The State of the Union: Important Dates
1801: Thomas Jefferson, believing the tradition of speaking to Congress is too "royal," sends his annual message in a letter. The written tradition continues for over a century.
1823: President James Monroe sends a letter to Congress which outlines the Monroe Doctrine opposing European intervention in the Americas.
1862: As Civil War battles rage, Abraham Lincoln sends his famous "last best hope" annual message to Congress.
1913: Woodrow Wilson revives the tradition of delivering the annual message in a speech to Congress.
1945: Franklin Roosevelt's speech formally becomes known as "The State of the Union."
1965: As the power of television becomes increasingly clear, Lyndon Johnson shifts the State of the Union address from midday to evening to attract a larger audience.
1986: The State of the Union is postponed for the first time after the space shuttle Challenger explodes the morning of the scheduled address.
1999: President Clinton delivers a State of the Union to a House of Representatives that has impeached him and a Senate considering his removal.
2002: President George W. Bush signals out Iraq, Iran and North Korea for pursuing weapons of mass destruction, calling them "an axis of evil" that could attack U.S. allies or blackmail America.