabinet


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

2. Why isn’t President Trump’s speech tonight a SOTU address?

3. What is the purpose of this address?

4. The Hill reported Tuesday on a WSJ/NBC poll: “Poll: Majority thinks media too critical of Trump.” What do you think? Is the media too critical of President Trump? Explain your answer.

5. Watch/read/listen to reporting on President Trump’s address.
a) Are headlines positive, negative, or neither? Explain your answer. Give several examples.
b) Are reporters’ comments positive, negative, or neither? Explain your answer. Give several examples.


CHALLENGE — WITHOUT listening to any comments by the media, watch President Trump’s address to Congress and the American people and answer the following questions.

1. Tone is the attitude a speaker takes towards a subject. What was the tone of President Trump’s address? (optimistic, hopeful, energetic, even-tempered, pessimistic, discouraging, lethargic, bombastic, etc. …) Explain your answer.

2. What did the President say about the following: (What is his plan/purpose?)
[Print out our PDF worksheet “Trump to address Congress” and fill in the answers for a) to f)]

a) Rebuilding the military/defense spending/cuts to other agencies
b) replace ObamaCare
c) tax reform
d) regulatory reform
e) Border security/public safety
f) other

4. a) Do you think the President is focusing on the correct issues in his first 100 days? Explain your answer.
b) Ask a parent the same question.

6. a) What issue presented by President Trump was the most important to you? Explain your answer.
b) Did any aspect of the speech disappoint  or impress you? Explain your answer.

NOTE TO STUDENTS: As with Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton, et al, generally, half of the country supports President Trump and half of the country does not. Trump supporters increasingly report that they are intimidated or pressured into silence about their views. This is wrong. Remember to be civil with one another when discussing politics.



“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 address to a joint session of Congress 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.
  • The message used to be known as “the President’s Annual Message to Congress,” until President Franklin D. Roosevelt referred to it as the “Annual Message to Congress on the State of the Union” in 1934. It began to be informally called the “State of the Union” message or address from 1942 to 1946, and since 1947, it has officially been known as the State of the Union Address.
  • 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.


Watch a Monday Feb. 27 news report
“What you need to know Trump’s address to Joint Session of Congress:”

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